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Canada is often celebrated as a multicultural nation but that doesn’t mean racism isn’t a present and pervasive force here. From interpersonal racism to institutional racism, from micro-aggressions to colour-blindness, racism is sadly a pervasive force in Canadian society. The most troubling problem is with our reflexive denials.

Let’s consider implicit bias in public institutions. When the very notion of such biases are dismissed by those in positions of power — by those who outright declare systemic racism nonexistent — these problems are only perpetuated. Those who do not recognize that there is a problem will not be able to contribute to finding the solution. For libraries that serve increasingly stratified populations, the effects of systemic racism are often hidden in race neutral approaches to service delivery that fail to account for the differential experience of racial and marginalized groups.  

In its ongoing efforts to address systemic racism within its own structure, Thunder Bay Public Library has developed an extensive collection of anti-racism resources for your reading pleasure and personal enlightenment.

cover of Biased

Biased: Understanding the Hidden Prejudice that Shapes What We Think and Do by Jennifer Eberhardt has a simple premise:  We do not have to be racist to be biased.  This book reveals the effects of implicit racial bias, ranging from the subtle to the dramatic. Racial bias can lead to disparities in education, employment, housing, and the criminal justice system–and then those very disparities further reinforce the problem. Eberhardt reveals how even when we are not aware of bias and genuinely wish to treat all people equally, ingrained stereotypes infect our visual perception, attention, memory, and behavior.

White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo explores the counterproductive reactions white people have when their assumptions about race are challenged, and how these reactions maintain racial inequality. Referring to the defensive moves that white people make when challenged racially, white fragility is characterized by emotions such as anger, fear, and guilt and by behaviors including argumentation and silence. These behaviors, in turn, reinstate white racial equilibrium and prevent any meaningful cross-racial dialogue. DiAngelo examines how white fragility develops, how it protects racial inequality, and what can be done to engage more constructively.

cover of white fragility

Have you been called out for micro-aggressions?  So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo might help you work through some unconscious bias. Oluo advises taking a pause (it’s easy to become overwhelmed and defensive). Ask yourself why you chose to make that comment; if you’d make that comment to somebody of your own race; and why you felt threatened or uncomfortable. Don’t force people to acknowledge your good intentions (the effect was still bad). Remember that it’s not just one comment (people of colour face these all the time). Don’t demand an education in why something is offensive – offer an apology. Even if you don’t get it, acknowledge that you hurt someone.

Anti-Racist Ally by Sophie Williams is a starting point for every anti-racist ally, covering complex topics at the heart of anti-racist principles. AntiRacist Ally explains the language of change and shows you how to challenge the system, beginning with yourself. Williams reminds you that this is a learning process, which means facing difficult truths, becoming uncomfortable, and working through the embarrassment and discomfort.

We all need a better understanding about how each individual’s respective interaction with one another might have racial undertones or may betray power imbalances. This will be a step forward in a good way.

All you need is a library card to check out these titles, and many more! If you need a library card, call us at 345-8275 from Monday to Friday, 10 am to 4 pm or send us an email to comments@tbpl.ca and we’ll set you up.

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