Nashville Public Library Policy Conflicts with Black Lives Matter Meetings

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Nashville Public Library Policy Conflicts with Black Lives Matter Meetings

Post by Admina on Mon Mar 14, 2016 6:43 pm

Black Lives Matter slams public library’s ban on blacks-only meetings as racist


Jessica Chasmar wrote:Black Lives Matter activists are slamming the Nashville Public Library’s anti-discrimination policies as racist after they were banned from holding meetings that excluded white people.

Library officials said all meetings at their taxpayer-funded facilities must be open to the general public and news media, but that has outraged members of Black Lives Matter’s Nashville chapter, who have accused the local government of white supremacy, The Tennessean reported.


Presumably, most if not all public libraries have such anti-discrimination policies.  Has your library ever faced such an issue as this?  How would you have handled this situation?


Chasmar wrote:“The issue doesn’t have anything to do with the politics [of Black Lives Matter],” he told The Tennessean. “It’s simply a matter of an open-door, open-meeting policy, and that’s what the library has adhered to.”

But local Black Lives Matter leaders stressed the importance of providing a safe space for members.

Is the library obligated to provide a safe space for select members of the community?  What are the library's obligations?

Please share your thoughts and experiences below.

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Re: Nashville Public Library Policy Conflicts with Black Lives Matter Meetings

Post by plenz on Tue Jun 07, 2016 10:27 am

Chasmar wrote:“The Nashville Chapter of BLM has this policy in place to center the voices and experiences of people of color that have historically been excluded or segregated within supposedly public spaces,” a statement from the organization reads, The Tennessean reported.

I can see the need of the BLM movement to stress the importance of the organization's mission to "center the voices and experience of people of color" that historically were excluded/segregated from the very spaces they now seek to occupy for protests/meetings. However, I also feel that the organization itself centers these voices by virtue of its existence. Without a BLM-type organization discussions over police brutality and the needs of the black community would be far less visible and even less likely to be covered by the press or addressed by public figures.

It is a very tricky position for the library. In reading this story, I immediately recalled the choice of the Enoch Pratt Free Library (EPFL) in Baltimore to remain open during the riots following the funeral services of Freddie Gray. The role of the library in a situation such as this is not crystal clear. In making the choice to act as a shelter (not intentionally) and provide food for residents, among other things, the EPFL did in fact become a "safe place".

On the other hand, I can see the Nashville Public Library's effort to avoid conflict by deciding to not allow BLM to hold what's being referred to as a "blacks-only" (not by BLM, but members of the public) at their library in citing their anti-discrimination policy as a choice motivated by good intentions. I say that because if they were to have allowed the meeting, who's to say a certain group with a history of racially motivated violence would not have approached the library citing this very meeting as proof of their right to exclude people of color.

However, BLM makes a valid point in stating that the meeting was not only for black people, but also open to non-white people of color. I think the intentions of BLM was to avoid a situation where opposers of the group could create a situation in which supporters of BLM felt unsafe, and they believed the library to be a place where they could do just that.  

Library's create safe places for select members of the community all the time. Young adult programming targets teenagers who may have no other place to go after school or during the summer. Being at the library helps young people who feel unsafe avoid those very situations. They can attend YA programming at the neighborhood library and avoid any trouble they may encounter out on the street, at the local park, etc. The goal of such programming, whether stated outright or not, is to provide a safe place for young people. The major difference between this programming and providing space for meetings by local organizations, such as BLM, is that the type of "safety" the library is providing is now related to race and ethnicity instead of age.

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