Report Update: Deauthentication Survey Results

[This post was originally published on June 3, 2019 at The Ink On The Page.]

Late last spring I shared the original results of my deauthentication survey with TIOTP readers. The survey came out of my desire to explore this sub-phenomenon that seems to occur for racial/ethnic minority academic librarians who are experiencing low morale (repeated and protracted exposure to workplace abuse and neglect – Kendrick, 2017). As I reviewed the data, I solidified a definition of the term: 

Deauthentication is a cognitive process that People of Color (PoC) traverse to prepare for or navigate predominantly White workplace environments, resulting in decisions that hide or reduce aspects of

  1. the influence of their ethnic, racial, or cultural identity,  and 
  2. the presentation of their natural personality, language, physical and mental self-images/representations, interests, relationships, values, traditions, and more,

to avoid macro- or microaggressions, shaming, incivility, punishment or retaliation, and which results in barriers to sharing their whole selves with their colleagues and/or clients. (Kendrick, 2018)

The following results reflect 108 responses (up from 67 responses in June 2018).

  • 28% African-American; 24% Asian; 16% Caucasian; 5% American Indian/Alaska Native
  • 85% female
  • 80% have engaged in deauthentication
  • 73% have reduced or avoided conversations about personal or family relationships
  • 72% have reduced or avoided discussions of religion, politics, or social viewpoints
  • 70% have reduced or avoided conversations about cultural or ethnic (formal or informal) traditions
  • 58% have reduced or avoided conversations about non-work related activities, hobbies, or interests
  • 58% have changed or (re)considered creating or sharing content on their social media accounts
  • 53% have changed or (re)considered clothing presentation
  • 47% have changed or reconsidered body movements or non-verbal behaviors
  • 45% have changed accent, speaking tone, or language structure

The survey remains open, and I will periodically share updates on this blog.

Works Cited

Kendrick, K.D. (2018, Feb. 5). Considering: Deauthenticity in the workplace. Retrieved from https://bit.ly/2BWTqkR

Kendrick, K.D. (2017). The low-morale experience of academic librarians: A phenomenological study. Journal of Library Administration, 57(8): 846-878. Retrieved from http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/01930826.2017.1368325

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Report: Barriers to Authenticity for PoC Academic Librarians

[This content was originally published on May 20, 2019 at The Ink On The Page.]

This is the second of two blogposts sharing some of the qualitative data offered by respondents to my ongoing survey on deauthenticity in racial and ethnic minority academic librarians (read the initial qualitative report on deauthentication and library practice impacts here). For review, deauthentication is “a cognitive process that People of Color (PoC) traverse to prepare for or navigate predominantly White workplace environments, resulting in decisions that hide or reduce aspects of

  1. the influence of their ethnic, racial, or cultural identity,  and 
  2. the presentation of their natural personality, language, physical and mental self-images/representations, interests, relationships, values, traditions, and more,

to avoid macro- or microaggressions, shaming, incivility, punishment or retaliation, and which results in barriers to sharing their whole selves with their colleagues and/or clients.” (Kendrick 2018)

The following data are responses to the survey’s final question,“What do you believe may happen at your workplace or in your library career if you do not engage in deauthentication?”

  • “White coworkers will be uncomfortable or will make cringeworthy comments.”
  • “Probably microaggressions and other hassles would increase.”
  • “At this point, nothing. I am tenure track and my board likes me ( for the most part), but they are older. If my biggest supporters were to die before I get tenure then I would be worried about my job security. Beyond that, I feel like I have no mobility in my position, partially because of perceptions about who I am. I am not taken seriously and I do not get the support I need from administration, but I cannot complain.”
  • “I have been in meetings where potential candidates for employment have been accused of displaying stereotypical behavior even though they did not engage in it during the interview. The accusers recall this behavior even when challenged to specify the details. I work with people who weaponize cultural practices, clothing, hairstyles, and gestures as evidence of otherness and proof that the person would not make a good fit. I would not have been hired if I did not engage in deauthentication.”
  • “I’m generally authentic and it has isolated me and prevented me from being seen as management material, being authentic makes me seem like I’m not a team player. It makes others at work avoid me. They don’t celebrate me.”
  • “I’m already “othered” by being a POC in a predominately white institution. I believe that if I was my authentic self, white women in particular would be even further alienated from me and would feel even more threatened by me. In my double digit career finding points of relatability to white women is frankly impossible and it’s not an effort that white women make. So (I’m realizing this as I type) I make myself and my personality smaller, I take up less space, time and say less.”
  • “A reputation as an outsider, unworthy of promotion, assistance, and generally a loss of credibility.”
  • “It has been happening. I have stopped deauthentication. My hair is now long and I wear my headband often at work I am reclaiming my indigenous heritage. This will be used against me–I’m sure. It is my experience that POC must adhere strictly to Whiteness or suffer career consequences.”
  • “I’ll be labeled a “troublemaker” and “bad fit” and be pushed out of my position through lack of funding and support for professional development, stalled out salary, and watching as others with less experience make unusually large advancements in their careers. This is not something I believe will happen—this is something I know will happen as I’ve watched it happen to others in my department for a variety of different reasons (though not race, as I am the only POC hire within at least the past dozen librarian hires).”
  • “In [my] first professional library job at a community college, I was naive about what the consequences to not engaging in deauthentication. I was more myself at work (at least at the beginning), which means loud and straight to the point.When it came time for my first review, I lost points for “unprofessional behavior” and my supervisor, who was a white woman, sited that I at times seemed “elevated.” To this day I’m not exactly sure what exactly she was trying to say with the word “elevated”, but it certainly wasn’t positive. I know I am often regarded as too loud and obnoxious, and colleagues in the past have definitely “shushed” me or told me to “calm down” when I was only expressing excitement, but I wasn’t expecting to be marked down for it in an official review.”
  • “I’d be way less stressed and able to focus more on my actual job.”
  • “I would get more work done; have better relationships with colleagues and patrons.”
  • “I think that the workplace would be forced to recognize that everyone is different and that who I am as a librarian who happens to be Black is not something I need to change. It is something that should be supported by the institution. Engaging in deauthentication rewards the bad behaviors of others, including the institution, and makes it more difficult for others to enter the field or for me to want to stay.”

Final data analysis from my low-morale study on racial and ethnic minority academic librarians reveal that deauthentication is an (additional) impact factor in PoC low-morale experiences; while this group was not asked about low-morale specifically, we can infer from their included descriptions of systemic abuse, emotional abuse, and negligence, that it is possible that they are moving through these experiences as they deauthenticate.

Works Cited

Kendrick, K.D. (2018, Feb. 5). Considering: Deauthenticity in the workplace. Retrieved from https://bit.ly/2BWTqkR.

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Report: How Deauthentication Impacts PoC Academic Librarians’ Library Practice

[This content was originally published on May 14, 2019 at The Ink On The Page.]

After sharing my thoughts on the theme of deauthenticity that arose in my PoC academic librarian low-morale study data, I created a quick survey and reported the initial results via TIOTP last June. 

As a review, deauthentication is defined as “a cognitive process that People of Color (PoC) traverse to prepare for or navigate predominantly White workplace environments, resulting in decisions that hide or reduce aspects of

  1. the influence of their ethnic, racial, or cultural identity,  and 
  2. the presentation of their natural personality, language, physical and mental self-images/representations, interests, relationships, values, traditions, and more,

to avoid macro- or microaggressions, shaming, incivility, punishment or retaliation, and which results in barriers to sharing their whole selves with their colleagues and/or clients.” (Kendrick 2018)

The survey is still open and I will share an update soon, and for now, the next two blogposts will focus on the qualitative data that has been offered so far.  The first qualitative question is: “How has deauthentication affected your library practice?” 

Respondent answers include:

  • “I feel like I’m torn in half and cannot reconcile my professional life with my culture and values.”
  • “I have to neutralize my personality so I will be considered capable to lead projects and for advancement.”
  • “I have hidden my Asian heritage and my political beliefs, and tried to conform to the white standards so it does not look like I am rocking the status quo.”
  • The most obvious way is that I feel I have to be “better”–a better employee, better colleague, better customer service representative of my institution to patrons (this last one especially)–to demonstrate not that I’m actually better, but just as good of a librarian as my colleagues. While I’d strive to do my best in any environment, the feeling that I need to work extra hard to be considered good enough and to not have my mistakes be critiqued more harshly than similar mistakes made by white colleagues is exhausting.”
  • “Sometimes I would feel like I wasn’t as smart as my colleagues, often stressed about not being able to move up. Conversely, I would feel like my coworkers were jealous of me for being popular with students.”
  • “I feel like it censors diversity representation, what the students see.”
  • “It has made my experience as a librarian an experience of the ‘other.’ I never feel part of the library, nor part of the decisions, nor do I get respect on my achievements.”
  • “I think that because I strive to work against stereotypes of the “spicy” Latina, I frequently wind up second guessing all other aspects of my work. My impostor syndrome is definitely heightened because I am worried about seeming too aggressive, excited, or over the top. This heightened impostor syndrome has impacted my overall confidence level in my ideas and in my feelings of self-worth. I don’t always trust my own voice and my own ideas, or believe that I have the right to take up space if I disagree with my colleagues.”
  • “To my white colleagues in and out of the library, I am just someone who tans easily. Anytime I slip up and mention something about my borderland childhood or Mexican family traditions there’s always a weird pause and people kind of look at me funny and go back to whatever they were talking about it. It’s not relatable to them so I generally try not to bring it up because I don’t want those memories tainted by that weirdness. lt definitely puts distance between myself and them.”
  • “I sometimes feel like a fraud at work, that I’m not allowed to be my true self and talk about my passions, and that all I’m here to do is catalog items and attend meetings. Supervisors have no clue how to interact with direct reports that are POC, and library administration doesn’t see the need to do training in that area.”
  • “It has kept me from reaching my potential as a leader.”
  • I have been exoticized at my institution due to how I wear and wrap my hair. I am more cautious of how I present myself in appearance. I only get to “relax” during breaks and the summer because not many folks are around then. I wear my hair natural and I wear more head wraps then. I also no longer share personal information about my upbringing and some of my interests. My white colleagues have assumed I share the same interests in classic films, music, and media, and I am tired of explaining that I didn’t grow up with the same references as them.”
  • “I’d honestly have to process this further. I checked nearly every box and I’m wondering who I am at work. I do know it’s stifling. Like a straight jacket. It’s a self- imposed reduction of my own voice.”
  • I become very bland and feel like I have to speak about my interest in social justice issues in a way that won’t offend my white coworkers or pretend to be ignorant about my culture or cultures similar to mine when my white colleagues talk about the subject and their experiences with it.”
  • “I feel that I can’t be whole with my coworkers. I constantly have to change who I am to fit in or be understood. With my students at the college, it’s a little different because we serve a majority PoC district, so I feel like I can breathe and be more authentic with them.”

These reflective statements reveal many aspects of deauthentication – as defined – and also reach into another impact factor of the PoC- low-morale experience: Stereotype threatYou also see aspects of the Privilege of Authenticity that respondents believe their non-PoC colleagues enjoy.  Within the context of deauthentication, the privilege of authenticity highlights non-PoC employees’ ability to “1) display a full range of emotions, 2) share interests, opinions, personal life and health details and histories, family details, hobbies, etc. and 2) present themselves physically (hair, clothing, skin, makeup, accessories, etc.)  in almost any way – and in (almost) any workplace setting – with considerably less concern about shaming, push-back, punishment/mistreatment, unsolicited interference, or undue interrogation” (Kendrick 2018).

Deauthentication is also an impact factor in PoC the low-morale experience. We should remember that this group of respondents are who are deauthenticating are, quite possibly, doing so while being exposed to repeated and protracted workplace abuse and neglect (low morale). It should also be noted that deauthentication seems to be an internally-imposed response to expected and actual instances of racial-, cultural-, or ethnic-based workplace hostility (including the unintentional vagaries of microaggressions and implicit bias).

Works Cited

Kendrick, K.D. (2018, Feb. 5). Considering: Deauthenticity in the workplace. Retrieved from https://bit.ly/2BWTqkR

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Webinar: Deauthenticity in PoC Academic Librarianship

[This content was originally published on February 18, 2019 at The Ink On The Page.]

Last year the North Carolina Libary Associations’ Roundtable for Minority Ethnic Concerns (NCLA REMCo) invited me to join their Cultural Conversation’s slate.  Below is the webinar I led, titled “Exploring (de)Authenticity: Impact on PoC, Implications for Practice.”

The webinar reflects a joint effort between me and the racial/ethnic minority academic librarians who offered me data on their experiences. I discuss my concept of deauthenticity, how it manifests in the racial/ethnic minority academic librarian low-morale experience, and share the results of the informal survey, which remains open.

Tweet-dux: Diversity Rhetoric and Whiteness in the PoC Low-Morale Experience.

[This content was originally published on February 4, 2019 at The Ink On The Page.]

On Twitter, I’ve been threading some results of my latest low morale study (done with Ione Damasco), which centers the experience of racial and ethnic minority academic librarians. It is my hope that this work will bring into clearer view the additional emotional labor that librarians of color bear while dealing with abuse and neglect in American library workplaces. 

These threads expound on my earlier report of additional Enabling Systems in the PoC low-morale experience. 

  1. Participant data show that White women are soundly perceived by minority academic librarians as harbingers and enablers of workplace abuse and neglect.
  2. White women librarians alienate minority librarians through exclusionary attitudes or language.
  3. [One participant] stated, “Specifically, just librarianship as a profession, it’s predominantly White women [who have contributed to my low-morale experience]. And that’s just—I don’t know what else to say about that.”
  4. Respondents shared how White privilege also played a detrimental role in their low-morale experience, especially when it was invoked purposively while dealing with general enabling systems…
  5. White privilege also allowed uncivil behavior to go unchecked.
  6. Study participants also recognized the intersectionality of diversity rhetoric and White privilege when White colleagues invoked both enabling systems to offset events traditionally seen as only negatively affecting minorities – especially when such events were poised to also affect them negatively.

Learn more about the Diversity Rhetoric Enabling System.

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Mentioned: Diversity in LIS

Dr. Donna Lanclos, an anthropologist who has done (and continues to do) amazing work in LIS, gave a talk at the University of London’s Goldsmith Library.

She summarizes her talk here; her discussion centers on the (un-)usefulness of the term “diversity” in LIS-related initiatives and how such initiatives are subsumed or crippled by Whiteness, vocational awe, and hegemony. She dovetails these concerns into low morale, particularly issues of emotional, verbal, and system abuse (e.g., microaggressions, hiring practices, labor violations, and the like).