Anti-Hate Statements: How and Why To Write One for Your Library

As public and academic libraries continue to navigate equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) work, it has become increasingly common for organizations to release statements in solidarity with communities in crisis. Illinois’s Downers Grove Public Library (DGPL) has issued five anti-hate statements that have resonated with our community. In this article, we hope to give you the strategies needed to write and distribute an impactful statement.

SOCIAL JUSTICE Members of the Downers Grove, IL, community share their appreciation and the impact that the library’s anti-hate statements have on their lives

As public and academic libraries continue to navigate equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) work, it has become increasingly common for organizations to release statements in solidarity with communities in crisis. The murder of George Floyd in 2020 was one of the first notable instances in which libraries nationwide began to issue anti-racist and anti-hate statements. Illinois’s Downers Grove Public Library (DGPL) has since issued five anti-hate statements that have resonated with our community. In this article, we hope to give you the strategies needed to write and distribute an impactful statement.

Creating this kind of statement can feel like uncharted territory. Before drafting a statement, it is important to have a clear understanding of what an anti-hate statement is and why it is needed. An anti-hate statement is a useful tool to support historically, intentionally, and traditionally marginalized people groups (HITMPGs) and may serve as a learning resource for all community members. Often, statements come on the heels of a horrific display of bigotry or violence; HITMPG staff and community members may be grieving and fearful of entering public spaces. Releasing anti-hate statements serves three primary purposes for DGPL. The first and foremost is to show support for HITMPGs in crisis. An anti-hate statement establishes that not only are they safe, but they are welcome at the library. Anti-hate statements also communicate that hate has no home in the library; the kind of behavior that prompted the library to issue a statement will not be tolerated within the building. Finally, statements model behavior that we would like to see. By issuing a statement, the library is acting as a catalyst for positive change and opening a door for other institutions, organizations, and individuals to join in denouncing the hateful actions.



A core philosophy of our anti-hate work and overall EDI efforts has been maintaining a curious mindset in which we are inquisitive, seek new information, and are open to learning and growing. We encourage individuals and organizations who are considering or wondering about writing and issuing anti-hate statements to join us in approaching this work with curiosity as well as a beginner’s mentality, which helps actions be unimpeded by preconceived notions. Both curiosity and a beginner’s mindset are crucial in working toward interrogating and deconstructing systems that uphold inequities against marginalized communities.



In 2021, the American Library Association (ALA) adopted a new ninth principle on racial and social justice to its Code of Ethics. According to ALA, “We affirm the inherent dignity and rights of every person. We work to recognize and dismantle systemic and individual biases; to confront inequity and oppression; to enhance diversity and inclusion; and to advance racial and social justice in our libraries, communities, profession, and associations through awareness, advocacy, education, collaboration, services, and allocation of resources and spaces.” Furthermore, the Public Library Association (PLA) has issued a call for “public library workers to commit to structural change and to taking action to end systemic racism and injustice.” It is essential to recognize, as historian and anti-racist scholar Dr. Ibram X. Kendi points out, “there is no neutrality in the racism struggle.... One either allows racial inequities to persevere, as a racist, or confronts racial inequities as an anti-racist. There is no in-between safe space of ‘not racist.’” Thus, not only must libraries carry out EDI work against racial and social injustice, libraries cannot be neutral in order to truly and authentically do so.

STANDING AGAINST HATE Downers Grove residents march for Black Lives Matter in June 2020 in response to the murder of George Floyd by police; DGPL released its first anti-hate statement in response to Floyd’s murder and the protests it sparked



Identifying the Audience: For any anti-hate statement, DGPL believes that the primary audience is the affected HITMPG. To effectively support these staff and community members, the statement should be written with them in mind. It cannot be stressed strongly enough that writing these statements is hefty emotional labor; do not expect HITMPG staff members to write them. Instead, ask how they would like to be included. Take time to think about what the HITMPG is experiencing at that moment, and where they feel seen and unseen. If you are unsure about what would support the HITMPG, research their histories and the incident that prompted your library to write a statement. Reach out to community leaders within the HITMPG, offering the library’s support, and have a conversation to learn more. If you have staff members who identify with the HITMPG community, ask how they would feel supported or if they would like to share feedback after your first draft.

The entire community is given the opportunity to learn about the issues, historic and systemic hate surrounding the HITMPG, and resources for further education and change. As noted by our Trustee Carissa Dougherty, there is privilege in never having to be named in an anti-hate statement. Community members who are not part of the impacted HITMPG are invited to learn more about how they have played a part in upholding societal hate and oppression.

When to Release a Statement: With hateful actions in the news every day, there are no definitive parameters that will determine when to issue a statement. Each situation requires your library team to consider the circumstances. Be mindful of what is going on in your community, and how current events are impacting HITMPG community members. DGPL releases a statement when a HITMPG or community group is experiencing a need for support against hate and violence on a public and/or large platform, whether it is a one-time incident or a series of incidents that continue to trend or escalate across the country/world or within your local community. While support for HITMPGs (e.g. programming, inclusion in collections) should always be visible, anti-hate statements are powerful affirmations in moments of crisis.

A sense of urgency may overcome your team as you begin to write an anti-hate statement, especially if you are writing in response to a national or international event and other institutions have already released their own. It is better to have a carefully crafted and sincere statement than one that is hurried, which may do more harm. Additionally, if you wish you had previously released an anti-hate statement for a HITMPG, it is never too late to demonstrate support. The deadlines for anti-hate statements are self-imposed, and you determine whether or not the door is still open.

Best Practices: In writing an anti-hate statement, it is important to personalize it for your community and be authentic in your message. Avoid copying and pasting or simply linking to statements from other organizations. Carefully consider the hate against the impacted HITMPG community, both currently and historically, and specifically name these truths. By doing so, the library acknowledges the root causes of the harm to the affected community as well as the historically damaging narratives. This can help the marginalized community feel validated and seen. The pain, trauma, and systemic oppression should not be glossed over in an attempt to make the statement sound less “unpleasant,” a process known as whitewashing, which can lead to disingenuity and further distress the HITMPG community. Make sure that your communication does not turn into a promotional piece or focus on generic declarations. Center the message on the affected HITMPG community in crisis.

While writing a statement, make sure it is easy to understand by avoiding academic or technical language. Statements should assume no previous knowledge and should be comprehensible on their own. Referenced sources should be links embedded in the text and not footnoted. Check to make sure that all links included are active. Provide a path forward for audiences, including booklists, trainings, and other resources for supporting the HITMPG.



When crafting an anti-hate statement, be mindful of the characteristics of white supremacy culture, which promotes white supremacy thinking and, therefore, oppression, discrimination, and inequities. Understanding white supremacy and how each of us, regardless of our identities (e.g., race, gender, sexual orientation, ability, religion), participates in upholding it is vital. White supremacy is holding the social construct called whiteness (a particular way of being or doing things) as better than or above other ways of being and acting. White supremacy and whiteness, which are not dependent on race, are demonstrated in the labels we attach to those ways of being or behaving, such as “accepted,” “professional,” “appropriate,” and/or “standard.” Each of us has the capacity to help maintain this culture, whether consciously or subconsciously. One does not need to be in the KKK, a neo-Nazi, or even white to uphold white supremacy. People who identify as a HITMPG can be oppressors themselves. We all have the capacity to participate in whiteness. Whiteness and white supremacy culture are tools, and it is how one utilizes these tools that matters.

Encountering these meanings of white supremacy may cause discomfort and defensiveness on the part of some individuals. This reaction, coined “white fragility” by racial and social justice educator Robin DiAngelo, recenters the conversation on the white person’s feelings. This moves the attention away from the anti-racist topic at hand. Thus, it is important not to get defensive and to maintain the focus on the anti-racist work rather than personal feelings.

There are 15 primary characteristics of white supremacy culture (; five of the characteristics are common in, but not exclusive to, anti-hate work.

In either/or thinking, people and things are viewed in binary terms such as good/bad or right/wrong with no room for being both/and. In the context of anti-hate statements, the message in support of a particular group becomes misconstrued as implying that another group(s) is not supported. However, there is a difference between focus and exclusion. Drawing attention to an important issue or group of people does not imply that other people and issues do not matter. Messages of solidarity with groups receiving hateful messages and suffering acts of violence because of their identity promote inclusion by upholding the human rights of marginalized individuals to be treated with dignity and respect.

Fear of open conflict may show up in instances where people in power are afraid of expressed conflict, which may manifest as attempts to whitewash the anti-hate statement. This is related to the right to comfort, the belief that those with power have a right to emotional and psychological comfort. Encourage those feeling discomfort to take time and space to get curious and reflect on how and why they feel uncomfortable, and to reconsider and center the purpose and audience of the statement. This will help focus your EDI efforts around behaviors and actions, rather than on personal feelings, in working toward dismantling systemic issues and structures.

Under the only one right way thinking, one must do things only one particular way. Remember, EDI work is an ongoing process and there are many different paths along one’s journey. Avoid thinking of anti-hate statements and other EDI work as a list of boxes to check off using predetermined formulas or templates. Each situation will be different. Let the statement’s purpose and audience be your guide, and allow for feedback and changes so your statement can evolve to its most thoughtful, genuine form.

It is crucial to avoid letting a sense of urgency take over. Keep in mind that timeliness is subjective. Rushed statements do more hurt and damage than help and support. Keeping curiosity and a beginner’s mind about the above characteristics and others of white supremacy culture will allow for greater progress in anti-hate statement and other EDI work.

MISSION DRIVEN The mission of DGPL is to be a place for everyone to discover, grow, play, and learn



Once your statement is ready to be distributed, make sure it is visible through a variety of access points. Do not shy away from sharing it with your entire community. New statements are announced on our website’s homepage with a link to our EDI page, where they remain; on our social media accounts; and through an email to our entire patron base. Distributing an abbreviated version on social media may be the best way to get engagement on your statement depending on its length. Control how your post will appear in various feeds by making sure important links are visible without expanding the post. Graphics garner stronger engagement and will be pushed higher in newsfeeds. If possible, work with your marketing staff to create something eye-catching to announce your statement. We recommend something fairly generic, as it will be applicable to all statements moving forward and avoid playing into any stereotypes.



Preparing for feedback can be nerve-wracking and will most likely be your board’s primary concern. Provide your board and leadership with all feedback you receive through a centralized spreadsheet. Board members can then choose when and how to read the feedback. This is particularly important if you have board members who identify as part of the HITMPG in crisis. Our director responds to substantial feedback and/or comments that ask for a response, and copies our Board of Trustees on any correspondence. This is significant as it showcases that the entire organization, from the top down, is holding steady in our convictions.

Be prepared to respond to both positive and negative comments. Just as our country is deeply divided, responses will be too. Positive feedback is a joy to read and respond to. The individuals behind these messages will become your most vocal supporters. Some may share deeply personal and intimate stories, identifying how it has validated their existence in your community (sometimes, for the first time in their residency!). Remember, personal stories are not for you to use in other marketing efforts unless you ask permission.

Negative feedback is typically knee-jerk reactions or angry venting; however, some thoughtful, concerned, and respectful patrons will not be receptive to your statement. It is natural to feel defensive, but it is vital to focus on the actual feedback and not on one’s personal feelings. HITMPGs may express that they feel a well-meaning statement of support misses the mark. Be open and receptive to this feedback, and reflect on what you could have improved and how you can be a better ally. Other negative feedback may come from those who have not yet started their personal EDI journey, and are not open to trying to understand what the library is saying. To prepare for this type of negative feedback, have a response ready that explains why EDI work is important, and how it aligns with your strategic goals and mission. It is also helpful to share that the library supports and provides resources for everyone, and their library experience will not change. Invite them to get curious with your organization, and offer resources for when they are ready to learn more. Irate patrons may try to engage in an argument. We recommend replying once, thanking them for their feedback, ensuring them that it will be shared with leadership, and leaving the conversation at that.



After issuing the statement, be sure to continue to demonstrate clear support for the addressed community group to avoid the statement being performative—that is, an inauthentic act only for show. Some dissenters may label the statement as “virtue signaling” to attack it as an act of moral grandstanding. By following up with outward displays of allyship through partnerships, outreach, programming, promotion of resources, and advocacy, as well as continuing overall EDI efforts, a library can demonstrate that the messages in the statement are integral to the organizational culture and mission, and not just done “for appearance.” The statement together with organizational practices can therefore reinforce the library’s model of inclusive behaviors for all community members.



Statements create learning opportunities for all community members, including library personnel, to continue to learn and grow. The impact of anti-hate statements has been made clear by incredible messages of support. As expressed by community member Leslie Sadowski-Fugitt, “Thank you so much for this statement. I so appreciate vital community organizations taking a stand. Both the Library Board of Trustees and the DGPL staff are a wonderful example of a welcoming and inclusive community.” Numerous HITMPG community members have shared messages that they feel seen and appreciated. Andi Voinovich’s message affirms the significance of anti-hate statements: “Grateful to be your neighbor and in solidarity with you against hate in any and all of its forms. I feel safer and more welcome in DG because of you and your work.” Clear, nongeneric messages help to communicate and model to all community members the behaviors we hope to see to create a more inclusive and welcoming community for all. 



Characteristics of White Supremacy

Guide to Allyship

ALA Code of Ethics

PLA Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Social Justice

How to Be an Antiracist by Dr. Ibram X. Kendi

White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo

Downers Grove Public Library’s EDI Web Page



HITMPG - historically, intentionally, and traditionally marginalized people groups. This includes Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC)

EDI - equity, diversity, and inclusion

Equity - the redistribution of power, resources, and access as a means to level the playing field for HITMPGs

Diversity - the practice or quality of having a wide range of people who are different from one another in their ethnic background, educational status, ability, age, gender, sexual orientation, economic status, and/or lived experience

Inclusion - an environment in which all individuals are treated fairly and respectfully and are valued for their distinctive skills, experiences, and perspectives

Allyship - “an active and consistent practice of using power and privilege to achieve equity, inclusion, and justice while holding ourselves accountable to marginalized people’s needs” —author and activist Michelle MiJung Kim

White supremacy - holding the social construct called whiteness (a particular way of being or doing things) as better than or above other ways

White fragility - the defensive reactions or feelings of discomfort a white person has when confronted by information about racial inequality and injustice

Cindy Khatri is Public Relations Manager and Van McGary is Adult & Teen Services Assistant Manager for Downers Grove Public Library, IL.

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