It’s been a devastating week, and I’m reflecting on the massacre of Black life in South Carolina and the escalating anti-Black violence in the U.S and abroad. I’m reposting a statement developed with my colleagues at UCLA about the importance of educators, particularly those in the fields of information, library science and communication, to affirm our commitment to efforts that can bring about social justice:
We, the undersigned, are academic scholars and professional practitioners in the field of Information Studies and Library and Information Science. We support the role of information institutions such as libraries, archives, museums and academic institutions in fostering social justice and specifically affirm the importance of evidence and documentation in making sense of, and resolving, racial and social disparities, and injustice.
We are dedicated to inquiry and the advancement of knowledge. We develop future generations of scholars, teachers, information professionals, and institutional leaders. Our work is guided by the principles of individual responsibility and social justice, an ethic of caring, and commitment to the communities and public we serve. Moreover, we are committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion of all members of society, and recognize our responsibility in contributing knowledge, research, and expertise to help foster social, economic, cultural, and racial equity and justice. Thus, for example, we stand in solidarity with members of multiple communities in the many recent calls to recognize that “Black Lives Matter.”
We affirm our long-standing commitment to the pursuit of social justice through the study of the production, management, authentication and use of documentary evidence, and the transformative role of education, as ways to promote better understanding of complex social issues, identify injustices and inequities, and formulate solutions to these problems. We believe that cultural and information institutions such as libraries and archives play a central role in advancing social justice and equity by offering spaces and resources for community-based dialog and reflection, providing access to information in all its forms, and designing and building systems of information classification, retrieval and access that expose and resist, rather than perpetuate, pervasive and unjust economic, class, racial, and gender disparities.
Furthermore, we recognize the vital importance of all forms of documentation, and especially records, in mediating contemporary conflicts and disputes rooted in longstanding historical patterns of injustice, such as the recent spate of killings of African-American men, women, and children at the rate of one person every 28 hours in the United States by law enforcement or security officers, as reported in the media. In these and other crises, publicly-created documentary evidence (such as photographs, cellphone-generated video, and oral testimony) has emerged as an indispensable resource for helping victims’ advocates, community members, and legal authorities alike to determine the facts of these cases, including claims of state violence against citizens. These records are necessary to assist victims’ families and advocates to pursue claims of wrongful prosecution or injury.
We believe that greater transparency of government agencies and actions through documentation and the public release of documents is essential. We call for national debate and professional engagement on why racism and state-sanctioned violence persists and is systemically embedded in our culture. We also see a disturbing connection between the local events and global instances of human rights abuses, including those chronicled in the most recent investigatory report on CIA torture processes. At the same time, we are doubtful that the growing, technologized “culture of surveillance,” in which both citizens and the state engage in a constantly-escalating spiral of hypervigilance, data capture, and retaliatory exposure of sensitive information, in any sense constitutes a sustainable solution to social injustice or state violence, nor does it address the root causes and consequences of an increasingly violent and painfully divided society.
The core ethics and values of the information disciplines and professions require that we steward, validate, protect, and also liberate the cultural and documentary record; that we insure that documentation is transparent and accountable; and that we provide equitable and ready access to information for all. Our teaching, research and practice must manifest these values. We call on our academic and professional colleagues across the nation and around the world to join our efforts to build archives, collections, and repositories of documents in all media forms, and systems of access to and use of these resources, in the service of helping people experiencing injustice to talk back to the record, and to power.
We encourage all educators to stand with us, and encourage signatures to this Statement in affirmation of our professional and personal commitments to social justice.
You can sign on at www.criticalLIS.com