My colleague in Detroit posted a story about an upcoming case to judge whether or not certain books will be marked "obscene" so I looked a the story and low and behold one of my favorite authors and her work are on the hit list. Before going into the details of the story, I just wondered who gives license to "kill" to district attorneys. Whose definitions of decency do they use? Why are stories that highlight the incredible sufferings of people of color deemed indecent?
These recurrent attacks on language and literature stem, in my humble opinion, from total ignorance of the lives and cultures of others of those people who don't look like what I'll label "white bread" or bland USAmerican culture. I'm excluding lots of great people from my definition in order to zero in on the kind of thinking that seems to go into fear of changes in language and in the literatures of people whose lives differ from that portrayed in the Fun with Dick and Jane kind of literature so prevalent in my early years or in the cute and always entertaining but popular to mainstream Americana such as Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew whose families resembled the nuclear families we were all told were the ideals to which we should strive to attain.
Citing Bill DeGenero's comments: I must concur. Bill points out the following: "What are the three books? Erin Gruwell's "Freedom Writers Diary," Toni Morrison's "The Bluest Eye," and Richard Wright's "Black Boy." Yes, all three books are about people of color. Yes, two out of three are written by people of color."
I cringe at the thought that stories that touched me, particularly Morrison's The Bluest Eye should be defamed by such an attack. I say this as a fairly light skinned Puerto Rican woman who has had experiences not that different from the central character in Morrison's book. MORE not FEWER works that point to the abuse of children. the abuse of cultural conflicts. and the power in balances that create the kinds of situations in which children of color often find themselves should be written. Better than that, after being awakened to the facts of these dreadful situations more not less should be done to prevent further abuse of children. And in Morrison's book, the abuser, himself a product of lack of love and of abuse, is also to be understood in the context of his environment and life. There are some abusers who need redemption because the contexts and horrors of their own lives lead them to reach out for love in a most inappropriate manner. So the Breedloves will again be "dumped on" instead of understood and the abuse they experienced will be relegated to the pyre of obscenity and high school students will not understand that people outside their immediate cultural milieu live different lives that require a different sensibility and perhaps a diffeent approach which will allow for understanding and the kind of outreach that leads to healing as well the personal growth we seek when reading literature that represents lives like and sometimes different from what we live.