University of Wisconsin Publishes Reading List on 'Disrupting Whiteness'

University of Wisconsin (Getty Images)
January 19, 2021

The University of Wisconsin's library system published a reading list for students on "disrupting whiteness and white supremacy in libraries."

Among the suggested readings are Ibram X. Kendi's bestseller How to Be an Antiracist and Layla F. Saad's Me and White Supremacy, as well as several books on "decolonizing research and knowledge." The list, created by the school's "Gender and Women's Studies Library," also includes a small subsection arguing in favor of "critical librarianship," which asks librarians to analyze how they support systems of oppression. One of the suggested readings claims that white people use the concept of cuteness to make whiteness appear "harmless and universal." Another argues that libraries should not be neutral or apolitical spaces.

Other subsections include "health sciences librarianship," which argues for social justice in scholarly medical journals, and a section that blames libraries for pushing values such as "individualism, competition, and pragmatism and utilitarianism"—supposedly aspects of "white" culture.

Following the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement, libraries have become tools to promote activism on and off campus. The University of Wisconsin has a librarian position that focuses on "gender, women's studies, and LGBTQ+ scholarship and librarianship." The American Library Association—the largest librarian association in the world—also embraces "critical librarianship" and believes that neutrality harms oppressed groups.

The University of Wisconsin's library has already committed to "social justice, diversity, and equality" in its staff and services. A university spokeswoman told the Washington Free Beacon that the university does not intend to change what books and resources are available through its library system, though antiracist activists are trying to remove classic books from the classroom.

Matthew Iverson, the chairman for the University of Wisconsin's Young America's Foundation chapter, said the library's reading list may have the opposite of its intended effect.

"Some of the steps that the universities have taken to talk about race issues are actually creating more division than anything," Iverson told the Free Beacon. They encourage "generalizing [about] other races" and foster "distrust and hatred."

The University of Wisconsin Gender and Women's Studies Library did not respond to requests for comment.