Like many of you, I have spent the last several days feeling conflicted: alternately saddened and outraged by the death of George Floyd. Buoyed by the peaceful demonstrations that ensued in the wake of his cruel death and frustrated by the acts of violence. Our country is torn and this current state is, sadly, not a new experience. As someone who was living in Arlington in 1968 and witnessed the burning of our nation’s capital, I can say, with regret, I’ve seen this movie, too.
- It is not enough to share a social media post describing racial injustice or to add an emoji.
- It is not enough to wait for others to decide what to do to address structural racism.
- It is not enough to remain silent because conversations about race in America are difficult.
It is enough to look within ourselves and take an action —any action — that says to oneself and others: the disparate treatment of black people, brown people, other people, must not stand.
Today, the public library inhabits a unique role in American society. It stands for liberty, tolerance and acceptance.
It says believe what you will and your beliefs will not be judged. It says come as you are and you will be embraced as you are. And it says that if you are comfortable and secure or in need and uncertain, the library will be your refuge. A pretty tall order but one we signed onto when we entered this field — in my case, more than 40 years ago this week.
In this unprecedented time of crisis and chaos, we have a rare opportunity to revisit and reaffirm both our library and our personal values, beliefs and commitments to everyone in our community, especially those whom neither history nor prosperity has favored.
If not now, when? If not us, who?
Director, Arlington Public Library