PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A recent diversity and inclusion seminar urged staff members of the Philadelphia Free Library to avoid terms like “systemic racism.” Now, library leaders are asking for changes.
Dr. Brandi Baldwin, a Black diversity consultant for the Philadelphia-based company DiverseForce, recently led a more than hour-and-a-half seminar for staff members of the Philadelphia Free Library. The last slide included terms to avoid, like systemic racism, anti-racism and white privilege.
Baldwin said in the presentation: “This terminology is real, it’s out there. Nothing’s wrong with the terminology except the fact that it’s overused, over-generalized and there’s not context.”
Instead, she urged library staffers to provide context to better explain situations. But the slide was questionable to some employees.
“When I saw that slide, it was just like, ‘How can you tell us not to say these terms?” Because essentially, we’re here because of these terms. We workers have been fighting for years for diversity, equity and inclusion training, and we’ve been fighting white supremacy, we’ve been fighting systemic racism,” librarian Perry Genovesi said.
Guy Sims, the chief diversity and inclusion officer for the Free Library, said in a statement: “The training employed a lens that the facilitator determined works best within large organizations; however after observing that philosophy in action during the first session, we requested adjustments that better enabled it to be a safe space for staff to engage and start difficult conversations.”
The CEO of DiverseForce told Eyewitness News Thursday the slide was worded incorrectly, but he also backed up the presentation and Baldwin.
“She’s really trying to encourage people to add more context to the conversation, specifically around some of the challenges around the library, policy issues,” CEO Sulaiman Rahman said.
In a statement, Baldwin said: “My goal with this work is to challenge people to clarify their thinking, to question the things they hold as true, and to be willing to honor the principles of inclusion by allowing a diversity of thought that will ultimately push the needle toward igniting workplace unity.”