Banned Books Week: Guest Perspectives
By M. Giles, Director of National Outreach, Birth
Doula, Sexual Health Educator
When we think of banned books, we think of books that involve something that causes a moral or ethical disturbance for the people in power. As history continues to teach us, it is always written by the oppressor, and by proxy the books we have access to are controlled by the oppressor as well. One of the most relevant examples as it relates to The United States of America is Black Boy by Richard Wright, banned purely for candidly detailing the Black experience. The act of lynching, Jim Crow, and genocide are seen as more tasteful than the experience of those most affected. Again, lynching, Jim Crow, and genocide are seen as more tasteful than the experience of those most affected. Let that sink in – it’s easier to palate a lynching, than to hear the story of a man whose community is being lynched; and while we have an entire week to to reflect and engage in this conversation, I offer that censorship has a place and that place is in my home.
Outside the four walls of my house, society will teach my children to value, covet, and conform to white normative standards of beauty, education, mores. Outside the four walls of my house my children are bombarded with images and stories of all of the ways their Blackness is dangerous and their whiteness is safe. Make no mistake, my children are Black. They will navigate their world through the lens of a person of color, regardless of the genes they carry, and will be well acquainted with that perspective by the time they reach adulthood. I cannot protect them from that (and I wouldn’t want to), but I can insulate them through censorship.
In my house, we censor as much whiteness as we can. We censor out Disney’s Cinderella in favor of Rodger and Hammerstein’s version featuring Brandy. We censor out Aileen Quinn in favor of Quvenzhané Wallis. We censor Judy Garland and replace her with Diana Ross. We avoid American Girl dolls because the narrative of the only Black doll in the history line is as a slave… as if that was the only place Black women have had in history. Of the other two Black girls offered in their other lines of dolls, one carry’s a ghetto blasting boom box and the other is a singer. Meanwhile the white girls, which outnumber them more than 2 to 1, get to be a second wave feminist (*cue eye roll*), a patriot, a journalist, and – better yet – a debutante with staff she pities.
This censorship is necessary then because children as young as two are able to identify people by the stereotypes we’ve build and by the time they are five, they have internalized the racial prejudices of society. So in raising Black children, it is my duty to build an identity that rejects white as the default, and even more disturbingly the only thing worth striving for. My job is to insulate my children from white supremacy, and since it is so pervasive, the only way to build the blocks of pride is to censor out white media until they identify the racial pride as readily as other kids can identify the stereotypes.
Maníge Giles is an active member of several intersecting communities in the Denver area and beyond, as well as a contributing member of Collage Colorado, LLC. We were so delighted to add her voice to this series!