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Lorna warns against unintentionally pitting oppressed groups against each other

Dear Diane and COSWL members, I am glad to see this post for Women’s History month. And although I know that no harm or offensive was intended, I am nevertheless disappointed by this: “Each year I complain because Women’s History is not being recognized and focused upon to the extent I desire in schools anymore. As I walk through various schools and classrooms, I seem posters for Black History Month in February put up before Martin Luther King Jr. day in January.”

These months to recognize the achievements of oppressed groups should not be pitted against one another. And it must be remembered: “All the women are white and all the blacks are men, but some of us are brave.” In other words– black women are women too! black women are blacks too! Black History month celebrates the achievements of Black Women. Women’s History Month celebrates the achievements of Black Women– or at least both should. But most important, don’t pit one against the other. These designations are to fill in the gaps, to remind that freedoms enjoyed weren’t always so and were gained through courage, intelligence, work, achievement in the struggle for human rights and dignity.

Thank you Diane for your post and for your acknowledgment of the work of the committee and staff liaison Lorelle Swader. Committee member Karen Weaver alerted us to Library History Buff Blog and its COSWL shout out. Jennifer Paustenbaugh did outstanding posting of Oklahoma’s activities that should serve as models for other states. And Paige Mano got us up on Facebook and Twitter. Rayette Sterling and Elizabeth (Beth) Cox have  been actively posting to our listserv. My thanks to all committee members!

And if Diane does not mind, I may need to respond to her blog post regarding the unintentional pitting of Black History month against Women’s History month. Maybe the observations of both months are becoming perfunctory in all of our libraries and we need to strive for more creativity and educating that these opportunities provide. And I hope that others will continue to post and blog– a little controversy is always good — you cannot have advancement and education without analysis, critique, illumination, conflict … I say this to encourage and not to silence expression. with respect,

Lorna Peterson

So, I wrote to Lorna asking permission to post this:

Thanks Lorna for honestly sharing your reaction to my blog post. Of course I do not intend to pit groups against each other. Unfortunately, many schools have “gotten it” when it comes to the importance of teaching Black History Month and the achievements of African-Americans, but they DON’T get the importance of teaching women’s history month and the specific achievements of herstory that have been overlooked and dismissed for so long. I wish schools would GET the need for acknowledging and embracing the achievements of women. I wish I would see similar results.

I would love for you to post your concern as a comment in the blog, or even better, how about if I post the letter in its entirety on the blog so there are no limits for length? I welcome our frankly discussing these issues because the controversy is out there. Why hasn’t someone commented on the quote I put up there about teaching men’s history month? People make these comments frequently and no one is addressing them. What’s that phrase to use? No one is discussing the big pink elephant in the room? Even within ALA I hear from male librarians the following quote: “ALA is full of women, librarianship is primarily women so why do we need these women’s groups?” Have you ever heard this? I would love to have some quick talking points at hand to address this. The last time it was asked of me, I choked on my coffee and then couldn’t coherently answer.

Lorna  gave me the additional information italicized and inserted above plus this response:

And I do not think that the majority “gets” Black History Month.   The “Men’s History” (or even white history for that matter) is an old chestnut. It is the refusal to acknowledge “otherness.” It is the refusal to accept every month is for men– that women of all colors, and those who are not white are the “other”– cite Simone de Beauvoir.

******************** So, readers …. what do you think?