Report: Barriers to Authenticity for PoC Academic Librarians

This is the second of two blogposts sharing some of the qualitative data offered by respondents to my ongoing survey on deauthenticity in racial and ethnic minority academic librarians (read the initial qualitative report on deauthentication and library practice impacts here). For review, deauthentication is “a cognitive process that People of Color (PoC) traverse to prepare for or navigate predominantly White workplace environments, resulting in decisions that hide or reduce aspects of

  1. the influence of their ethnic, racial, or cultural identity,  and 
  2. the presentation of their natural personality, language, physical and mental self-images/representations, interests, relationships, values, traditions, and more,

to avoid macro- or microaggressions, shaming, incivility, punishment or retaliation, and which results in barriers to sharing their whole selves with their colleagues and/or clients.” (Kendrick 2018)

The following data are responses to the survey’s final question,“What do you believe may happen at your workplace or in your library career if you do not engage in deauthentication?”

  • “White coworkers will be uncomfortable or will make cringeworthy comments.”
  • “Probably microaggressions and other hassles would increase.”
  • “At this point, nothing. I am tenure track and my board likes me ( for the most part), but they are older. If my biggest supporters were to die before I get tenure then I would be worried about my job security. Beyond that, I feel like I have no mobility in my position, partially because of perceptions about who I am. I am not taken seriously and I do not get the support I need from administration, but I cannot complain.”
  • “I have been in meetings where potential candidates for employment have been accused of displaying stereotypical behavior even though they did not engage in it during the interview. The accusers recall this behavior even when challenged to specify the details. I work with people who weaponize cultural practices, clothing, hairstyles, and gestures as evidence of otherness and proof that the person would not make a good fit. I would not have been hired if I did not engage in deauthentication.”
  • “I’m generally authentic and it has isolated me and prevented me from being seen as management material, being authentic makes me seem like I’m not a team player. It makes others at work avoid me. They don’t celebrate me.”
  • “I’m already “othered” by being a POC in a predominately white institution. I believe that if I was my authentic self, white women in particular would be even further alienated from me and would feel even more threatened by me. In my double digit career finding points of relatability to white women is frankly impossible and it’s not an effort that white women make. So (I’m realizing this as I type) I make myself and my personality smaller, I take up less space, time and say less.”
  • “A reputation as an outsider, unworthy of promotion, assistance, and generally a loss of credibility.”
  • “It has been happening. I have stopped deauthentication. My hair is now long and I wear my headband often at work I am reclaiming my indigenous heritage. This will be used against me–I’m sure. It is my experience that POC must adhere strictly to Whiteness or suffer career consequences.”
  • “I’ll be labeled a “troublemaker” and “bad fit” and be pushed out of my position through lack of funding and support for professional development, stalled out salary, and watching as others with less experience make unusually large advancements in their careers. This is not something I believe will happen—this is something I know will happen as I’ve watched it happen to others in my department for a variety of different reasons (though not race, as I am the only POC hire within at least the past dozen librarian hires).”
  • “In [my] first professional library job at a community college, I was naive about what the consequences to not engaging in deauthentication. I was more myself at work (at least at the beginning), which means loud and straight to the point.When it came time for my first review, I lost points for “unprofessional behavior” and my supervisor, who was a white woman, sited that I at times seemed “elevated.” To this day I’m not exactly sure what exactly she was trying to say with the word “elevated”, but it certainly wasn’t positive. I know I am often regarded as too loud and obnoxious, and colleagues in the past have definitely “shushed” me or told me to “calm down” when I was only expressing excitement, but I wasn’t expecting to be marked down for it in an official review.”
  • “I’d be way less stressed and able to focus more on my actual job.”
  • “I would get more work done; have better relationships with colleagues and patrons.”
  • “I think that the workplace would be forced to recognize that everyone is different and that who I am as a librarian who happens to be Black is not something I need to change. It is something that should be supported by the institution. Engaging in deauthentication rewards the bad behaviors of others, including the institution, and makes it more difficult for others to enter the field or for me to want to stay.”

Final data analysis from my low-morale study on racial and ethnic minority academic librarians reveal that deauthentication is an (additional) impact factor in PoC low-morale experiences; while this group was not asked about low-morale specifically, we can infer from their included descriptions of systemic abuse, emotional abuse, and negligence, that it is possible that they are moving through these experiences as they deauthenticate.

Works Cited

Kendrick, K.D. (2018, Feb. 5). Considering: Deauthenticity in the workplace. Retrieved from https://bit.ly/2BWTqkR.

 

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Report: How Deauthentication Impacts PoC Academic Librarians’ Library Practice

[This content has been republished at Renewals, a site focused on discussions about low morale in North American libraries] 

After sharing my thoughts on the theme of deauthenticity that arose in my PoC academic librarian low-morale study data, I created a quick survey and reported the initial results via TIOTP last June. 

As a review, deauthentication is defined as “a cognitive process that People of Color (PoC) traverse to prepare for or navigate predominantly White workplace environments, resulting in decisions that hide or reduce aspects of

  1. the influence of their ethnic, racial, or cultural identity,  and 
  2. the presentation of their natural personality, language, physical and mental self-images/representations, interests, relationships, values, traditions, and more,

to avoid macro- or microaggressions, shaming, incivility, punishment or retaliation, and which results in barriers to sharing their whole selves with their colleagues and/or clients.” (Kendrick 2018)

The survey is still open and I will share an update soon, and for now, the next two blogposts will focus on the qualitative data that has been offered so far.  The first qualitative question is: “How has deauthentication affected your library practice?” 

Respondent answers include:

  • “I feel like I’m torn in half and cannot reconcile my professional life with my culture and values.”
  • “I have to neutralize my personality so I will be considered capable to lead projects and for advancement.”
  • “I have hidden my Asian heritage and my political beliefs, and tried to conform to the white standards so it does not look like I am rocking the status quo.”
  • The most obvious way is that I feel I have to be “better”–a better employee, better colleague, better customer service representative of my institution to patrons (this last one especially)–to demonstrate not that I’m actually better, but just as good of a librarian as my colleagues. While I’d strive to do my best in any environment, the feeling that I need to work extra hard to be considered good enough and to not have my mistakes be critiqued more harshly than similar mistakes made by white colleagues is exhausting.”
  • “Sometimes I would feel like I wasn’t as smart as my colleagues, often stressed about not being able to move up. Conversely, I would feel like my coworkers were jealous of me for being popular with students.”
  • “I feel like it censors diversity representation, what the students see.”
  • “It has made my experience as a librarian an experience of the ‘other.’ I never feel part of the library, nor part of the decisions, nor do I get respect on my achievements.”
  • “I think that because I strive to work against stereotypes of the “spicy” Latina, I frequently wind up second guessing all other aspects of my work. My impostor syndrome is definitely heightened because I am worried about seeming too aggressive, excited, or over the top. This heightened impostor syndrome has impacted my overall confidence level in my ideas and in my feelings of self-worth. I don’t always trust my own voice and my own ideas, or believe that I have the right to take up space if I disagree with my colleagues.”
  • “To my white colleagues in and out of the library, I am just someone who tans easily. Anytime I slip up and mention something about my borderland childhood or Mexican family traditions there’s always a weird pause and people kind of look at me funny and go back to whatever they were talking about it. It’s not relatable to them so I generally try not to bring it up because I don’t want those memories tainted by that weirdness. lt definitely puts distance between myself and them.”
  • “I sometimes feel like a fraud at work, that I’m not allowed to be my true self and talk about my passions, and that all I’m here to do is catalog items and attend meetings. Supervisors have no clue how to interact with direct reports that are POC, and library administration doesn’t see the need to do training in that area.”
  • “It has kept me from reaching my potential as a leader.”
  • I have been exoticized at my institution due to how I wear and wrap my hair. I am more cautious of how I present myself in appearance. I only get to “relax” during breaks and the summer because not many folks are around then. I wear my hair natural and I wear more head wraps then. I also no longer share personal information about my upbringing and some of my interests. My white colleagues have assumed I share the same interests in classic films, music, and media, and I am tired of explaining that I didn’t grow up with the same references as them.”
  • “I’d honestly have to process this further. I checked nearly every box and I’m wondering who I am at work. I do know it’s stifling. Like a straight jacket. It’s a self- imposed reduction of my own voice.”
  • I become very bland and feel like I have to speak about my interest in social justice issues in a way that won’t offend my white coworkers or pretend to be ignorant about my culture or cultures similar to mine when my white colleagues talk about the subject and their experiences with it.”
  • “I feel that I can’t be whole with my coworkers. I constantly have to change who I am to fit in or be understood. With my students at the college, it’s a little different because we serve a majority PoC district, so I feel like I can breathe and be more authentic with them.”

These reflective statements reveal many aspects of deauthentication – as defined – and also reach into another impact factor of the PoC- low-morale experience: Stereotype threatYou also see aspects of the Privilege of Authenticity that respondents believe their non-PoC colleagues enjoy.  Within the context of deauthentication, the privilege of authenticity highlights non-PoC employees’ ability to “1) display a full range of emotions, 2) share interests, opinions, personal life and health details and histories, family details, hobbies, etc. and 2) present themselves physically (hair, clothing, skin, makeup, accessories, etc.)  in almost any way – and in (almost) any workplace setting – with considerably less concern about shaming, push-back, punishment/mistreatment, unsolicited interference, or undue interrogation” (Kendrick 2018).

Deauthentication is also an impact factor in PoC the low-morale experience. We should remember that this group of respondents are who are deauthenticating are, quite possibly, doing so while being exposed to repeated and protracted workplace abuse and neglect (low morale). It should also be noted that deauthentication seems to be an internally-imposed response to expected and actual instances of racial-, cultural-, or ethnic-based workplace hostility (including the unintentional vagaries of microaggressions and implicit bias).

Works Cited

Kendrick, K.D. (2018, Feb. 5). Considering: Deauthenticity in the workplace. Retrieved from https://bit.ly/2BWTqkR

#hurrayoftheday: 31

My proposal with Ione T. Damasco, “The Low Morale Experience of Minority Academic Librarians: A Review,” has been accepted for presentation at the IDEAL ’19 Conference, which takes place in Columbus, OH in August.

This will be the first time Ione and I will present together, even though we have been research partners and friends for a long time. I’m really looking forward to attending the conference and engaging in the line-up of sessions.

 

#hurrayoftheday: 28

I just received a short note that in part, shares:

“[I] just read your article on [African-American] male librarians and really appreciated your research and insight…Your article helped me to realize a few things about myself and the profession and perhaps a shift in direction can rekindle my passion for the work.”

It’s wonderful to know that study – published in 2009 – still offers a positive impact to readers.

 

Webinar: Deauthenticity in PoC Academic Librarianship

Last year the North Carolina Libary Associations’ Roundtable for Minority Ethnic Concerns (NCLA REMCo) invited me to join their Cultural Conversation’s slate.  Below is the webinar I led, titled “Exploring (de)Authenticity: Impact on PoC, Implications for Practice.”

The webinar reflects a joint effort between me and the racial/ethnic minority academic librarians who offered me data on their experiences. I discuss my concept of deauthenticity, how it manifests in the racial/ethnic minority academic librarian low-morale experience, and share the results of the informal survey, which remains open.

 

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Tweet-dux: Stereotype Threat and Deauthenticity in the PoC Low-Morale Experience

[This content has been republished at Renewals, a site focused on discussions about low morale in North American libraries] 

On Twitter, I’ve been threading some results of my latest low morale study (done with Ione Damasco), which centers the experience of racial and ethnic minority academic librarians. It is my hope that this work will bring into clearer view the additional emotional labor that librarians of color bear while dealing with abuse and neglect in American library workplaces. 

The following thread introduces the impact of stereotype threat and summates my earlier discussion about the concept of deauthenticity in the PoC low-morale experience. 

  1. Stereotype threat is “a situational predicament in which individuals are at risk, by dint of their actions or behaviors, of confirming negative stereotypes about their group. It is the resulting sense that one might be judged in terms of a negative stereotype that is ‘in the air’” (Inzlicht & Schmader, 2012, 5-6).
  2. Minority academic librarians’ historic exposure to and awareness of race, culture, or ethnic stereotypes—along with their understanding that White colleagues were also aware of such stereotypes and the implicit or explicit associations with their ability to successfully execute the skills, knowledge, and abilities required of academic librarianship—were often linked to participants’ desire to preemptively offset White colleagues’ seemingly low expectations.
  3. Stereotype threat responses included behaviors they hoped would distance them from negative stereotypes: workaholism, culture-carrying (consciously working to positively represent an entire race, culture, or ethnic identity), vocational awe, and resilience cycles.
  4. A [participant] said, “I’m always in a position where I feel like I have to prove to myself, and that people are automatically—instead of assuming that I have expertise, it’s like I have to prove why I’m even there and worthy to take on these positions and prove my expertise.”
  5. During low-morale experiences, minority academic librarians traverse deauthentication, a cognitive process to prepare for or navigate predominantly White workplace environments.
  6. Deauthentication results in decisions that hide or reduce aspects of (1) the influence of ethnic, racial, or cultural identities, and (2) the presentation of natural personality, emotional responses, language, physical and mental self-images/representations, interests, relationships, values, traditions, and more.
  7. Deauthentication decisions help avoid macro- or microaggressions, shaming, incivility, punishment or retaliation, and these decisions ultimately create barriers to sharing whole selves with colleagues and/or clients.
  8. A participant noted: “[when] I walk in the door [of my workplace] . . . when I’m with [my White female colleagues], I’m really usually super quiet with them. I don’t speak up. And when I do, I make sure that I speak with very perfect English, and I have to enunciate…I mean, it’s like—I mean, I don’t have a thick accent, but I, you know, you can hear my [language] accent, sometimes, right? But when I walk in this door, I am—80% of me is left behind. I don’t bring in a lot of my culture and stuff.”

Take the deauthentication survey.

View the deauthentication webinar (presented by the North Carolina Library Association’s Roundtable for Ethnic Minority Concerns)

Works Cited

Inzlicht, M. & Schmader, T. (2012). Stereotype Threat. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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Tweet-dux: White Supremacy and Racism in the PoC Low-Morale Experience.

[This content has been republished at Renewals, a site focused on discussions about low morale in North American libraries] 

On Twitter, I’ve been threading some results of my latest low morale study (done with Ione Damasco), which centers the experience of racial and ethnic minority academic librarians. It is my hope that this work will bring into clearer view the additional emotional labor that librarians of color bear while dealing with abuse and neglect in American library workplaces. 

These threads expound on my earlier report of additional Enabling Systems in the PoC low-morale experience. 

  1. Participants frequently reported White colleagues’ assumptions of racial superiority as a significant cause of their low-morale experience(s).
  2. Dealing with White librarians’ unrequested guidance or advice, often given under the guise of knowing what is best for minority librarians, was frequently reported.
  3. Participants’ discussed their institutions’ active justification or downplaying of the negative outcomes of their historic and contemporary participation in or condonement of programs or events perpetuating White supremacy and racism.
  4. These justifications were evidence that their institutions remain unwilling to recognize or reconcile the long-term, still-present negative impacts of their actions on marginalized groups.
  5. Participants perceived that White colleagues discounted their preparation for, engagement in, and outcomes of their work.
  6. They perceived the discounting was motivated by White colleagues’ desires to discourage minority colleagues’ feelings of self-efficacy or trajectories of career success, even if they had no interest the same projects.
  7. Participants shared that White colleagues had limited expectations about them based on their race, culture, or ethnicity.
  8. Behaviors or comments signaling subtle or indirect racial, cultural, or ethnic discrimination were noted by study participants. (e.g. dog whistling, microaggressions).
  9. Racism increased participants’ feelings of emotional or physical limitations with regard to their immediate workplaces and/or overall career development.
  10. Multiracial participants discussed White colleagues’ reliance on phenotype to determine if it was safe to share racist opinions…
  11. Multi-racial participants also recognized that the non-White aspects of their identities were more often met with disdain than the perceived “better” qualities of Whiteness.

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Tweet-dux: Diversity Rhetoric and Whiteness in the PoC Low-Morale Experience.

[This content has been republished at Renewals, a site focused on discussions about low morale in North American libraries] 

On Twitter, I’ve been threading some results of my latest low morale study (done with Ione Damasco), which centers the experience of racial and ethnic minority academic librarians. It is my hope that this work will bring into clearer view the additional emotional labor that librarians of color bear while dealing with abuse and neglect in American library workplaces. 

These threads expound on my earlier report of additional Enabling Systems in the PoC low-morale experience. 

  1. Participant data show that White women are soundly perceived by minority academic librarians as harbingers and enablers of workplace abuse and neglect.
  2. White women librarians alienate minority librarians through exclusionary attitudes or language.
  3. [One participant] stated, “Specifically, just librarianship as a profession, it’s predominantly White women [who have contributed to my low-morale experience]. And that’s just—I don’t know what else to say about that.”
  4. Respondents shared how White privilege also played a detrimental role in their low-morale experience, especially when it was invoked purposively while dealing with general enabling systems…
  5. White privilege also allowed uncivil behavior to go unchecked.
  6. Study participants also recognized the intersectionality of diversity rhetoric and White privilege when White colleagues invoked both enabling systems to offset events traditionally seen as only negatively affecting minorities – especially when such events were poised to also affect them negatively.

Learn more about the Diversity Rhetoric Enabling System.

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#hurrayoftheday: 23

I’ve received notification from the Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL)  that a Roundtable proposal I created with Kenya Flash and Quetzalli Barrientos has been accepted for presentation at the ACRL 2019 Conference.

The Roundtable, titled Institutional Vagaries of Retention and Recruitment and the Actuality of Emotional Labor in Diversity Initiativeslinks visible LIS-wide efforts to recruit and retain racial and ethnic minorities to the often invisible outcomes of emotional labor and low morale – which may occur as a result of theoretical gaps and practical mis-steps in EDI implementation and diversity rhetoric.

The conference will be held in Cleveland, Ohio from April 10 -13. This year’s theme is “Recasting the Narrative.” Learn more.

#RecommendedResearch

Lived Experience of Academic Librarians of Color

Authors: Juleah Swanson, Azusa Tanaka, & Isabel Gonzalez-Smith

ABSTRACT:  Lived experience encompasses the perceptions, feelings, and context of an individual’s human experience. Researching lived experience can be a way of understanding identity, emotions, perceptions, and contexts to develop a more thoughtful understanding of human experience. This research explores the following questions: what are the lived experiences of people of color who work as academic librarians in the profession; what are the contexts of their experiences; and how do these librarians see themselves? Through qualitative research using a phenomenological approach, this research reveals the complex, nuanced, and varied lived experiences of academic librarians of color navigating a predominantly white profession.

Read article.