A Black diversity consultant is being called out by staff at the Free Library of Philadelphia for conducting training where she referred to white privilege as a “myth.”
Brandi Baldwin of DiverseForce hosted a virtual DEI session last week with disgruntled employees who have been advocating for racial justice at the library for years, The Philadelphia Inquirer reports. However, what they got from Baldwin, included being told terms like “white supremacy” and “systemic racism” should be avoided due to them being overused and benefiting only one race of people. She also denounced the term “white privilege” as “one of the other myths out there.”
During the Zoom session, she reportedly asked the group, “Are all the inequities you experience at the hands of white people?” But to the employees who have been working to overcome the organization’s issue of racial inequality, Baldwin’s DEI session completely missed the mark.
“Black folk, we are seriously suffering from PTSD from that [expletive] training, even thinking about it now, I just wanna cry,” said Andrea Lemoins, a Free Library community organizer. As a result of the racial disparities she and others have experienced, Lemoins also serves as the co-founder of the Concerned Black Workers of the Free Library. “To say that white privilege doesn’t exist? That is a whole level of anti-Blackness and internalized racism for her that I just cannot fathom.”
Even a white librarian agreed that Baldwin’s presentation was “divorced from reality” and seemingly aimed to appease white people into the idea of white privilege. “It’s important not to alienate our fellow white workers, it’s true,” said librarian Perrian Genovesi. “But as a white worker, I’ve come to grips with my benefits in white supremacist society. Thinking our fellow white workers are incapable of change, to come over to the side of antiracism, is deprecating.”
For her part, Baldwin agreed that the presentation wasn’t the right fit for the frustrated library workers. “They were looking for something totally different,” she admitted. “They were looking for clearing the air.”
However, despite the criticism over the DEI session, the library took a step by hiring Guy Sims, the new chief diversity and inclusion officer who acknowledged the backlash over the presentation. “We will continue to make adjustments as we navigate the Free Library’s path forward in addressing inequity within the organization, and include many more voices in further conversations, workshops, and trainings that address systemic racism and white supremacy on a deeper level,” said Sims.