If you have been following this blog for any length of time you know that I am a former high school English teacher. I have also worked for public libraries off and on for many years. I worked for the Watauga Library System in NC and the Gwinnett County Library System in Georgia. I LOVE books and I love reading. Everyone around me does. So books hold a special place in my heart.
Every few years the “book banners” come out of the woodwork and demand to take books off of library shelves. Never-mind that they could just parent their people to NOT check out the books they oppose. Reasons for banning books can be the content has references to alcohol, violence, sex, profanity, racial stereotypes, depressing view of life, immoral situations (like that is the same for every single citizen!), gangs, explosives, issues of death, abortion, eating disorders, child abuse, racism, slavery, anti family, communism, atheism, gambling, occultism, Satanism, witchcraft (sorry Harry Potter), disobedience, pro socialism views, masturbation, incest, LGBTQ++++ topics, anti police, pro police, etc. So yeah, pretty much any book is up for banning by any group.
A lot of the times there is a lot of noise and then it settles down after they waste time and taxpayer’s money. I feel good to live in a country that has a justice system, while flawed, will continue to fight for freedoms. Most of these book censorships happen far away from me and while I might get upset, sad or perplexed, I have pretty much stayed out of it other than to sign petitions and such.
Last week though, it came RIGHT TO MY FRONT DOOR. I was in carpool waiting for my awesome 7th grader and there was a line of people on the sidewalk waving signs. It was less than 48 hours after the tragedy in Texas where elementary students and 2 teachers were murdered so I thought maybe the PTA had supportive signs. It’s almost time for finals so maybe they had signs for students? Nope. These signs were about banning books in SCHOOL LIBRARIES. An extremist group who was supporting a woman running for the school board seat wants to take out books they do not like. They are targeting mostly LBGTQ+++ books and books that MIGHT discuss CRT or dare to mention the US Slavery history and the racism that is still prevalent in our country. Instead of using books to educate they want to do away with them so their children can live without having to think about these “awful” aspects of life.
As a parent I too, censor what they read. When they were itty bitty they only got the cute books about animals and science. When they were in elementary school I weeded out the books that ventured into the foray of crushes, periods or anything else they had not experienced yet. I read EVERY book before they did. I’m not kidding. That is how you parent if you are worried about them having a book you don’t want them to have. Is it foolproof? Nope. But it worked effectively enough. Once the girls entered into physical adulthood (you know – the once a month membership – the PERIOD, menses, the moon cycle, whatever you want to call it) they could read books that talked about that because now they know. My middle school reads juvenile books unless there is a YA book on a reading list recommended by their ELA teacher. I always preview, but I’ve not come across a single one I did not want her to read. My 16 year old can read anything she wants. She knows she can come to me if she has questions. She has been reading a lot of LGBTQ+++ books while she is exploring her own identity. So I am glad there are books out there for her to read.
I’m not an idiot – yes there are crap books out there. I’ve read them, I’ve seen them on sale on Amazon, I’ve seen them on shelves at stores – so I’m not saying they are all worth reading. However, I would NEVER tell another parent/child what they SHOULD or SHOULD not read. I just want the books to be AVAILABLE to everyone. The parent should limit their children, not any other entity.
When I was a high school teacher and we were studying literature from the Salem Witch Trials era, one of my ultra Christian students, brought me a note that said their family did not want her to read the books because it was against their beliefs. So I told them the parameters I had and asked them to choose any book they found suitable for their young lady to read and write a report on. They chose SON OF SAM – the serial killer. Okay then – whatever floats their boat was my attitude. She did a great research paper and earned an A and when we read the witch books she went to the library and read her “more appropriate” book. Win Win.
So here I was face to face with this woman who approached my car on school campus violating the no trespass law. She was ignoring the campaigning on school property is not allowed. She was tone deaf about how insensitive she was to a group of people mourning their colleagues and the death of innocent children just days before. I waved her away but she kept coming. She asked me what I was afraid of. I replied, “Certainly not you.” She rolled her eyes and said I had NO IDEA what my kids were being exposed to. When I disagreed, she asked me what made me an expert. When I told her my credentials, she stuttered and then walked away.
Then I got ANGRY. When people were sucker punching elderly Asians, sure I was upset but that was happening in New York, California and Chicago. I couldn’t really do anything. When bad cops were brutalizing black men for simply being black and doing ordinary things, I was sickened but it was happening in Atlanta and I really count do anything. But this? Book censorship was being suggested at MY school with MY kid in attendance and I became livid. I felt my body come out of the car as I walked steadily toward this interloper.
I heard myself shout, “GET. OFF. OUR. CAMPUS! YOU ARE NOT ALLOWED HERE. WE DON’T WANT YOU HERE!” I was so surprised to hear my own voice echoing out into the parking lot. She was shocked too. She stopped for a second and then a creepy smile came across her face. She asked me what I was going to do about it. So I called the principal. They thanked me as they had no idea, and sent out the administration to wrangle these trespassers away from the school. All the while they were shouting that they were on a public street. Never mind they had to ignore a huge sign that had our school name on it and several signs saying trespasser would be prosecuted. But the lady I had approached coyly stepped away from the other group and used a huge tree to “block” herself. So I called the police.
The first question the 911 operator asked me was how many people there were. I told her 6-7 one male that I could tell and rest females. She asked me if they were black or hispanic. I answered that they were very very white. She paused for a minute and asked what they were doing. She did not seem to be too worried. At that moment another woman started walking to my car so in real time I relayed the events. . .”There is a woman approaching my car. (then I shouted to the woman so the operator could hear) – I have the police on the line ma’am. I do not want you to approach me, please go back across the street. I repeat, please do not approach me or my vehicle. She kept marching forward. She threw something in my car so I told there operator. Finally, she sounded a little worried, “Are you okay? What did she throw?” I said, a pamphlet and rather dramatically added, “. . .this time. Thank goodness it was not a bomb. They have bins that I can not see into and I have no idea what is in them.” An officer arrived shortly.
When I followed up the next day with Cary Police the officer who answered said that the group was “educated” and let go. Huh. Interesting. They received education about something they already knew – that you can’t just go on school grounds to disseminate propaganda or political literature even though signs were posted. No one was thrown to the ground, stepped on, yelled at, tased or arrested. Everyone just went back to their homes. The man on the phone said an officer will get back to me and took my number. As of this posting, I have not received a call.
Maybe some of you will say that I overreacted. To me though, to know this group of people could just walk up to us and possibly our children was really scary. They have NO PROTECTION. We have no resource officer, there was no security, the administration did not know people were on campus until I told them. So if they had wanted to, they could have mowed us all down with weapons and that kept me up all night. Now, the horrors were not states away or cities away- I realized that I can’t wait for a shooting to happen to do something. So I’m awake and I’m researching and I’m trying to see what I can do to keep our children safe at school.