Expanding My Perceptions, Correcting My Assumptions

Recently, I read an eye-opening post by Cecily Walker:

On Privilege, Intersectionality, and the Librarian Image (posted on December 20, 2013)

This brought to mind a post I wrote shortly after I started this blog, in which I detailed an experiment that some librarians had done to determine how dress and appearance affect patrons’ perception of them:

Conveying Authority (posted on November 21, 2012)

The reference librarians at the Chicago Public Library branch who conducted this little experiment were all white men and women, serving an affluent, liberal, and overwhelmingly Caucasian neighborhood. While I recognized at the time that this experiment was limited to that particular branch and those specific librarians, and that their results might be different for non-Caucasian librarians, or if they served a non-Caucasian community—I’m ashamed to admit now that it didn’t occur to me to consider how the results might be different .

As a more-or-less cisgender, heterosexual, married, educated, professionally credentialed white male in America, I’m presented with tremendous privilege in all aspects of my life. It’s important for me to be aware of that, and to understand how this privilege affects my experience and perception of the world. I make effort to seek out other perspectives: to inform me of the limitations of my perceptions, to expand my knowledge of the world and those with whom I share it, and to counteract the unthinking assumptions that I carry with me.

I believe powerfully in the universality of much human experience and that this provides a common ground between all people. But I also have an obligation to bear in mind that the world for me isn’t the same as it is for others.

It’s apparent to me that I still have a great deal of work to do on this front. My goal for next year is to do better. After all, how can I serve my community unless I know who they are and how their world works?

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