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Allyship BAME Diversity Emotional labour First peoples LGBTQ+ Marginalised Neurodiverse Privilege Representation under represented Women

GLAM and Diversity are Cancelled. We Need GLAMerous Intersectionality

This post was first posted on the ARA New professionals website.

Words are a powerful force, used correctly they can galvanise people to take down oppressive regimes, change hearts and minds, and tell stories of the universal human condition. The impact of language changes over time depending on the context in which it is used.

And this is why I can no longer abide the words ‘diversity’ and ‘inclusion’, used in the context on of the GLAM (Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums) sector.

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Allyship First peoples LGBTQ+ Privilege Representation

5 stages of accepting your privilege

In this post I will break down the 5-6 stages of accepting your privilege, how it affects those surrounding you, what you can do about it, and how to stop making it a problem/issue for people like me to solve.

When I conduct workshops outlining practical steps to increase intersectionality and representation within the Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums (GLAM) I begin with what I believe to be a foundational element: understanding privilege.

Once an individual understands their privilege they then have the ability, if they so choose, to use their new found understanding of their world to lift up the voices of the marginalised and overlooked.

In short – using your superpower for good.

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Allyship Diversity Emotional labour under represented

The fallacy of diversity presentations.

This blog post examines my personal experiences of when non-marginalised groups discuss diversity in the GLAM sector. It will cover, why I feel these presentations are not for me, the emotional labour involved in conferences and ways to tackle these problems. 

My careers getting off to a good start, so I’ve been going to a lot of conferences. These conferences and workshops ask the hot topic question; how do we get diverse audiences into museums, galleries and archives? 

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Allyship BAME Best Practice Erased Groups Exhibitions Labeling marginalized Representation under represented

Archives and Inclusivity: Respectful descriptions of marginalised groups.

Items within special collections can date back hundreds of years, so it’s no surprise that within these materials it is possible to find outdated or problematic attitudes and language. I am currently researching potential ways to manage this.

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Allyship BAME Diversity LGBTQ+ marginalized under represented

Diversity in Archives: Growing pains

This year I attended my first conference in the record-keeping sector with a bursary courtesy of Kevin Bolton. Among the varied sessions at the Archives and Records Association Conference in Manchester was an exceptionally thought-provoking talk from Kirsty Fife and Hannah Henthorn. They shared the findings from their unfunded and independently conducted survey, Marginalised in the UK Archives Sector, which recorded the experiences of under-represented groups in the Archives sector.

 

Fife and Henthorn

 

Kirsty Fife and Hannah Henthorn discussing their findings. You can find a link to their work here: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/0B03n6cJrCQwAaDVZZ3Bic1RHWm8

Many participants felt marginalised in ways I had not considered. For example, one participant did not feel comfortable attending conferences beneficial to their professional development due to fear of being miss-gendered or experiencing other transphobic micro-aggressions.[1] I began reflecting on how we could create a welcoming, supportive and safe space[2] where all under-represented individuals feel welcome.

I concluded that to achieve this, each person in the sector must be willing to engage with the topic of diversity with a sensitivity that will legitimise the feelings of the under-represented and result in a change behaviours and policies. To explain this fully I will use my experience as an example.

As a British Asian in the heritage sector, I work with a majority of white British or European colleagues and have repeatedly experienced being the only BAME person in an entire building. When micro-aggressions occur in these settings I have two options: speak out or let it go. Speaking out is an empowering option if I am confident I am in a safe and understanding environment. Letting it go is more preferable when I am unsure of my surroundings. The latter is more common in a workplace setting.

When these micro-aggressions occur, I am overcome with an array of feelings including hurt, vulnerability and belittlement. Often, I make a joke of what has happened as a protective way to discuss a sensitive topic. The more I learn to articulate myself during stressful situations in a clear concise and kind manner, the more I can discuss these transgressions with my colleagues. I expect my conversational partner to mirror my respectful and understanding approach but often their embarrassment and hurt leads to misdirected anger and/or a dismissive attitude.  This in turn causes me to feel invisible and upset.

If we intend to dismantle all barriers to under-represented groups and fully embrace diversity into the workplace we must be sensitive to those highlighting discriminatory behaviour: accepting our ignorance and discomfort and turning this into understanding and acceptance. This is a complex sensitive topic but we can begin with four steps.

  1. Understand there is mutual discomfort: challenging someone about micro aggressions is intimidating and uncomfortable.
  2. Accept the discomfort: do not immediately dismiss or defend micro-aggressions, because implicit bias is universal and no one has full understanding of other peoples’ life experience.
  3. Do research: learning about the life experiences of minority groups will increase understanding and inform positive interactions.
  4. Forgive yourself for making mistakes: if you are following these steps to create a more welcoming environment for everyone, you’re doing your best.

By doing this we can make a truly safe space for those under-represented groups. As the sector’s diversity grows, so will our discomfort when mistakes are inevitably made. However, this is not a negative prospect. Growing pains are necessary when changing the status quo and this is an exciting and important part of creating a fully diverse and integrated profession.

This article also appears in the November 2017 issue of the ARA magazine, ARC and John Rylands Special Collections blog

[1] Indirect, subtle, or unintentional discrimination against members of a marginalized group.

[2] A place or environment in which a person or category of people can feel confident that they will not be exposed to discrimination, criticism, harassment, or any other emotional or physical harm.