NYU Attorney: We Must “Wash Away the Blackface of White Librarianship”

April Hathcock, an attorney and NYU librarian, argues that “whiteness… has permeated every aspect of librarianship” and must be “dismantled.”

Her article, titled “White Librarianship in Blackface: Diversity Initiatives in LIS,” offers ways to “correct for whiteness” in the field of librarians.

“It is no secret that librarianship has traditionally been and continues to be a profession dominated by whiteness,” Ms. Hathcock begins her piece.

“In this article, I use “whiteness” to refer not only to the socio-cultural differential of power and privilege that results from categories of race and ethnicity;” she writes. “It also stands as a marker for the privilege and power that acts to reinforce itself through hegemonic cultural practice that excludes all who are different.”

Citing scholars who have tackled the “problem” of “whiteness” in libraries, Hathcock continues, “As Branche (2012) notes, “Whiteness and white normativity are embedded in U.S. library culture.””

Because of this, Hathcock argues, despite “diversity initiatives” to rid the librarian field of whiteness, they are not working.
In fact, asking prospective librarians for a “completed application” and “resume” are hardships because they are “situated in positions of white, middle-class, cisgender normativity that allow for the temporal, financial, and educational privilege.”

She continues, “These applications are created particularly to recruit for whiteness and require the ability to play at whiteness in order to succeed.”

Libraries accross the country must wash away “the blackface of white librarianship.”

Ms. Hathcock concludes, “The first step is to help diverse applicants navigate the whiteness of the profession and make a concerted effort to dismantle whiteness from within.” She adds, “In doing so, we can recreate the profession into one that truly embraces inclusivity. We can wash away our white librarianship in blackface.”


Founder and editor of the Social Memo

  • Facebook
  • Image
    Blogger Comment
    Facebook Comment


  1. I have great sympathy for those suffering an intractable mental illness.