Report: How Deauthentication Impacts PoC Academic Librarians’ Library Practice (May 2019)

[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


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