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A lot of old things are racist. Mickey Mouse’s white gloves, for example. The concept of a peanut gallery. But public libraries? Impossible, right? Well, public libraries have a lot of race-related issues, from over-policing to an exclusive Master’s degree (I wrote about some of this here.) But one of the biggest obstacles to manifesting true racial justice in public libraries is the Dewey Decimal System. That’s right: the bedrock cataloging system that you learned in elementary school has a major racism issue.
Dewey invented the Decimal System in 1873. He was 21 years old and already had a lot of big ideas, one of which involved organizing the library of his employer, Amherst College. To this end, he drew on the work of Sir Francis Bacon, a 16th century natural philosopher. Bacon had been an early pioneer of inductive reasoning, which is crucial to the scientific method, and he’d written at length about logical organization of knowledge for discovery in his book Instauratio magna. Dewey also claimed an Italian printmaker named Natale Battezzati as an inspiration. Battezzati had invented a card-based catalog for bookstores. Where Bacon had been dead for a couple centuries and change when Dewey embarked upon his fateful cataloging system, Battezzati was a living and well-known contemporary.
The quickest possible glance reveals the racism in the Dewey Decimal System. We’ll use the religion section as an example. The 200s encompass all religion, nominally, although the problems with this premise are obvious. Each Dewey heading encompasses ten major subjects, dividing each up by subtopics that add digits to the end of the number. Six of the ten subjects in the 200s are explicitly for Christianity-related subjects. Three of those remaining are either explicitly or implicitly Judeo-Christian. Finally, at the bottom of the heap, the 290s cover“other” religions. Islam, Baha’ai, and Babism all get to share 297. Germanic religions get 293. All “religions of Indic origin,” in other words Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism, get to share 294. Hinduism gets all of 294.5 to itself. How generous!
299 covers everything else, and we’re going to focus on this bit because it’s the most glaring example of racism in the Dewey Decimal system I can think of. You see where I’m going with this: religions Dewey associated with people of color ended up with way less space than the “real” faith. Not convinced? Fine. There’s a section in the 200s just for Black people.
The entire 299.6 subdivision is for “religions originating among Black Africans and people of Black African descent.” In fact, everything about “African religion of Haitians in Haiti” can be fit into 299.6097294, according to the DDS. Because at some point, someone — for some reason — decided that Haitian religions originating from Black people were not as important as “Germanic” religions originating from white ones. If that doesn’t make you mad, then you’re probably qualified to write a cataloging system in the late 1800s.
10.6% No religion
2.2% Folk religions
The racism in the Dewey Decimal System makes the prejudices and relative values of its creator abundantly clear...A messed-up shelving system still makes a difference to them just like institutional racism everywhere still makes the world a worse place.
originally posted by: gunshooter
These poor ignorant souls that think the very fabric of reality is racist. The world is going mad, almost to quick to keep up with. Heard a racist rock just got moved in Wisconsin... A rock!?! Had no idea a chunk of stone could be so racist and fill people's hearts with hate..... abc7chicago-com.cdn.ampproject.org... /?amp_js_v=a6&_gsa=1&usqp=mq331AQKKAFQArABIIACAw%3D%3D#aoh=16308670134056&referrer=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.google.com&_tf=From%20%251%24s&share=htt ps%3A%2F%2Fabc7chicago.com%2Fracist-rock-university-of-wisconsin-chamberlin-removed-from-madison-campus%2F10939064%2F
originally posted by: Zitterbewegung
a reply to: gunshooter
Don't even suggest space-time is racist. God forbid if Planck length is racist there is no hope.
originally posted by: Zitterbewegung
a reply to: infolurker
It's real and we should be frightened. Should we preemptively attack any country with such weapons?