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Commitment to Anti-racism

By Sarah B. Cahalan, Director of the Marian Library. This post was written in consultation with multiple colleagues within and beyond the Marian Library.

The Marian Library was founded in 1943 by the Society of Mary to mark the centennial of the Marianist presence in the United States and to advance the Marianist mission of making the Blessed Virgin Mary better known, loved, and served.

In this time of racial tension, Mary our mother is a powerful model. She would understand the experience of prejudice. She was a poor woman who gave birth in a stable; she was a refugee in Egypt escaping persecution; she watched her innocent son put to death for speaking the truth.

The Society of Mary has, since its own founding in the wake of the French Revolution, created egalitarian communities of faith and emphasized the value of ongoing education for the transformation of the individual and society. The Catholic Church and the Society of Mary are committed to social justice, especially solidarity with the most vulnerable and respect for the innate value of every human being: we are all created by God and God is present in every person we encounter. The Marian Library aims to reflect this truth by documenting numerous, diverse, and global experiences of Mary, both within and beyond Catholicism.

In the Marian Library, we concur with our Human Rights Center colleagues’ statement acknowledging the impact of systemic racism in the world and at the University of Dayton. In an open letter to the University of Dayton community on June 15, University leadership acknowledged, “UD is not immune to the kinds of racist systems and behaviors that perpetuate institutional racism. Historically, this has created barriers and persistent disparities on campus and caused pain for our Black students, alumni, faculty and staff. As a University community, we can — and must — do better.”

The Marian Library’s commitment

Under the auspices of the University Libraries’ commitment to anti-racism, the Marian Library is also “committed to facing the instances of racial bias and discrimination in our collections, services and spaces.” It is still necessary to state the obvious: Black lives matter.

According to the National Museum of African American History and Culture becoming anti-racist is a choice to "become actively conscious about race and racism and take actions to end racial inequities in our daily lives. Being anti-racist is believing that racism is everyone’s problem, and we all have a role to play in stopping it." Anti-racism involves acknowledging and understanding privilege, working to change internalized racism, and interrupting racism when it is encountered.

Libraries and special collections are not exempt from systemic racism and its intersections with other forms of hate, discrimination and injustice in society. The Marian Library, like many other predominantly white institutions, acknowledges our part in fostering instances of racial bias and discrimination that affect African Americans, Indigenous Peoples, Latinx, Asian Americans, and other populations that are underrepresented at UD, and is committed to addressing them with the following actions:

  1. The Marian Library remains committed to listening to Black, Latinx, and other voices silenced by racism and to educating ourselves, and to continuing our existing anti-racism and inclusion efforts.
  2. We will continue collection management work to correct insensitive legacy description and classification of collections and items. While controversial and insensitive materials exist and will remain in the collections, we aim to contextualize and describe them appropriately. We appreciate those who are willing to reach out and offer corrections and we do our best to anticipate needed changes before they do harm.
  3. We will continue to track publications, art and other works about Mary that represent theologies, devotions and authors not well represented in the collections, and actively seek to include Marian artwork by artists of color. Some recent acquisitions include:
    1. A print of “Our Lady of Ferguson and All Killed by Gun Violence,” an icon by Mark Dukes.       
    2. Several prints by Janet McKenzie, including “Mary and Jesus with the Papel Picado,” “Holy Family,” and “The Divine Journey - Companions of Love and Hope.”
    3. The Brown Madonna, a collection of poems by Black poet Irvin W. Underhill. The title poem asks its subject “To spread the good and broaden out the scope / Of thy wronged race."
  4. We will continue to review the Marian Library websites to eliminate language that reflects prejudice, bias or insensitivity about people of color, women and faith traditions beyond Western Catholicism, and which can cause harm.
  5. As UD moves toward bringing students back to campus this fall, we commit to serving all patrons to the best of our ability while keeping the community safe.
  6. As part of UD’s commitment to inclusive excellence and our own charge as a national and international center of scholarship on Mary, the mother of Jesus, we likewise commit to taking action to dismantle racism with humility, openness and reflection.

Marianist Prayer for Ending Racism

The Marianist Social Justice Collaborative, in its 2016 call to action on racism and racial justice, shared this prayer:

Holy Mary, to whom we have consecrated our lives, we join with you in prayer. We seek the grace and understanding to be converted from the sin of racism that has infected our society for so many years.

Help us not be in denial of the power systems that still give some privileges at the expense of others.

Help us to use our power and influence in our communities, families, schools, parishes, and other institutions to assure appreciation and respect for all cultures.

We are grateful for our call to live and spread the community spirit in which the Body of Christ flourishes and celebrates various gifts and talents. Show us the steps we must take to counteract racism.

We pray in the name of Jesus, asking your intercession.


Other resources

We recommend this guide to anti-racism from our colleagues on the University Libraries Diversity and Inclusion Team in addition to the Office of Diversity and Inclusion’s University-wide resources for people who are looking for actions and education.

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