I have been very busy in despair and raising an eight year old and fighting for a fair contract and doing the laundry and calling my legislative leaders to tell them to stop just about everything I see getting started, so I missed Tuesday’s press release from the ALA Washington office that proclaimed the Association “ready to work with President-elect Trump, his transition team, incoming administration and members of Congress to bring more economic opportunity to all Americans and advance other goals we have in common.”
This is not a moment to collaborate. This is a moment to resist.
Over the past five years, I have made essentially two claims in everything I have written and said out loud in professional contexts. The first is a call to acknowledge kairos and how a given context constrains what we imagine as a range of potential actions and what we decide to do. Our actions have something to do with the present we create for ourselves when we take them. ALA’s response to a historical moment that every thinking person on the left and a whole bunch of liberals too have called the arrival of a white supremacist fascist president is to scramble to say Yes, we will do what you want us to do. We want a future driven by this administration. This is a shameful sell out of a profession that stood against the Patriot Act. I know that libraries are bastions of whiteness, wedded to ideas of neutrality, etc. In this moment, ALA is doubling down on the worst of our profession, taking actions that extend the current political horror show. This is not okay.
The second claim I have tried to articulate is the way that infrastructures produce and circulate power to some of us and not to others. So, how we produce structural inequalities through our divide between MLS-holding librarians and the people who do much the same work without the degree and therefore get paid significantly less. Or how we build classification structures that tell gay people they’re deviant every time they browse our shelves. I mean, really, WTF. In this moment, I have been thinking hopefully about some of the infrastructures librarianship has produced that I think we’ll need more of in the coming years. Interlibrary loan represents the most sophisticated and functional system for resource sharing I have ever seen. We’re gonna need that. What floods all these infrastructures matters too. In this moment, ALA has chosen to say they will facilitate the production of infrastructure built by a party and a person that clearly and avowedly wants to use these infrastructures to deport and register and who knows what else many of us, our colleagues, and our patrons. Again, WTF. Nope. Not today.
And all of this is happening for me against the background of a year that has been nothing but encounter after encounter with brute power. My dad was hit and killed by a Ford F150 while crossing the street in a crosswalk. Bam. Power. No amount of persuasive speech would have saved him. My aunt says his last word as he saw the truck coming at him was “No.” Held up his hand and said, “No.” Didn’t matter. Then in September, I was locked out by my employer. Faculty governance, union power, no matter, I did not have a paycheck and I did not have health insurance. Bam. Was it fair? Didn’t matter. It was a tough year even before the country elected a president who doesn’t think me or many of my friends, neighbors, colleagues, students, family, etc. have a right to a good life.
In these moments my response has been the same: WTF. Nope. No. Not today. And my actions, I hope, have reflected that: funneling the money of like 160 of you to Transportation Alternatives, an organization that systematically addresses traffic violence through stoplights, traffic cameras, and bike lanes. Organizing my colleagues to stand against the lockout and demand a return to the bargaining table. We still don’t have a contract. About a quarter of my waking hours are still committed to trying to figure that out. I make a lot of lists and spreadsheets. Since Trump’s election, I spend huge amounts of time on the phone with my senators’ offices and organizing other people to call too. I’m not a particularly good person. Almost everyone else I know has done the same.
I say no.
It is shameful that ALA has greeted this administration with a big loud yes. They do not speak for me.