ALA Statement on Executive Order on Combating Race and Sex Stereotyping

October 29, 2020

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The American Library Association issued a statement on October 29 in response to the Trump administration’s recent Executive Order 13950. The full statement follows.

“On September 22, the White House issued its Executive Order on Combating Race and Sex Stereotyping, prohibiting federal employees, contractors, and grant recipients from discussing or considering concepts such as critical race theory and white privilege and discouraging diversity education and training. This order is based on the patently false and malicious claim that diversity training—which is aimed at fostering a more equitable and just workplace and dismantling systemic racism and sexism—reflects a ‘Marxist doctrine’ that is itself racist and sexist.

“The American Library Association rejects this claim. We are painfully aware that libraries and the profession of librarianship have been—and still are—complicit in systems that oppress, exclude, and harm Black people, Indigenous people, and people of color, and deny equal opportunity to women. We assert that a commitment to learn from the painful and brutal legacies of our history is essential to the fulfillment of our promise as a country of equal rights and opportunities.

“This executive order is already having a chilling effect, with some colleges and universities suspending all diversity trainings and canceling cultural celebrations for fear of losing federal funds. A hotline has been established to encourage informants to report those whose words and deeds do not comply with the order or the dictates of its accompanying memoranda. We are reminded of another time and another era when the Council of the American Library Association adopted the Freedom to Read statement in response to growing concerns about censorship in the McCarthy era. That statement reads in part:

Totalitarian systems attempt to maintain themselves in power by the ruthless suppression of any concept that challenges the established orthodoxy. The power of a democratic system to adapt to change is vastly strengthened by the freedom of its citizens to choose widely from among conflicting opinions offered freely to them. To stifle every nonconformist idea at birth would mark the end of the democratic process. 

“It is the longstanding role of libraries to foster intellectual freedom by ensuring access to the widest diversity of views and expressions, including those that are unorthodox, unpopular, or considered dangerous by those in power. The pursuit of social justice and equity, diversity, and inclusion is equally a core value of the American Library Association. Consequently, the American Library Association opposes the Executive Order on Combating Race and Sex Stereotyping and all other actions that result in the curtailment of free expression and social justice, and pledges to continue to pursue social justice and further our work against systems of oppression.”


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