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Banning books

by PRIDE Newsdesk

William T. Robinson, Jr.

The movement by certain individuals and groups to ban books they personally find offensive is setting a precedent that hurts independent and conscientious thinkers. Banning books can be considered a violation of one’s freedom of speech as well as an invasion of the right and the privacy to freely read what one prefers without censorship.

As a society we are not monolithic in what we prefer to read, thus opening up people to read what they personally find interesting—right or wrong. Reading satisfies a plethora of aims, whether it be for education, history, sports, entertainment, enjoyment, or enlightenment. No one should have the right to dictate what a person should read based on their own subjective views. Banning books is a method of controlling what one should read and can only lead to dire consequences limiting an individual’s knowledge, learning, and development.

One may liken banning or controlling books to creating a society of robots receptive to only signals they have been programmed. It is an ideal condition for a dictatorship or a controlling group. Common sense dictates that there are age-appropriate books that may not be suitable for required reading for elementary children, depending on the subject content. However, if parents feel their children possess the maturity to understand certain contentious books, these books should be available for their children in schools—regardless of whether some feel they are good or bad. It may be a parent’s right to control what their child reads, but you do not have the right to dictate what another child reads.

Is it fair to impede the academic and intellectual progress of students (especially those rated higher than their peers) by denying or depriving them of what they can read? Banning and restricting what students can read in their schools has only become a highly contentious issue with the movement of some White parents to shield their children from anything they feel may be embarrassing or upsetting. By trying to ban or censor our nation’s history of overt racism, we can negate feeling guilty or rationalize that it didn’t happen.

Advocates of banning books claim their concerns stem from books that are sexually explicit, contain offensive language, use unsuited material for any age group, are racist and use offensive statements. Regardless of how disagreeable or offensive one may feel about a book, do you have the right to restrict one’s creative expressions of free thought and speech? Are we treading dangerous waters that we will severely regret one day? Many will argue that this movement to ban certain books is already out of control when you look at the traditional books banned that were once required reading in many schools.

Many African Americans are irate because many of the books we already read (especially history books) are offensive to people of color. I am referring to books that portray Whites as superior and where racism and White supremacy are portrayed in a positive light. These are the same books wherein African American accomplishments or achievements were often omitted or Blacks as a whole are basically presented as lazy, inferior, and unintelligent. In these books, Native Americans are often portrayed as barbaric and evil haters of Whites. But in the past, people of color didn’t have the option or luxury of banning books we found offensive—and also note, there was no shortage of such books.

However, as offensive as some of these books were, Blacks soaked it up and continued to move forward, giving in to accepting one’s right to freedom of speech. We only wanted more of the truth written.

If you think the banning of books is inconsequential and overrated, look at some of the books that have been banned in some schools and institutions: Lord of the Flies by William Goldfry; The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger; A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein; The Bluest Eye by Tonni Morrison; The Higher Power of Luck by Susan Patron; I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou; The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman; New Moon by Stephenie Meyer; The Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling; To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee; Of Men and Mice by John Steinbeck; The Color Purple by Alice Walker; Maus by Art Spiegelman; Looking For Akaska by John Green; Out of Darkness by Ashley Hope Perez; The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald; One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey; 1984 by Alex Gino.

Should we outlaw freedom of individual creative expression, or let a handful of critics decide what is best for us to read, based on their own subjective views? Good or bad, can we afford to continue to lose our right to freedom of choice?

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