Reclaiming our Democracy and Working for Racial Justice
In this dark moment of our country’s history, with a pandemic ripping through our communities and fear and uncertainty pervasive, the murder of George Floyd–– another instance of unchecked police violence against an unarmed black man–– compels us to express our outrage. We denounce the racist violence our own government inflicts upon black people, and its accelerating attacks on vulnerable people in our society.
We mourn the recent killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, Sean Reed and Breonna Taylor. We stand with the black community and the tens of thousands of peaceful protesters who have taken to the streets in the past days to demand accountability, justice, and an end to state sponsored violence against its own citizens. We stand with journalists, who increasingly have come under assault in their efforts to share information with the public. We are shocked by tanks and tear gas turned on peaceful protestors, and holy spaces desecrated and abused as propaganda props.
We mourn the tens of thousands of people in our state, and beloved members of our own community, who have succumbed to a virus that might have been halted by an effective public health system. We recognize, and are deeply disturbed by, the disproportionate impact the pandemic has had upon people of color, the elderly, and vulnerable members of our community. The fabric of our democracy is fraying.
The public library represents the highest democratic ideals of our country: we uphold virtues of equality and community. At this moment, we reaffirm our public purpose. Libraries are our most democratic institutions: we ensure that all people have access to information and lifelong learning. In an era of disinformation, we provide information. In a time of polarization, we welcome everyone. Libraries strengthen communities and help create a more literate and just society. Now, more than ever, we are committed to serving our beloved community.
We stand with the thousands of Maplewood residents who are speaking out against ongoing injustices in our society, and who are committed to a peaceful and just democracy. We support equity and inclusion and are actively working to diversify the library staff, leadership and programming to reflect the racial diversity of our town. We are committed to reflecting, in our collection and programming, the diverse thoughts, experiences and perspectives of all members of our dynamic town. We remain committed to nurturing and supporting our young people who are so vital in leading our country to a brighter future.
As a public library, we are proud supporters of the First Amendment. We champion the rights of individuals to hear all sides of every issue and make their own judgments about those issues without government interference or limitations. We believe people should be free to speak, publish, read and view as they wish, worship (or not worship) as they wish, associate with whomever they choose, and gather together to ask the government to change the law and correct injustice. We recognize the vital role that writers play in providing the public with ideas and information, and we reject efforts to suppress the press through censorship and violence.
We are committed in these upcoming months to work to heal our society. Despite limitations on physical gatherings, we understand that the library continues to play a vital role in deepening knowledge and understanding, and catalyzing dialogue, reflection and deliberation. In collaboration with Maplewood Township and local organizations, we are currently organizing an emergency forum on race and democracy. By drawing on the existing knowledge and resources of our community, we intend to energize and affirm efforts to build a racially just future. Please join us in the upcoming months as we work together to restore our democracy and build a more just society — one in which no one is targeted unjustly based on the color of their skin, their national origin, their status as immigrants, or on their right to self-definition.
Katherine T. McCaffrey
President, Board of Trustees
Maplewood Memorial Library