Statement on the Orlando Shooting

Like so many people throughout America and across the world, we SAA members are shocked and saddened by the horrific violence that unfolded early Sunday morning in Orlando. Our wishes for hope and healing go out to all who have been harmed by this senseless act.

During this troubled time, I would call attention to the shared values that support us in our work. Let us redouble our efforts to ensure that our repositories become places of inclusion that celebrate the diversity of our society and the historical record. Let us strive to promote free and equitable access to the primary historical record that promotes understanding of the truth and that fights against ignorance and misrepresentation of the American experience.

We join with our colleagues in the library and museum communities in striving to create safe and welcoming places in which all might expand our understanding of and appreciation for our shared American culture.

 

Update June 17:

To my colleagues who have commented below and on social media—I thank you. Thank you for calling out what was missing in my statement. Thank you for sharing your frustration and anger about the erasure of queer voices and voices of color that happens all too frequently. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to learn. I hear you.

And I want to say: I’m sorry. I’m sorry that I didn’t name that the violent and ugly shooting at Orlando’s Pulse Club targeted people of color and members of the LGBTQ community. You are right: Context does matter, naming does matter—and we cannot forget that it is a culture of fear and hate, of racism and homophobia, that led to the shooting. The Orlando shooting is our problem, too. I’m sorry this sentiment wasn’t present in my original statement.

I feel deeply for the victims of the shooting and their loved ones, and for the LGBTQ community and communities of color for whom the Orlando shooting has said, “You are not safe and you are not valued.” This is one reason why I believe our work as archivists is so important. When we preserve the records and share the histories of our marginalized communities, we are working toward alleviating the fear and hate that led to the Orlando shooting and to so many other violent acts that our country has witnessed. I’m proud of the many archivists who are leading the way—and holding me and our organization accountable. SAA is its members. Thank you.

 

Update June 30:

To continue this thread, I would like to call attention to a recent statement posted on the Issues and Advocacy Roundtable blog that does a fine job of suggesting how we archivists might use the tragedy of the Orlando shootings to reflect on how we go about our work:  https://issuesandadvocacy.wordpress.com/2016/06/29/leaders-of-aacr-laccha-lagar-on-orlando-archivists-role-in-creating-a-more-diverse-society/

31 responses to “Statement on the Orlando Shooting

  1. …did you consider that violent homophobia and the rampant kilings of people of color are part of this “shared american culture”?

  2. Given that the attack on Pulse Nightclub is located along a long timeline of violence against LGBTQ Americans, and particularly LGBTQ people of color, I hope SAA also recognizes the historical context that makes this event so painful for so many of our members. In the interest of diversity and inclusion, it’s important to recognize that this was not an event in a context-free vacuum.

  3. I am also disappointed that this statement does not make explicit the significance of the targeting of queer people of color for this act of violence, a population that is also marginalized and under-documented in the archives. Many LGBTQ archival collections have been added to the crowd-sourced #OrlandoSyllabus (bit.ly/orlandosyllabus), but there is a long way to go before archival spaces can be called welcoming to all.

  4. I would also love to see SAA, as an overwhelmingly white organization and a very white profession, acknowledge and grapple with whiteness and how it works in the world and in our profession – I don’t see that in this statement. Race, sexual orientation, gender identity, and religion, are all part of this violent act, just as they are all part of the historical record. This statement does not, in my view, speak to this at all. A commitment to “diversity” is not sufficient – a commitment to anti-racist archives that do not erase the experiences of LGBTIQA+ people of color IS. It is what we should, as a profession, be striving for – it’s the least we can do.

  5. Melissa Hubbard

    In order to “create safe and welcoming places,” we must first identify the reasons that some people are not safe or welcome in places where they should be both. The attack on Pulse Nightclub was an attack on the LGBTQ community and Latinx people, not “shared American culture.”

  6. Description is important. Naming is important. As an overwhelmingly white profession, we need to recognize our silences past and present, and always name and explicitly support those marginalized groups affected by the events we seek to document, whether in our archives or in professional statements. This attack happened primarily to Latinx LGBTQ people. They have been erased enough, including within archives and by archivists. I think, sadly, that this statement by SAA speaks volumes to the continuing nature of that problem.

    • Katy said this so perfectly that I have nothing to add, but do want to voice my agreement.

      “Description is important. Naming is important. As an overwhelmingly white profession, we need to recognize our silences past and present, and always name and explicitly support those marginalized groups affected by the events we seek to document, whether in our archives or in professional statements.”

    • Thirding Katy’s comment as I don’t think I could put it more eloquently. It’s as heartening to see these thoughtful responses as it was disheartening to see the tepid whitewashing of the official response.

  7. As archivists we know that context matters. Archives have, historically, erased the context (and existence) of brown & black peoples, queer peoples, indigenous peoples, and other minorities. I am sad, disappointed, & angry to see that erasure perpetuated here in this statement.

    The “shared values” that support our work are, perhaps, less *shared* than we would like to admit. Conversations around systematic oppression (as perpetuated by the archives and by archivists), #ArchivesSoWhite, erasure of marginalized peoples and voices, barriers which limit access to those with privilege, etc. have been occurring in our profession, but are hardly mainstream. This statement serves as a reminder of that.

  8. Pingback: Archives “in defiance of fear, ignorance and intolerance” – Issues & Advocacy

  9. Pamela Hopkins

    “[O]ur shared American culture” – I beg your pardon – is that what we’re doing? Might we not aim a little higher and strive to create safe and welcoming places in which all might expand our understanding of and appreciation for our shared humanity?

    And how will we get there if we won’t name it? Katy Rawdon is spot on – “Description is important. Naming is important. As an overwhelmingly white profession, we need to recognize our silences past and present, and always name and explicitly support those marginalized groups affected by the events we seek to document, whether in our archives or in professional statements. This attack happened primarily to Latinx LGBTQ people. They have been erased enough, including within archives and by archivists. I think, sadly, that this statement by SAA speaks volumes to the continuing nature of that problem.”

  10. Pingback: DO BETTER, DAMN | she blinded me with library science

  11. I have nothing substantive to add here, but I want to indicate my agreement with the previous posters–the erasure of the LGBTQ/Latinx identity of the targets here is disappointing. We can do better.

  12. And you wonder why the profession lacks diversity. the president of Society of American Archivists won’t deign to mention LGBTQ/Latinx communities and implies that there is a universal ‘American experience.’

  13. I stand with all who have commented here, and all who have agreed and not commented, as I express that this statement makes me disappointed in and distressed by the leaders of my profession. This statement, as does so many others, invokes the word “senseless”–“without discernible meaning or purpose”–when to those of us in the LGBT community, and especially, I imagine, to those in the Latinx LGBTQ community, the meaning and purpose of the hate violence in Orlando is quite clear. I am upset that SAA’s statement, which implies somehow that “we” (who’s we?) are all the same, serves to represent me as an archivist but does not represent the part of who I am that feels most important and most overlooked right now.

  14. Other than the curious absence of an explicit reference to LGBTQ (should have been one), at least this statement references the archival record in a relevant way. Which is better than ALA’s statement, which basically just says, we are librarians and we think what happened is terrible. Other commenters on this thread are likely disagree, but I am generally skeptical of the argument that SAA should make statements on important events when the relationship to our work is not plain. So kudos to Dennis for bringing a relatively generic statement about inclusion and solidarity back to archives. Such a reference persuades me that issuing a statement was worthwhile.

    That said, in hindsight such a statement probably should have come from the chair of the LAGAR roundtable. They probably would’ve come up with something more substantive and satisfactory to the above members.

  15. I beg to differ. ALA’S statement included a series of things that ALA is doing and would be doing to show its support. C’mon now, let’s say it, LGBTQ. And the argument hat the statement needed to come from the LAGAR roundtable in order for it to be substantive is an admission that SAA as an association, and through its president, just doesn’t get it.

    • Good points. Should have been more clear–I actually don’t think it should have come from LAGAR. The event is so important that the SAA prez should own this. The LAGAR comment was based on something I read from ALA’s Diversity Committee, which at the time I thought was ALA’s only statement.

      You’re right about the ALA statement, too–as a I mentioned before, was going on something else from its Diversity Committee that was shorter and more cursory. ALA’s main statement is great. Missed it the first time around–the Internet is a firehose of information.

      Good for Dennis for owning up to his oversight and elaborating on his thoughts about the event. Although we have a long way to go, it’s gratifying to work in a profession where our work can support efforts beyond us that shine a light on injustice, speak truth to power, and give a voice to those historically silenced.

  16. I appreciate the good intentions here but as a historian and an archivist would like to have seen the event identified specifically — as the massacre of people in a LGBTQ club on Latin night. There are many reasons for doing so. Historians appreciate forthright descriptions of what events involved because they help us in our use of fragmentary materials as we look back at what happened. Basic inclusion of such facts makes it easier to use and, more importantly, quote from the random records (including Social Media output) we rely on to write about events. And as some people commenting have noted, archivists, too, are very much about context. Given Dennis Meissner’s thoughtful citation in an earlier blog essay of a quote stating diversity is a fact; inclusion is a choice, doing so would have fit in well in such a statement. Perhaps with more time to craft a statement on Orlando, and asking for more input prior to publishing, I like to think that would have been made clearer. It’s easy to overlook how something comes across in one’s own writing (been there myself.)

  17. Thank you Dennis, for the update and for listening, and for the heartfelt apology.

  18. Yes, thank you Dennis, for recognizing the need and confronting your own words. We so appreciate it, especially right here at home in your own institution where we still have so very much work to do. And thanks so much to Katy and all who are framing this tragedy in the way it needs to be. The silences in our historical record are deafening.

  19. Yes, thank you Dennis, for recognizing the need and confronting your own words. We so appreciate it, especially right here at home in your own institution where we still have so very much work to do. And thanks so much to Katy and all who are framing this tragedy in the way it needs to be. The silences in our historical record are deafening.

  20. Thank you, Dennis, for listening and for responding.

  21. did SAA issue a statement about the Fort Hood shooting? or any of the other terrorist attacks?

  22. Pingback: Orlando | In the mailbox

  23. James Cartwright

    Will SAA issue a newer, revised statement which includes input from LAGAR and Archives and Archivists off Color roundtables?
    James Cartwright
    LAGAR steering committee member.

  24. So, just let me clarify, as I saw no mention of the terms. No one sees any blame for these deaths on Radical Islam and terrorism? Also, what about the documentation in our repositories of the record number of terrorism attacks we’ve had on U.S. soil, particularly of late? Is that not relevant? Also, the article says words do matter. So, where are the phrases “Radical Islam” or “Terrorism”? Now I hear they are going to edit the 911 tapes so that evidence is not there when the shooter pledged allegiance to ISIS. Isn’t it the archivists’ job to document history and not erase it and whitewash it? I think that’s disgraceful. It seems senseless to leave this part of the story out. I look forward to thought and ideas on this topic.

  25. “crickets”

  26. My god, people. The guy puts out a nice little statement of support, doesn’t do it perfectly….and you all jump all over him. We all know it was a gay Latino nightclub, it freaking everywhere in the news. He’s not erasing them by not specifically bringing up all of the details of the event. Sheesh. Does he have to specifically mention it, or the ISIS or hate or whatever homophobia inspired it?

    Navel gazers, I swear….

  27. Jeremy, I totally agree with you in that the statement was perfectly fitting. I just mentioned terrorism in response to those other respondents because I feel it’s illogical to avoid that factor. But in terms of a general statement, I think the President’s statement was just fine.

  28. Pingback: Changing Tides? Diversity and Inclusion in the Society of American Archivists | hls

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