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Statement on Race and Equity

Milwaukee Public Library's Statement on Race & Social Equity

The Milwaukee Public Library is a trusted community asset that endeavors to serve all Milwaukee residents.  We condemn all racial inequities, including the recent murders and other deaths and assaults that have led to ongoing demonstrations and protests in Milwaukee and throughout the country.  MPL’s mission is to help build healthy families and vibrant neighborhoods by helping people read, learn, and connect. To fulfill this mission, MPL acknowledges and will work to dismantle systemic racism and is committed to achieving equity, understanding this is an ongoing process. 

MPL pledges continuation of ongoing work to meet these ends and welcomes new opportunities and partners to build a Milwaukee that is healthy and supportive for everyone.  This commitment is endorsed and led by the library’s leadership.

In 2018, the MPL’s Board of Trustees endorsed the following statement from the Urban Libraries Council (ULC). The Milwaukee Public Library, along with over 160 nationally recognized urban libraries, is a member of the ULC.

Urban Libraries Council Race and Social Equity Statement

As leaders of North America’s public libraries, we are committed to achieving racial and social equity by contributing to a more just society in which all community members can realize their full potential. Our libraries can help achieve true and sustained equity through an intentional, systemic and transformative library-community partnership. Our library systems are working to achieve equity in the communities we serve by:

  • Eliminating racial and social equity barriers in library programs, services, policies and practices
  • Creating and maintaining an environment of diversity, inclusion and respect both in our library systems and in all aspects of our community role
  • Ensuring that we are reaching and engaging disenfranchised people in the community and helping them express their voice
  • Serving as a convener and facilitator of conversations and partnerships to address community challenges
  • Being forthright on tough issues that are important to our communities

Libraries are trusted, venerable and enduring institutions, central to their communities and an essential participant in the movement for racial and social equity.

Tools to Talk about Race and Racism

There are a number of resources to support knowledge-seeking as a step to dismantling systemic racism and social inequity. Here is a list of titles available for readers of all ages, compiled by MPL staff.  As demand for these books has increased, please note there may be long hold times as we work to get more copies on our shelves to meet the community’s needs.

Part 1: Resisting Racism  |  Part 2: Talking to Children about Race & Racism

So You Want to Talk About Race? by Ijeoma Oluo
A contemporary, accessible take on the racial landscape in America, addressing head-on such issues as privilege, police brutality, intersectionality, micro-aggressions, the Black Lives Matter movement, and the "N" word.

How to be an Antiracist by Ibram X Kendi
In How to Be an Antiracist, Kendi asks us to think about what an antiracist society might look like, and how we can play an active role in building it. How to Be an Antiracist is an essential work for anyone who wants to go beyond an awareness of racism to the next step: contributing to the formation of a truly just and equitable society.

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
Available through hoopla
Meticulously researched and masterfully argued, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Color Blindness is a force to be reckoned with.  Alexander deftly lifts the veil of our prison and police systems and reveals the horrors underneath.

White Fragility : Why it's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin J. DiAngelo
Referring to the defensive moves that white people make when challenged racially, white fragility is characterized by emotions such as anger, fear, and guilt, and by behaviors including argumentation and silence. These behaviors, in turn, function to reinstate white racial equilibrium and prevent any meaningful cross-racial dialogue.

Stamped from the Beginning by Ibram X Kendi
Americans like to insist that we are living in a postracial, color-blind society. In fact, racist thought is alive and well; it has simply become more sophisticated and more insidious. And as historian Ibram X. Kendi argues, racist ideas in this country have a long and lingering history, one in which nearly every great American thinker is complicit. Kendi chronicles the entire story of anti-Black racist ideas and their staggering power over the course of American history.

White Like Me by Tim Wise
Tim Wise offers a highly personal examination of the ways in which racial privilege shapes the lives of most white Americans, overtly racist or not, to the detriment of people of color, themselves, and society.

Racism Without Racists by Eduardo Bonilla-Silva
Eduardo Bonilla-Silva's acclaimed Racism without Racists documents how, beneath our contemporary conversation about race, there lies a full-blown arsenal of arguments, phrases, and stories that whites use to account for--and ultimately justify--racial inequalities.

Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome: America's Legacy of Enduring Injury and Healing by Joy DeGruy Leary

As a result of twelve years of quantitative and qualitative research Dr. DeGruy has developed her theory of Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome, and published her findings in the book Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome – America’s Legacy of Enduring Injury and Healing”. The book addresses the residual impacts of generations of slavery and opens up the discussion of how the black community can use the strengths we have gained in the past to heal in the present.

Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America by Michael Eric Dyson
Fifty years ago, Malcolm X told a white woman who asked what she could do for the cause, 'Nothing.' Michael Eric Dyson believes he was wrong. Now he responds to that question. If society is to make real racial progress, people must face difficult truths, including being honest about how Black grievance has been ignored, dismissed, or discounted.


Part 2: Talking to Children About Race and Racism

Library Booklists: Kids birth-5 |  Kids 6-9 |  Kids 10-12Teens

Not My Idea: A Book About Whiteness by Anastasia Higginbotham
A white child sees a TV news report of a white police officer shooting and killing a black man. "In our family, we don't see color," his mother says, but he sees the colors plain enough. An afternoon in the library's history stacks uncover the truth of white supremacy in America. Ages 5-12

Intersection Allies: We Make Room For All by Chelsea Johnson, LaToya Council, & Carolyn Choi; illustrated by Ashley Seil Smith
A handy book about intersectionality that depicts the nuances of identity and embraces difference as a source of community. Ages 6+

Racism and Intolerance by Louise Spilsbury; illustrated by Hanane Kai
In Racism and Intolerance, children can get answers to questions like: "What does it mean to be a racist--or intolerant?" and "How can I help?" Children will begin to understand the way others struggle with these issues and become empowered to make a difference. Ages 6-12

Beyond Heroes and Holidays: a Practical Guide to K-12 anti-racist, Multicultural Education and Staff Development by Enid Lee
An incredible, informative, collection of essays, articles, analysis, interviews, primary documents and interactive & interdisciplinary teaching aids on civil rights, movement building, and what it means for all of the inhabitants of the planet.

Let's Talk About Race by Julius Lester; illustrated by Karen Barbour
Offers readers a poetic introduction to the topic of race as the differences and unique features of races are celebrated while discussing the important bond everyone shares with one another as human beings through many common similarities. Ages 6+

We Rise, We Resist, We Raise Our Voices
What do we tell our children when the world seems bleak, and prejudice and racism run rampant? With 96 lavishly designed pages of original art, poetry, and prose, fifty diverse creators lend voice and comfort to young activists. Ages 8-18

Dictionary for a Better World : Poems, Quotes, and Anecdotes from A to Z by Irene Latham & Charles Waters; illustrated by Mehrdokht Amini
How can we make the world a better place? This inspiring resource for middle-grade readers is organized as a dictionary; each entry presents a word related to creating a better world, such as ally, empathy, or respect. For each word, there is a poem, a quote from an inspiring person, a personal anecdote from the authors, and a "try it" prompt for an activity. Ages 8-12