Confronting injustice with the 21 Day Equity Challenge

Through January, we’re publishing year-in-review highlights from FY2021. Download a full PDF of this year’s Annual Report to read more! This week we’re looking at ways we’re learning to work better, together.

The Library committee for Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Accessibility (IDEA) introduced a 21-day equity challenge in November of 2020, encouraging staff to select one action per day to learn about issues of inequity in society. The voluntary challenge was designed to last 21 days with the hope that new experiences will not only help staff develop a perspective on the world that does not gloss over systemic racism, but will instill new habits that last long after the challenge has ended. The effort was inspired by similar programs in the Albemarle County Office of Equity and Inclusion and the Duke University Library.

Each day, staff participating in the challenge confronted inequities that occur every day in the world around them by taking part in a variety of activities — reading an article, a book chapter, or comic; listening to a song or podcast; watching a video or movie; or just observing the built-in dynamics of inequity in plain sight and resisting the impulse to retreat from uncomfortable discoveries. Staff could either create their own activities or find material compiled in lists of resources, including the Library’s own Understanding Difference resource guide.

Afterward, they reflected on the experience, perhaps writing down their thoughts in a journal. They could also download a tracker on which to chart their progress and could sign up to enlist the aid of a 21 Day Challenge Accountability Buddy. The IDEA Committee hosted three sessions in which participants came together in small groups to discuss their experiences and observations over Zoom. Finishing the challenge could also count toward completing the Understanding Difference goal, a yearly staff performance requirement.

Below is just a sampling of material available to challenge and aid Library staff:


  • “White Librarianship in Blackface: Diversity Initiatives in LIS,” April Hathcock.
  • “The Black Power Movement and the Asian American Movement,” Evelyn Chen.
  • “How NOT to be an Ally,” Kim A. Case, Ph.D.
  • ”My Life as an Undocumented Immigrant,” Jose Antonio Vargas.
  • “How White Parents Can Talk to Their Kids About Race,” National Public Radio.
  • ”How America is Failing Native American Students,” Rebecca Clarren.


  • “Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You,” Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi.
  • “Where Are All the Librarians of Color?: The Experiences of People of Color in Academia,” coedited by Rebecca Hankins and Miguel Juárez.
  • “Post-Traumatic Slave Syndrome,” Dr. Joy DeGruy.
  • “The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America,” Richard Rothstein.


  • TED Radio Hour Mary Bassett: How Does Racism Affect Your Health?
  • NPR Morning Edition You Cannot Divorce Race from Immigration.


  • “The US medical system is still haunted by slavery” Vox YouTube clip.
  • “Digital Blackness in the Archive: Supporting Research” YouTube video.

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