On Book Bans
In the last several weeks, there’s been a lot of attention on the fact that some schools and school districts are banning books that they think are inappropriate for one reason or another. Proponents of banning certain books are arguing that by not allowing certain books in, their kids are somehow being “protected.” And then, on the other hand, opponents of the banned books are arguing that the banning of some of them in certain schools and school districts is shameful.
However, what gets lost in the whole discussion on book bans is the fact that the sense of protection that comes from book bans (among those in favor of the bans) is a false one.
But why would I say that?
Let’s think about the sorts of book bans that give some groups of parents a sense of protection: ones that focus on books with certain profanities, with certain takes on racial issues, or with characters who are openly LGBTQ+ (or with certain takes on LGBTQ+ issues), to name a few. Some may think that by banning such books, access is being restricted on the topics the books address. In reality, information on all these things-the profanities, the takes on racial issues that result in certain books getting banned, and LGBTQ+ stuff-is just a Google search away. All one is doing by banning books is simply changing the medium through which many people gain access to the sort of information they might acquire through the banned book. This is one reason I say that book bans provide a false sense of protection for those in favor of the bans.
But there is another reason I argue this: one can get a book through means other than reading it at school. A book as popular as To Kill a Mockingbird is one that a curious kid could buy with some allowance money (depending on how much money it is) at the bookstore closest to school or home. Some of these books can be easily checked out at local libraries for no money at all. Many of them are available on places like Amazon, provided the parents are willing to use their credit card to purchase the book for their kid. All that banning a book does, in some cases, is allow book retailers to make money off of selling the banned book to interested and curious minds.
However, even if one didn’t seek out information on transgender people through a Google search or check To Kill a Mockingbird out of the local library, there is one inescapable fact: the issues covered in some, even many, of these banned books are issues that many of us are likely to face at some point in our lives. You can ban a book with a gay couple in it, but when a friend of yours comes out to you as gay, there is no escaping LGBTQ+ issues. You can ban a book perceived as having a message that is too anti-police, but at some point, someone is likely to run into someone else who believes wholeheartedly in the message of the Black Lives Matter movement. Because of the aforementioned inescapable fact, I’m of the mind that while one’s exposure to the information in many of these banned books may sometimes be delayed, it cannot be escaped forever. It’s simply not possible in this world, short of living in an extraordinarily tight bubble (and even then, there is information that can seep in through that bubble).
The previous paragraph brings me to the real injustice with regard to book bans that needs to be talked about, which is the fact that it leaves some people unaware about certain major topics and issues in our society until confronted with those topics or issues. To me, that is a real injustice because, quite frankly, it does not seem healthy to leave people unaware until that critical point, because that is a point when decisions can be (and often are) made from a place of insecurity, ignorance, and stress-a place that can lead to bad decision-making with regard to how they treat their friends, neighbors, colleagues, and family members.
 I’m not making this stuff up. Those are three of the things that come up the most frequently on the American Library Association’s list of most banned and challenged books over the past few years: https://www.businessinsider.com/guides/learning/banned-books-2021#george-by-alex-gino-1
 Yes, I have a good friend who came out to me as gay relatively early in his coming out process. True story.
Originally published at http://blindinjusticeblog.com on February 28, 2022.