"Come As You Are": Disrupting Professionalism through Authenticity
California State San Marcos University Library’s institutional values center around social justice, including promoting equity and celebrating difference. Despite CSUSM Library’s inclusive values, we--four, cisgender female library faculty of color--still feel accountable to professional standards in LIS that are inherently gendered, classed, and raced, and also visibly surface White privilege in Western academia. In considering what is “acceptable” presentation and behavior, we often find ourselves emulating a Eurocentric aesthetic (e.g. cardigans, cat-eye glasses, etc.) to counteract negative stereotypes (Pagowsky and Rigby, 2014). Kendrick terms this behavior deauthentication, or downplaying our cultural, racial, social, and political identities in order to reduce microaggressions and hostility in the workplace (2018).
Our pedagogy and research frameworks prioritize the experiential knowledge of marginalized people which is contested by White-dominant assumptions of higher education. Our authority and expertise is questioned by students and faculty of record alike when we push up against sacrosanct academic values such as objectivity and neutrality (Quiñonez, Nataraj, & Olivas, 2020). Authenticity can be complicated by monolithic ideas around race and identity if we don’t possess the markers of femininity, phenotype, language, or culture that our students do. In this way, our real selves can put us at a remove from the students we’re trying to connect with. One of us is a manager who balances creating authentic, trusting relationships with her department employees and the pressure to prove herself in a primarily White profession. Our presentation touches on all these aspects of authenticity through the lens of our lived experiences which inform and, at times, disrupt our professional identity and interactions with students and faculty. We will also discuss how we have developed affirming support systems among library faculty of color at CSUSM that embolden us to be our whole selves as much as possible across all areas of our work.