Censoring White Supremacy: Building Blocks of Pride

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!

Banned Books Matter

Happy Banned Books Week, Collage Fam!

What’s Up With Banned Books Week?

This year, Banned Books Week begins today (Sunday, September 23rd, 2018). Banned Books Week is a pretty big deal for us here at Collage, but before I explain why, maybe I should explain what exactly it is.

“We would argue that [Banned Books Week] is at its core a celebration freedom of speech and the fight for civil rights.”

First and foremost, it is a celebration each year of books that have been censored, challenged, or banned entirely from schools, libraries, and other places that gather literature. National organizations such as the American Library Association (a major supporter of Banned Books Week) keep extensive lists of what books are being challenged or kept out of libraries, and encourage discussions about why books might be banned. Banned Books Week is a chance to bring that discussion to the forefront; more than that though, we would argue that it is at its core a celebration of freedom of speech and the fight for civil rights.

How?

That goes back to why books are banned in the first place. The common perception is that books are banned for people’s “safety” – because they contain words, or topics, or ideas that some group has deemed dangerous in some way. And while it’s certainly true that there have occasionally been books that were banned because they gave dangerous information (such as how to build a bomb), the reality is that a whole lot more were banned for a far more sinister reason: censorship, and the silencing of certain people’s voices.

“It doesn’t make it any easier for a kid to come out, or to feel welcome in their skin wherever they go, if all the voices like theirs are hidden, forbidden, gone.”

If you look at the graphic above, you’ll see that although some books are challenged because they are “pervasively vulgar” (meaning they have a lot of bad language or potentially inappropriate content), still more are banned for political reasons (and not always friendly ones), and many others never see shelves simply because they portray People of Color, racism, or LGBTQ+ characters. Keeping those books away from folks is pretty darn silencing of people for whom those are daily experiences. It doesn’t make it any easier for a kid to come out, or to feel welcome in their skin wherever they go, if all the voices like theirs are hidden, forbidden, gone.

“Banning Books Silences Stories…”

By now I bet you’ve started to guess why Banned Books Week is so important to us here at Collage; it’s no secret that a big part of our mission as an organization here is to elevate the voices of as many people as we can. We believe that by doing this, we elevate the conversation, and build greater community. It’s even written in our Mission Statement.

We believe that censoring and banning books largely hurts our society and our communities, and especially marginalized communities and communities of color. It very clearly silences them. Destroying stories destroys culture, and ruins the legacy we leave for future generations. It’s up to all of us to stop that.

Join us all this week, as we celebrate Banned Books, Revolutionary Readers, and making our voices heard!


Take a look at the list of the Top 10 Most Challenged Books of 2017, courtesy of bannedbooksweek.org and the ALA. See one that looks interesting? Maybe pick it up and take a look. It might be banned, but it’s almost certainly awesome.