I’ve been reflecting on this a lot recently for a few reasons. First: I’ve been taking a diversity and inclusion class and we had to make our first reflective essay assignment this week. Second: I listened to the wonderful, beautiful, terribly saddening “Between the World and Me” by Ta-Nehisi Coates on my commute this week, a memoir which is all about the experience of growing up black and poor in America. And third: I stupidly and frustratingly got into a Facebook comment argument this week about the importance of medical professionals to be educated on transgender issues (for the record, I strongly advocated for the fact that they *should* be knowledgeable in that subject, as professionals who provide a vital service to the public, and was kind of shocked that anyone would so strongly think differently about that).
This combination of factors this week has just really hammered in for me the importance of creating a safe space in the library where everyone feels welcome and accepted. In his book, Ta-Nehisi Coates talks about how he would spend every day at the library at Howard, reading and researching books upon books about black people all around the world in history, in art, in literature. I want people to be able to go to any library in the country, not just one at a historically black college or university, and find information about people who look like them, act like them, sound like them, have the same beliefs as them, whatever any of those end up being. I want people to go into the library and read or learn about someone who’s totally *different* from anything they’ve experienced in life. Over all, I want people to go into a library and feel safe and respected and included. It’s so important.
Sometimes, especially in my past job, it is easy to get caught up in the every day and forget about this larger mission. I wanted to write this post because I wanted to remember this and other lessons I took away from this week, and come back to it when I realize I’m not doing enough to serve others.
My review of Coates’ book will come later this month when I do my book round-up, but I wanted to take a moment now and recommend it to anyone and everyone who wants to get a better sense about what it can be like to be black in America, especially those who live in the Maryland/DC area and can identify some of the places Coates’ lived. It was eye-opening and heart-wrenching and wonderfully written and should I think be required reading for any modern American.