Thursday, March 08, 2018

Guilt by association?

Some of my peers at Simmons College in Boston in the United States have published an "Anti-Oppression Library Guide." This guide is intended to inform, and provoke instruction about power structures that need to be challenged and changed to remove this oppression. A cursory reading of this guide is quite informative. I almost feel guilty by association. By virtue of my being a heterosexual, Caucasian Christian, I am automatically an oppressor.

I learned new terminology I never heard before. For example, Sanism is prejudice against neurodivergent people. Until today, I had no idea that neurodivergency was even a thing. Other phobias, such as Islamophobia, or Queerphobia, are now termed as Islamomisia or Queermisia, respectively.

The authors of this guide have deemed that using the "phobia" suffix is potentially offensive to people suffering from genuine phobias, such as claustrophobia. What will happen if, in a few years' time, the "misia" suffix is also deemed to be offensive? Will theorists need to devise a new suffix?

Whether or not this guide is addressing real or perceived problems is beside the point. I have political views, but I have never used my profession as a platform to impose them upon others. The last time I checked, the key principles of librarianship are to encourage library users to develop critical thinking skills, foster literacy in all its forms, and promote lifelong learning. This does not extend to dictating to them how they should think or behave.

It is concerning to think that some of the ideas in this guide won't stay as abstract notions forever. In years to come, when the current generation of college and university students become business and political leaders, they will become government policy.

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