Public library officials in Madison, Wis., see nothing wrong with their upcoming “movement and mediation class” intended only for elder racial minorities in the community despite the fact that it obviously violates the state’s public accommodation law because it clearly is only for people who identify as “black, indigenous or people of color.”
According to The Daily Wire, beginning Friday, May 6, the Goodman South Library and the South Madison Library in Wisconsin’s capital city will begin holding a “Movement and Meditation Class for Seniors” — classes that will be held every Friday next month. Hosted by KLJ Movement, the classes are billed as a “professional performance and dance company that embraces the influence of black and brown people in the world of dance.”
“The intent is not to be racist or anti-white, but to make people of color, particularly seniors in the neighborhoods those two libraries serve, feel comfortable in coming to those programs, knowing that they’ll be in a place where others who look like them will be moving and meditating with them,” Tana Elias, digital services and marketing manager for Madison Public Libraries, said in an email sent to the outlet in response to critics.
“White people are not excluded from the event, but they are the majority of our total program audience,” she added. “This program is an intentional effort with a community partner to include a segment of Madison’s population that we know we’re not serving as regularly, and who are more likely to suffer from poor health.”
But many critics were not impressed.
Dan Lennington, an attorney with the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty, on Thursday flagged the upcoming class on Twitter and described it as “critical race yoga.”
Critical Race Yoga? Madison, WI Public Library hosting “movement & meditation” classes “intended for BIPOC seniors 55+.” Notebooks and writing materials will be provided so you can reflect on your racial identity. pic.twitter.com/HHu4q7ONPX
— Dan Lennington (@DanLennington) April 14, 2022
He told The Daily Wire that he sees a clear double standard.
“If they said, ‘This program is intended for White seniors 55+,’ everyone would immediately denounce the program as racist,” Lennington explained. “I’m not sure why the same standard would not apply to the current description of the program.”
“In other words, the library is clear that the program is ‘not intended’ for White seniors. Wisconsin’s public-accommodation law prohibits ‘unequal treatment,’ and creating a program ‘intended’ for one race and not another would violate that principle,” he noted further.
However, Elias said that the upcoming classes are no different than any other sort of programming the library sponsors that has an intended audience in mind.
“Many of our programs have intended audiences – seniors, preschoolers, etc.,” Elias explained. “We are working with the Madison Senior Center to help them explore a new program for older adults, particularly older adults of color, because they experience higher levels of social isolation according to local and national statistics, which leads to poorer health.”
“While anyone can come to the program, these neighborhood libraries serve areas with a higher percentage of people of color” she added. “The language is intended to make our neighborhood seniors, particularly seniors of color, feel welcome at the program.”
Lexington countered that the language used by the library to announce the event did not make that clear.
“The Constitution prohibits government institutions, like libraries, from discriminating based on race,” he said. “In fact, public-accommodation laws, which have been on the books for decades, require public spaces to be colorblind in how they service the community.”
“Madison should follow the Constitution and nondiscrimination laws and make clear that this program is open to all, regardless of race,” he added.