The Society of Southwest Archivists condemns the continued racist acts of violence committed against members of our Black communities by law enforcement across the country and abetted and supported by public officials at all levels of government. As a professional organization, we are outraged and stand in solidarity with the family members and protesters around the world who seek justice for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, and the long line of named and unnamed Black lives that have been lost to police brutality.
We take this moment to say their names and affirm that #BlackLivesMatter.
The murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers was a byproduct of the systemic racism and white supremacy that has been a part of United States government since its founding. As archivists, we know the historical evidence bears witness to the legacy of oppression, violence, and death that structural racism has imposed on Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Asian, and other communities of color. When it comes to perpetuating institutional racism and white supremacist culture, archives are no exception.
Those participating in the protests, marches, and vigils in cities and towns across the Southwest have collectively demanded change. From Phoenix and New Orleans, to Little Rock and El Paso, people have communally turned out in great numbers to vocalize and demonstrate their anger at a justice system that devalues Black lives. When our civic institutions continue to assault the rights of people of color, denying something as basic as the ability to breathe, we must take action. The response from local, state, and federal law enforcement and elected officials to these displays of solidarity indicates that there is much work still to be done in protecting human rights.
We recognize that issuing a statement is only the first step. SSA is committed to the long-term work of dismantling structural racism through the continued processes of education, listening, and action. We urge white archivists to acknowledge their privilege, to do the self-work needed to develop an anti-racist analysis, and to step back and center Black voices and the stories our Black archives have to tell. We have an ethical responsibility to collect, preserve, and provide access to a full record of the social movements that seek to bring about a more just and equal society. Silence is not an option and we must not remain neutral. Engaging in active, vocal, anti-racist work is the only way to create a truly inclusive archival profession that supports the care of our Black archives workers and archives.
We hope that all our members are staying safe during this horrific moment in our history. We especially hold space for our Black archives workers and their families during this time of repeated trauma and grief. Many people have so eloquently pointed out that fires can be put out, windows can be replaced, property can be rebuilt; George Floyd and the countless other Black lives who have also suffered his fate are gone forever. As archivists and human beings, we commit to remembering their names and preserving their stories.
In addition to this statement, we encourage you to support our SSA Member State Bail Funds. SSA also stands in solidarity with other archival, library, museum, and history organizations who have also expressed outrage, including:
American Alliance of Museums (AAM) – For Museum Leaders Who Want To Do Better
American Association for State and Local History (AASLH) – Statement
The Black Caucus of the American Library Association (ALA) – Statement Condemning Increased Violence and Racism Towards Black Americans and People of Color and ALA Executive Board stands with BCALA in condemning violence and racism towards Black people and all People of Color
National Council on Public History (NCPH) – Statement on the Killing of George Floyd
Society of American Archivists (SAA) – SAA Council Statement on Black Lives and Archives
Texas Digital Library (TDL) – Statement Against Racism
Texas Library Association (TLA) – TLA Condemns Racism and Violence
Anti-racism Resources for Archivists
Texas Digital Library staff have compiled resources on anti-racist work, particularly those relevant to libraries and archives. “Texas Digital Library Anti-Racism Resources.” June 2020.
American Association for State and Local History (AASLH) and the National Council on Public History (NCPH). The Inclusive Historian’s Handbook. 2019-2020.
Archives for Black Lives in Philadelphia Anti-Racist Description Working Group. “Anti-Racist Description Resources.” Archives for Black Lives in Philadelphia. October 2019.
Michelle Caswell, “Teaching to Dismantle White Supremacy in Archives,” The Library Quarterly: Information, Community, Policy 87, no. 3, July 2017.
Bergis Jules, Ed Summers, Dr. Vernon Mitchell, Jr. DocNow: Ethical Considerations for Archiving Social Media Content Generated by Contemporary Social Movements: Challenges, Opportunities, and Recommendations. April 2018.