Those of you who have been following the current controversy on the Archives & Archivists listserv (A&A), which is monitored (though not owned) by the Society of American Archivists and our de facto professional listserv, might be sighing, you might be angry, you might be dumbfounded. But this most recent controversy demonstrated that there is still a serious problem in the archival profession with the mythical concept of archival ‘neutrality’ and with some archivists’ inability or unwillingness to entertain the notion that we can still be unwelcoming or even hostile to minorities in the profession.
Background: The A&A listserv is generally used for people to post about archival-related matters in the news, to ask questions of colleagues about problems or concerns in the workplace, or to post new employment opportunities. To this extent, it is a very useful source, which allows colleagues separated by distance to exchange ideas, opinions, and professional expertise. However, as with most things on the Internet, there is a more troublesome side to the listserv as well.
Every now and again, certain individuals will post what amounts to right-wing propaganda on the listserv. A particularly troublesome individual here is Peter Kurilecz, a retired records manager (and non-SAA member) who has been posting on the listserv for many years. In fact, the listserv developed formal Terms of Participation directly because of Kurilecz’ previous behavior in posting massive numbers of posts, some of which included this kind of propaganda. Kurilecz has a number of defenders in SAA, who see his provision of links as a valuable service, regardless of their content.
On August 7, Kurilecz posted a link to the right-wing site Campus Reform. This is a site devoted to exposing so-called “liberal bias” in higher education, and seems particularly concerned with minorities who are fighting for equity and fairness in education. The site had posted a “story” about the recent SAA Annual Meeting in Portland, and specifically talked about one session – this session was hosted by members of the Archives for Black Lives in Philadelphia group, and featured as a guest a female African-American social activist. In the session, which I attended, participants talked about the development of A4BLIP, and the activist recounted the deep Black roots of the Portland community and the challenges that community faced and faces today in light of other people trying to police access to Black Portlanders’ own history. She talked about a system established to maintain control, to restrict, to mandate, and to deny access. Continue reading