Op-Ed: I never imagined that being a black author could put me in danger


In recent years, the police have been called on black people for ridiculously ordinary things – bird watching while black, shopping while black, playing golf (too slowly) while black, riding in a car with a large – white mother while Black, delivering newspapers while Black, even trying to cash a paycheck while Black.

Writing in black now puts authors at risk. Our books – fiction and non-fiction – are banned as part of a conservative movement to quash the teaching and discussion of racism in America. With a “hate the book, hate the writer” philosophy taking hold, suddenly threats are being made against us.

I never could have imagined that being an author could put me in danger. No writer should face danger for reporting historical truths or writing fictional narratives that tell the stories of historically marginalized communities. Yet those of us who write while Black often do.

Dozens of black authors have had their books removed from school libraries on the grounds that we teach “critical race theory,” which can be simply defined as providing an intellectual framework for discussing how systemic racism in America has been consciously created and, therefore, must be consciously dismantled.

Nikole Hannah-Jones, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of ‘The 1619 Project’, has been targeted by the Trump White House, second guessed by historians and racially harassed and received death threats for her examination of the history of racism in America. The backlash has been led by Republicans who have used critical race theory fears as a cudgel to try to advance their political aspirations.

While others have taken up this weapon, the theory has become the basis for a chilling condemnation of most discussions of race, racism, or anti-racism in America. And that led to more book bans. The American Library Assn. reported that more than 270 books were subject to censorship attempts in 2020.

One of the most banned books is “All American Boys,” a young adult novel by Jason Reynolds, who is black, and Brendan Kiely, who is white. Through the perspective of two high school classmates – one black, one white – it tells the story of a black child killed by a police officer. The authors said they view the book as a starting point for children who want to discuss race.

Last fall, Texas State Rep. Matt Krause, a Republican, released a list of 850 books he said “make students uncomfortable” because they deal with race. and sexuality. A school in San Antonio has removed more than 400 books that were on its list. Among them were “Hood Feminism, about feminism’s failure to address the challenges faced by women of color, and Kalynn Bayron’s novel “Cinderella is Dead, which reimagines the fairy tale from the perspective of a queer black teenager.

In Florida, Governor Ron DeSantis has pushed a bill limiting how schools and businesses can teach about racism. It would prohibit lessons or trainings that cause “discomfort” to individuals by implying that they bear responsibility for actions committed by their ancestors or other members of the same race and sex. More than 30 other states are pursuing similar measures.

So, is this where we are? Black-authored books are banned – and the legislation suppresses discussion of race in classrooms – based on the absurd notion that it is possible to legislate and control how reading and discussion feel to someone ?

These bills fail to recognize that even though individuals may not be held accountable for the actions of their ancestors or members of the same race and sex, they still reap the rewards of those actions – whether that means bonuses. lower insurance, better job opportunities or greater family wealth. .

It’s a reflection of a racial wealth gap in America that has little to do with one person’s efforts and everything to do with the history of racism in this country. In our work, many black writers try to point this out, and we get lambasted for it.

If anyone learns from one of my books that Thomas Jefferson used his slaves as collateral against his debt, and that embarrasses the reader, then using my book may now violate the law in some states.

But violating state law while reading is not what concerns me. It is the violence – and concern for the safety of the perpetrators – that does this.

Harriett Beecher Stowe, a white author, reportedly received a slave’s severed ear in the mail as a warning against her anti-slavery stance in “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.”Legendary black journalist Ida B. Wells was driven out of Memphis after reporting on the lynching in the Jim Crow South in the late 1800s.

Hitler’s Third Reich banned and burned books by Jewish authors in the 1930s and proscribed books as “non-German”. Mao Zedong’s China censored and burned anti-Communist and anti-Maoist books in the 1960s and 1970s during the brutal crackdown known as the Cultural Revolution. Al-Qaeda insurgents in Mali burned down rare historic works in 2013 in the former university city of Timbuktu. In 2015, Islamic State militants burned over 100,000 manuscripts and rare documents in Mosul, Iraq.

And in mid-March, the former president Trump called out his supporters to “give their very lives” to prevent critical race theory from being taught in schools. Trump’s comments should not be taken lightly. We all know what happened when he urged a crowd of supporters to take action on January 6, 2021.

When an ex-president calls on his supporters to fight to the death against the ideas adopted by black authors, I cannot help but worry, we are witnessing the beginnings of outright violence against these authors and their books here in America.

The truth is a powerful weapon. As black authors, we must have the courage to continue using it while telling the truth about America’s racist past.

Clyde W. Ford’s latest book is “Of Blood and Sweat: Black Lives, and the Making of White Power and Wealth”. He collaborates with Opinion.

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