Since 2010, March 31 has been marked as Transgender Day of Visibility. Historically, this day is meant to be a celebration of trans and non-binary lives, unlike the International Transgender Day of Remembrance, which dates back to 1999 and is observed annually on November 20 to memorialize lives taken by violence against trans people.
Trans Day of Visibility arrives this year with a couple notable moves forward, but significant–and glaring–steps backward for trans rights embitter a day meant for trans celebration.
While these are victories to be sure, it’s difficult celebrate these small moves toward trans visibility while 2021 has already set a record for anti-trans legislation. Trans Day of Visibility is especially fraught today by the passage of HB 1507 in Arkansas, which yesterday further trampled the civil rights of arguably the most vulnerable people in the state, trans youth.
While Trans Visibility is important every year, it feels especially critical this year. The onslaught of anti-trans legislations from so many states, and the murders of 12 trans people already reported, this year demands not just the recognition of trans lives, but their protection. It is more critical than ever for allies to act.
We ask that you join us both today and moving forward as we work to increase trans visibility and protect trans rights and lives.
Know what legislation is being considered in your state
Find out which of your local and federal officials support anti-trans legislation and contact their offices to voice your disapproval
Be aware of how others (including family, friends, coworkers, and news sources) speak about the trans community and speak up when you hear or read someone perpetuate harmful rhetoric (including misgendering) about trans, non-binary, and gender nonconforming people
Rarely do we take on projects that exist within a vacuum. On the contrary, we build on the work of those before us. If we are lucky, that work contributes to something vaguely described as “the greater good,” and in some cases, that work can even subvert the status quo. The UT Libraries’ Black Queer Studies Collection and the Latinx LGBTQ Collection are quite subversive. We don’t use that term lightly – these collections disrupt standard library practice while also bringing marginalized works to the forefront.
By standard library practice, we refer to cataloging practices that employ standardized vocabulary created by the Library of Congress, such as subject headings. However, this vocabulary often includes problematic, outdated, and offensive language regarding books and films about LGBTQ+ experiences. When describing books about intersectional identity, especially those centered on queer and trans BIPOC people, the problematic subject headings take agency away from the authors and communities they represent by imposing rigid naming and classification. This entrenched system reflects the white supremacist, homophobic, and transphobic structures that dominate American institutions. Yes, this includes libraries.
Eleven years ago, a group of UT librarians, faculty, and graduate students came together to create the Black Queer Studies Collection as a response to these problematic subject headings in the library catalog. Led by Kristen Hogan in collaboration with professor Matt Richardson and librarian Lindsey Schell, the project sought to make the intersectionality between sexuality, gender, and Blackness more discoverable in the library catalog. (Read more about its origins in this great article by Kristen in the journal Progress Librarian.) To get around the issue of problematic subject headings, they came up with the simple, but elegant solution to use a “local note” in the library catalog record to digitally unite the books, films, and other materials in the collection.
Following the success of the Black Queer Studies Collection, UT Libraries introduced the Latinx LGBTQ Collection in 2017 to consider the intersectionality of gender, sexuality, and U.S. Latinx identity. The Latinx LGBTQ Collection follows the trajectory of its predecessor and features the same functionality with the use of the local catalog note. Together, the collections are collective intended to enable making hidden voices easier to find for patrons. Both continue to be updated on a regular basis to reflect UT Libraries’ commitment to collecting diverse subject matter.
Below, we’ve highlighted some books that intersect both collections. We invite you to explore – check out a book, download an ebook, or watch a streaming film! You can find these collections in their entirety by performing an advanced search in the UT library catalog using the search terms “Latinx LGBTQ” or “Black Queer Studies Collection” (in quotation marks).
Is there a book or film that we’re missing? Let us know by using the Libraries’ purchase request form, and adding in the notes that it’s for the Black Queer Studies Collection and/or the Latinx LGBTQ Collection. In the meantime, check out the following books that intersect both collections!
Cortez, Jaime. Virgins, Guerrillas & Locas: Gay Latinos Writing on Love. San Francisco: Cleis Press, 1999. Read the ebook! (in HathiTrust)
Gaskin, Gerard H., Deborah Willis, and Frank Roberts. Legendary : Inside the House Ballroom Scene / Photographs by Gerard H. Gaskin Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press in association with the Center for Documentary Studies, 2013.Check out the print book!
Johnson, Rivera-Servera. Blacktino Queer Performance. North Carolina: Duke University Press, 2016. Read the ebook!
Muñoz, José Esteban. Disidentifications : Queers of Color and the Performance of Politics / José Esteban Muñoz. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1999. Read the ebook! (in HathiTrust)
Soto, Christopher. Nepantla : an Anthology for Queer Poets of Color / Edited by Christopher Soto. New York: Nightboat Books, 2019. Check out the print book!
Xavier, Emanuel. Christ-like. New York: Painted Leaf Press, 1999. Read the ebook! (in HathiTrust)
We’ve all seen it: “This article is a stub. You can help Wikipedia by expanding it.” Though it is the largest encyclopedia in existence—a project for which a stated goal is to “compile the sum of all human knowledge”—information gaps abound on Wikipedia. And, after twenty years of providing the world with open-source information, Wikipedia’s representation problem, in both contributors and content, has been well documented.
Most recent estimates place the proportion of contributors who are cis men at or above 80%. As of this February, the gender demographics of the site’s biographies is roughly the same: only 18.7% of the English language entries are about women. The racial demographics of editors is more opaque: it’s widely accepted that editors are overwhelmingly white, however few studies propose any numerical estimates as to how white contributors skew. At 65 references, the entry for the history of Maine is over four times longer than that of the entire country of Botswana—just one example among millions of the site’s racial and geographic bias.
In response, many angered at their communities’ exclusion from the “sum of human knowledge” have recognized that dedicating time & space (whether cyber or physical) to demystifying the Wikipedia editing process is critical in reaching what Wikimedia Foundation CEO Katherine Maher calls “knowledge equity.” Groups like Women in Red, Black Lunch Table, Art+Feminism, and AfroCROWD help users navigate editing standards that require verification from sources that have historically favored white men as well as provide space for editors from marginalized communities to connect with one another through meet-ups and edit-a-thons. Museums, libraries, schools, and other community groups worldwide now host dozens of edit-a-thons per week focused on improving existing articles and creating new ones to fill Wikipedia’s content gaps.
Edit-a-thons at UT Libraries
For the past few years, UT Libraries has hosted two edit-a-thons—Queering the Record and Art+Feminism—both aiming to expand the information available on Wikipedia related to queer, trans, and feminist topics. Though Art+Feminism is part of a worldwide series of edit-a-thons, Queering the Record is a homegrown effort. What started as a collaboration between the hosts (Kathy Tu & Tobin Low) of WNYC’s podcast Nancy, UT Humanities Librarian Gina Bastone, and UT’s iSchool Pride as a lead-up to Nancy’s 2018 SXSW even now approaches its fourth year as a UTL staple event.
With the COVID-induced shift to virtual learning, this year’s events will look a little different: instead of two separate (and in person) edit-a-thons, we’ve decided to combine them into a one-day virtual event. We know the UTL community is pretty Zoomed out, so we’ll be hosting on Discord. Join us for one or both edit-a-thons anytime between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. on Thursday March 11th! No previous Wikipedia editing experience is necessary—librarians will be there to guide through each step of the process.
Hold up! Don’t all librarians hate Wikipedia?
In short, no! In fact, many librarians recognize that libraries and Wikipedia share a similar goal: to provide open access to diverse range of knowledge. We’ve likely all heard the phrase “just anyone can edit it” to caution against using the site as a source for a research paper. However, if “just anyone” can edit, that means students, professors, and librarians—all for whom research is a profession—can edit articles, too. As #1Lib1Ref (a campaign encouraging librarians to add citations to Wikipedia entries) says, “in a digital environment that spreads #fakenews, and allows major languages and cultural voices to dominate, building a more diverse, more dynamic knowledge commons for the future requires the collaboration of librarians, Wikimedians and knowledge seekers around the world.” At UT Libraries, we know that with both access to millions of credible sources and a solid research skill sets, our community is distinctively positioned to create, edit, and improve articles in the effort to work towards a Wikipedia that reflects us all.
UT Libraries’ 4th annual Queering the Record and 3rd annual Art+Feminism 2-in-1 Virtual Edit-a-thon
Today, March 8, is International Women’s Day. This day was set aside by the United Nations in 1977, but the honoring of this day stretches back to 1911 with origins in the socialist working women’s movement (Johnman, Sim & Mackie, 2016) . Learn more about the importance of this day from the resources below.
Gender Inequity in the COVID era
Gender inequity has been made especially clear throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. UN Women has declared the theme of this year’s International Women’s Day to be “Women in leadership: Achieving and equal future in a COVID-19 world.” The intention of this theme is to not only highlight the disparate impact that this pandemic is having on women globally, but also to celebrate the women at the forefront of the fight to end it.
As library professionals, we often feel that we are working diligently to include and amplify the voices of our BIPOC colleagues. Many major libraries, such as UT and Emory, have incorporated DEI efforts in their hiring practices and Yale Libraries recently posted a position for a Director of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Organizational Excellence. Publications in the library profession, such as Theological Librarianship and the Journal of the Medical Library Association, made calls for submissions by diverse voices. However, librarians of color often bear the greatest burden in these calls for diversity, which can come with an expectation that they will be the ones to do the work of changing institutionalized practices and management styles built by white supremacy. The lack of effort to examine current processes and prepare staff on how to navigate works addressing diversity, equity and inclusion was most recently highlighted by the editorial decisions at the Journal of the Medical Library Association.
In May of 2020, the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, and Breonna Taylor at the hands of police garnered national attention, generating renewed focus to the Black Lives Matter movement and increased public support for their efforts. On June 1, 2020, the African American Medical Librarians Alliance (AAMLA) Caucus of the Medical Library Association (MLA) released a statement stating that they were “tired of not being seen, heard, included, or appreciated for the value that our unique voices, experiences, and perspectives bring to the narrative” and a commitment to “using our collective voices in bringing about change in the profession and the association.”
In response, the Journal of the Medical Library Association (JMLA) also released a statement of support to both the AAMLA Caucus and Black Lives Matter, stating that they could and will “do more to amplify the voices, experiences, and perspectives of individuals who identify as Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC).” Part of their statement was a call for manuscript submissions that addressed social injustices, diverse voices, and critical perspectives on health sciences librarianship. They also specifically asked for the contribution of any BIPOC-authored manuscripts, so long as they fell within the scope of the journal.
I was one of five Black librarians to draft an editorial on anti-Blackness in libraries for JMLA. Due to our experience with the editing process, we decided to withdraw the article before it was published. Here’s my take on what happened: https://t.co/tRAXeak1zy#medlibs
In the blog, Minter describes how the editing process took a turn when they received a print-ready proof that had significant changes that had not been previously addressed with the authors. Some of the more significant changes she detailed included the decision to capitalize all instances of “white” and “white supremacy,” adding modifiers to “white supremacy” and changing instances to include “white supremacist thinking” or “white supremacist structures,” and changing multiple pronouns from “you” or “they” to “we” and “us.” Originally, the authors had intentionally only capitalized “Black” throughout the piece, but the editor argued that the MLA was in the process of changing their guidelines and that eventually the piece would capitalize “white.” When adding modifiers to “white supremacy,” the editor offered feedback that there was an issue with the literal reading of the original phrase. The editor offered no explanation on why they had changed the pronouns.
The authors attempted to explain to the editor why they had purposely and intentionally made the choices they did for the piece. According to Minter the editor responded by doubling down on her statements and providing a conditional apology if “wording and meaning has been changed that much” and that in her editing for typos, grammar, and clarity, “sometimes it appears the meaning can change.” During the course of the conversation, the editor-in-chief was cc’d on the email exchange, as was an associate editor, but both decided not to intervene.
Minter’s tweet and blog post were immediately followed by a tweet from Peace Ossom-Williamson and a blog post from Jamia Williams, “When Publishing Goes Wrong,” on December 12th. Both authors supported Minter’s account and stated that they stood strong on their decision to withdraw the piece from publication.
The author’s accounts about the events with JMLA began to trend on Twitter, with a call for JMLA to support Black colleagues quickly circulating under hashtags #medlibs, #librarytwitter, and #POCinLIS. Following the backlash, JMLAissued an apology on December 16th, written by editor-in-chief Katherine Akers. In the statement she recognized that she had been cc’d on the emails, but had assumed “that the two parties would come to resolution on their own or that I would be directly contacted by one of the parties if my intervention was needed or desired.” She also acknowledged that the journal was not prepared to edit or publish pieces on diversity, equity, or inclusion and made a promise to make JMLA “a more diverse and inclusive journal with more equitable opportunities for BIPOC authors, reviewers, and editorial board members.”
To think that @LibGirl09 & I received the MLA Eliot Award for our paper in JMLA just last year but couldn’t make it through copy editing of an ACCEPTED paper this year shows how fraught and exhausting writing about social justice and diversity can be, especially as Black women.
The withdrawal and the subsequent apology from JMLA sparked deep conversations about how these calls for diversity and inclusion are often made without the systemic support and structuring needed to actually support BIPOC voices. As part of the discussion, Jasmine L. Clark, Digital Scholarship Librarian at Temple University, wrote a thought-provoking piece, “On JMLA, Conflict, and Failed Diversity Efforts in LIS,” which details organizational justice and cultural competence as they relate to the article and the breakdown of the editing process by JMLA.
There were many points in which the editor-in-chief or the associate editor could have engaged with the authors and ensured that their intentions and voices were protected. The decision to not engage can be representative of a larger, systemic problem of neutrality in libraries where we avoid conflict and confrontation in the workplace, often leading to the harm of our colleagues.
In their responses, all of the authors and Clark found that there was a lack of ownership by Akers of her responsibility to initiate mediation before the situation had reached the point of withdrawing the piece. They point to her role as editor-in-chief and the accompanying responsibility to create an equitable environment that would identify and address challenges that BIPOC might encounter when writing about social justice.
1/6 Something I’ve been thinking about for a while that the JMLA response brought up again is how much of our toxicity in LIS is the direct result of the inability/refusal for early conflict mediation on the part of management. So often responses are reactive. In the case of
2/6 JMLA, someone was cc’ed to indicate there was an issue. The response was “they’ll work it out”, but if it was that simple there would be no need to cc someone else on the correspondence. At that point, a simple meeting to mediate the conflict could have gone a long way.
3/6 I’ve seen this so often. Management that loves to wait until things get to the level of HR, but is that management? So many LIS managers see their jobs as managing services, but neglect the dynamics of staff that provide them. If not neglecting them, they are intimidated
4/6 by the idea of managing the culture & environment. I’ve been on search committees for management positions; I’ve never seen thorough questioning about the readiness and role of this person as a conflict mediator. The passive aggressive nature of libraries is infamous, sooo…
5/6 mediate problems early maybe? DEI training matters, but means nothing w/o methods and techniques for listening and respectful conversation. If there is constant conflict, having trained management can set the example for staff so that they can better manage on their own
6/6 going forward. Expecting people to come in with those skills is obviously not working. This obviously doesn’t fix discrimination, but it could (data needed) be of great help in environments where change is welcome, but still being figured out.
Moving forward, Clark recommends that within the LIS profession “a blend of ongoing DEIA education, organizational/personal assessment, and practiced social skills are required.” She states that concepts of organizational justice and assessment of power structures are often reserved for those in leadership positions, instead of being open to all levels of LIS professionals. She points out that the development of social skills is centered on public service and patrons, instead of how to engage with the colleagues we work with every day.
The events with JMLA are an opportunity to evaluate our own practices and to better equip ourselves in conflict mediation and organizational justice. As a white woman in a field where only 5.3 percent of librarians identified as Black or African American, I hold myself accountable and ask that my fellow white colleagues join me in enacting changes that will allow for diversity and equity, instead of just calling for it and placing that labor on those who respond. Below are some resources and articles that delve into the experience of Black librarians, microaggression in our field, and how we can do better, but I would like to personally recommend reading the original article of the authors in this post as it provides a detailed overview of the history of anti-Blackness in libraries and concrete steps for how to move forward.
LibVoices – podcast co-created and co-hosted by Jamia Williams which amplifies the voices of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color who work in archives and libraries.
Professional Development and Trainings
We Here – “We Here™️ seeks to provide a safe and supportive community for Black and Indigenous folks, and People of Color (BIPOC) in library and information science (LIS) professions and educational programs, and to recognize, discuss, and intervene in systemic social issues that have plagued these professions both currently and historically.”
Active Bystander Orientation – “Have you ever witnessed bullying, harassment, or an uncomfortable encounter in a professional context and wished you knew how to intervene? The 2019 DLF Committee on Equity and Inclusion recently put together an Active Bystander Orientation session to help address these questions”
Conflict Mediation Guidelines – Stanford’s conflict training for the following situations: when you have been asked to mediate a conflict between two people or two groups or when a conflict breaks out between different sub-groups in a discussion.
As we approach a year since COVID-19 reached Texas, I set out to write a post about the pandemic, disability/chronic illness, disability justice, and collective care. However, while researching, the DAC blog team realized that the blog hadn’t yet featured a post focused on disability studies or disability justice. In light of this, we hope to provide a brief overview of the discipline and related resources in our collections. It is impossible to honor all of the nuances of both a discipline and the struggle for justice in one blog post; however we invite you to take a look at these resources and hope they provide a starting point for further exploration and knowledge-making.
Disability studies arose in the late twentieth century from the first wave of the disability rights movement. It is an interdisciplinary field incorporating a broad range of disciplines and professions—architecture, art, sociology, law, social work, health professions, radio/television/film, urban studies and education, just to name a few. At its heart is the interrogation of who and what we deem “normal,” whether through designing accessible public transit, crafting inclusive education policy, or examining tropes of disability representation in film.
Like all fields, conceptual approaches in disability studies have shifted and continue to shift over time, especially as our cultural understandings and definitions of disability change. Much of the initial writing in the field centered on a “medical model” of disability, which identifies certain physical or mental impairments or conditions in individual bodies. Later scholarship turned to a “social model,” which contends that society at large disables individuals as it fails to acknowledge the full range of diverse bodies and minds. Influenced by the disability justice movement, more recent scholarship calls both models into question, as many writers seek to deconstruct and reimagine boundaries between the physical and the social.
Disability studies scholars and disability justice activists alike recognize the importance of understanding disability as a distinct facet of identity, similar to how we understand race, gender, sexuality, and class. As such, the discipline is intertwined—though not convergent––with critical race studies, gender studies, queer studies, and other schools of critical thought. You will find that the resources listed below often combine one or more of these fields.
Differing definitions of disability across both disciplines and time may present challenges for those doing research in disability studies. A legal definition of disability, for example, may not conform with a cultural understanding of it, and terms found in sources may be outdated, inaccurate, or even hurtful and triggering for contemporary readers. Given the relative recency of disability studies’ formalization as a discipline in higher education, some older or historical resources may not be cataloged with appropriate subject headings.
Amidst a pandemic that has exacerbated divides in access to education and healthcare, reinforced policies and narratives of disposability based on disability, and expanded the number of people living with disabilities and chronic illness, it can seem that disability studies is especially relevant now, more than ever. However, as disability justice activists have noted, for those of us who are disabled or chronically ill (as many are and have always been) COVID-19 has only highlighted long persistent struggles for inclusion, equity, and access.
In compiling these resources, we hope to provide a starting point for both understanding the context of these struggles and for continuing to work towards a more accessible & equitable future. For more information on disability studies at UT, check out the Texas Center for Disability Studies’ website, and for information about campus resources for students with disabilities, check out the SSD.
Across time and cultures people have developed an astounding diversity of practices to remember the passing of others. Nearly every cultural and religious tradition have their own practices of mourning and remembrance. This is necessary as the death of a loved one creates the paradoxical impulses of both wanting to hold on to someone and the need to let them go. One common feature of many of these traditions is they are a public ceremonial method for processing private grief; the transferring of private grieving into a shared community activity. The following post provides a very brief sampling of remembrance practices from a variety of cultures with links to resources in the UT Catalog electronic resources for further exploration.
Famously from antiquity, pharaoh rulers from ancient Egyptian cultures had enormous monuments built, including the pyramids that have withstood millennia, to house their remains as well as their earthly possessions, to ensure their legacy and a prosperous afterlife.
The tombs of early Chinese rulers also displayed immense funerary dedication for the dead. The tomb of Qin Shi Huang from the late 3rd century BCE contained the Terracotta Army of roughly 9,000 terracotta sculptures, buried to protect the first Emperor of China in the next life.
Ancient Roman mausoleums were monumental memorials intended as public records of a prosperous individual’s life. Some funeral monuments were situated publicly, such as on a well-traveled road, with inscriptions admonishing those passing by to remember the deceased, allowing a manner of momentary survival as their name lived on.
In Judaism, the first stage of avelut is shiva (“sitting”), a seven-day period of mourning following burial. For this week, mourners remain at home, refraining from work and receiving visitors. Visitors may offer prayers and condolences and bring food so mourners need not need cook during their time of grief.
The annual Chinese Qingming Festival is a traditional observance for paying respect to ancestors through visiting, sweeping, cleaning and repairing their gravesites. Half cooked food is offered at the graves, firecrackers are used to chase off evil spirits, while incense is burned to entice the ancestor spirits to partake in the offerings.
Some African funeral traditions have a social and performative aspect to funerals, which are intended to provide a catharsis for grief over loss of a loved one.
In England in the mid-1800s, as photography became more affordable, and epidemics took their toll on the country, memento mori (“remember you must die”) photography of deceased family members became popular as a way of preserving their memory.
In contemporary North American Judeo-Christian traditions, we are most familiar with funerals with attendance by families and friends of the departed. Contemporary practices such as including sentimental tokens to include in internment such as photographs or wedding rings can be seen to reflect ancient practices of including goods such as arrowheads, pottery and shell jewelry in ancient burials.
Another tradition found to be adopted contemporarily are funeral processions. Many may be familiar with processions of mourners or cars, even for heads of state, such as Abraham Lincoln’s Funeral Procession in April 1865, or the funeral procession for President John F. Kennedy in 1963. Funeral processions have remained a powerful metaphor for enabling the transport of the departed from one world to the next.
In the Remembrance Project members of UT Libraries staff have developed an interactive exhibit for the UT community to honor loved ones and colleagues, and to acknowledge the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the UT community and worldwide. We invite members of the UT Community to share remembrances of colleagues, friends and loved ones as a way to honor and share their memory. Remembrance offerings are meant to be personal and individual, and may be inspired by your personal or cultural traditions or of those you are honoring.
Through acknowledging our losses and sharing we hope to provide a communal space during this challenging time for working through the difficulty of grief and loss. We invite you to explore further about various traditions of mourning and remembrance. We have collected some resources from the UT Library collection as a starting point.
Likewise, land acknowledgments are becoming more common to promote inclusion in our work and spaces. Here is the ARL Land Acknowledgement that Dr. Haricombe used as the basis for the Land Acknowledgement at the beginning of last week’s All Staff Meeting.
For this blog post, we would like to acknowledge and honor the Carrizo & Comecrudo, Coahuiltecan, Caddo, Tonkawa, Comanche, Lipan Apache, Alabama-Coushatta, Kickapoo, Tigua Pueblo, and all the American Indian and Indigenous Peoples and communities who have been or have become a part of the lands and territories in Texas.
This day and what it means for all Americans deserves and requires much more space and consideration than I (unfortunately) am able to give it in this blog post. So I encourage everyone to take some time today to use the resources below as a launching point for your own search into learning more about how to honor indigenous people and acknowledge the violent colonial history that continues to negatively impact Native American and Indigenous people.
Tribal Land Map – learn about the indigenous peoples of the land on which you live and work
Breonna Taylor was shot and killed on March 13th, 2020 when three police officers raided her home in the middle of the night in search of a man who was already in custody elsewhere. On September 23rd, one of the officers (who had been terminated earlier) was charged with “wanton endangerment” for firing into the apartment without having a clear line of sight on his target. There were no other charges, and no one was charged with causing Taylor’s death.
The protests that have arisen in response to the (lack of) charges are not only about what is seen by many as a miscarriage of justice. They are also about the mistreatment of Black women throughout American history, beginning with the physical and sexual abuse of female slaves by white slaveowners and continuing to this day. Black women are more likely to be abused by their intimate partners than women in other racial groups. They are also at significantly higher risk of being raped or murdered. To that point, Taylor’s residence was targeted by police not because they believed she was involved in illegal activities but because her ex-boyfriend was suspected of selling drugs.
The societal mistreatment of Black women also exists in more subtle, pernicious ways. A 2019 research study conducted by Georgetown Law’s Center on Poverty and Inequality explored how Black girls aged 5-19 experience “adultification bias”, i.e. the tendency to see them as more sexually experienced and less in need of nurturing than White girls. This bias was linked to harsher disciplinary methods taken against Black girls by schools. The perception of Black women as being more sexual than their white counterparts continues into adulthood, as the historical stereotype of the black Jezebel demonstrates.
Black women are also more likely be seen as loud and prone to emasculating anger—the Angry Black Woman stereotype. Both of these stereotypes are exemplified by the treatment of Meghan Markle, the mixed race American woman who married Prince Harry in 2018. Among other instances, Markle has been described by media outlets as having “exotic DNA” and “(almost) straight outta Compton”. This racially based mistreatment has continued since she and her husband exited the monarchy. After Markle and Prince Harry released a video earlier this week encouraging Americans to vote, President Trump said at a White House press briefing: “I’m not a fan of [Markle’s]. . . . I would say this – and she probably has heard that – I wish a lot of luck to Harry, because he’s going to need it.” This is a clear reference to the emasculating effect Black women supposedly have on the men in their lives.
Much of this can be tied to intersectionality, a term coined by lawyer (and creator of the #SayHerName online movement) Kimbelé Crenshaw in 1989 to describe how Black women experience both racial and gender-based inequality. In a 2017 interview, Crenshaw described intersectionality as “a lens through which you can see where power comes and collides, where it interlocks and intersects.” Looking at how Black women are oppressed—through their intimate relationships, their sexuality, and the perception that they do not conform to the supposed norm of a quiet, calm woman—one can see how both their gender and their race play significant roles.
The following is a list of resources available through UT Libraries on the experiences of Black women, intersectionality, and the role of protests in advancing racial justice. The vast majority of these works were written by Black female authors.
This is a collection of essays that appeared in The Crunk Feminist Collective, an online group that aims to create a “space of support and camaraderie for hip hop generation feminists of color, queer and straight, in the academy and without.”
The Combahee River Collective, which was active from 1974 to 1980, was a group of queer Black feminists who sought to empower Black feminism as something that was separate from the (often racist) mainstream feminist movement. Their 1977 statement of beliefs can be found here.
Cobbina interviewed over two hundred residents in Ferguson and Baltimore in order to place their individual experiences of the protests (and of the events that led to the unrest) within the broader context of American culture.
In today’s Me and White Supremacy challenge, Layla Saad explains how “color blindness” is a form of racism. Describing how white adults would tell their children not to call her Black when she was young, she says, “It often left me wondering, was Black synonymous with bad? Was my skin color a source of shame? And if so, was I expected to act as if I were not Black to make white people more comfortable around me?” (78)
The role race plays in identity has had an especially potent effect on recent movies, TV shows, and theatre as more productions attempt to cast people of diverse backgrounds in roles traditionally performed by white actors. This is often referred to as color blind casting, and it is fueled by the belief that simply replacing a white actor with a Black (or Asian or Latino, etc.) person can be done without any effect on the production itself. It is seen by some as progressive. However, while diversity onscreen is important, many artists have pointed out that pretending Blackness does not exist is not the way to ensure racial equity.
The idea of colorblind casting is the same idea of assimilation that black Americans have been rejecting for the past 380 years. . . . In an effort to spare us the burden of being “affected by an undesirable condition” and as a gesture of benevolence, many whites (like the proponents of colorblind casting) say, “Oh, I don’t see color.” We want you to see us.
Wilson argued that casting Black actors in canonical plays like Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman perpetuates the idea that only white voices and white stories matter. Instead, non-white artists need the spaces and budgets to tell their own stories.
Likewise, the Black Canadian playwright and actor Omari Newton described color blind casting as “an insidious and absurd form of racism” in an article discussing a 2019 production of All My Sons (coincidentally, also by Arthur Miller) in which two of the key roles were played by Black actors. This casting choice “pulled” Newton out of the story. He says:
Colour blind casting. . . is the theatrical equivalent of ignorantly telling your Black friend “I don’t see colour” when they try to engage you in a conversation about race. It is passively dehumanizing in the way that it dismisses the racism that is embedded in the very fabric of how colonized countries were founded.
Instead, Newton encourages casting directors to utilize “colour conscious casting.” This enables non-white actors to obtain roles in major productions while also ensuring thoughtful recognition of what it means for an actor of color to play certain roles.
One example of this was the casting of Anglo-Indian actor Dev Patel as the (canonically white) titular character in Armando Iannucci’s 2019 adaption of Charles Dickens’ The Personal History of David Copperfield. Iannucci chose Patel both because of Patel’s skill and because he wanted “the cast to be much more representative of what London looks like now.” Likewise, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Broadway juggernaut Hamilton famously cast non-white actors as the (white) Founding Fathers and utilized music genres like hip-hop and jazz that were created by Black Americans.
Nevertheless, this approach is also controversial. While Miranda’s creative approach highlights the music, appearance, and dialect of non-white Americans, there is also a danger that it obscures the fact that America’s Founding Fathers were white men, many of whom owned slaves. In a 2020 interview with The Root, Leslie Odom Jr, the Black actor who played Aaron Burr in the original Broadway run, addressed this controversy by placing the musical in a historical context. He argued:
This isn’t the end of the conversation; it is the beginning. . . . Lin [Manuel-Miranda] ran his leg of the race. This was the story Lin wanted to tell. Now it’s up to you to tell the next story. There’s no doubt in my mind that someday someone is going to write the show that makes Hamilton look quaint.
The creative and entertainment industries are strengthened by the inclusion of non-white artists because they bring new stories to the screen and stage. Attempting to perform inclusivity by slotting non-white actors into traditionally white roles without any recognition of the changes this brings to a production is a way of silencing those stories and thus a form of racism.