Editor’s note: Below is the full statement that Hope Abrams presented in part at the most recent Delaware Valley School Board meeting, and that she has shared with the Courier.
I went over the list of 850 books that were banned in Texas because I was told that members of our community were looking to get some of those books banned here too. Many of the titles jumped out at me. I’m here, now, because those titles all had something in common. They all had to do with race, sexism and LGBTQ+ issues.
I also see a lot of books that I would expect from a sexuality class — books about safe sex, teen pregnancy, birth control and abortion. Why would those be banned? Doesn’t this school teach safe sex and sexuality to kids? I really hope that’s taught here. Also — talking about homosexuality and gender identity — some folks get those confused with talk about sex in general. They’re not the same thing and shouldn’t be lumped together.
I’m not going to play coy and act like I didn’t automatically assume why these titles would be on a list of banned books. Which leads me to this.
Talking about race does not make you racist.
Talking about racism does not make you racist.
Bringing up race does not mean you are race baiting.
Racism is not just using the n word.
Racism is not just the murder of black people by civilians or cops.
Racism is a system designed to oppress people of color and elevate white people.
Racism is making and laughing at racist jokes.
Racism is avoiding areas where black people live.
Racism is not dating someone because they’re Black.
Racism is not allowing Black children to wear their hair naturally in school or Black adults to wear their hair naturally in the workplace.
Racism is an HR manager losing resumes with ethnic sounding names.
Racism is realtors not showing Black people houses in white neighborhoods.
Racism is the existence of white neighborhoods.
Racism is police pulling over Black people far more often than they pull over white people.
Racism is our prison system.
Systemic racism has hundreds of facets and ways that it is enforced.
One of those ways is trying to ban books that discuss race.
Children need to discuss race openly and without hesitation or uncomfortableness. Children need to learn about people who are of a different race than they are, and they need to learn about how race affects everyone. Children need to be taught about the problems in our system related to race so that they — along with all of us — can work to fix those problems. Ignoring discussions and banning books about race will not help anyone.
Same concept for the other bigotries I saw represented on that list.
Sexism is trying to ban books that discuss sexism and feminist ideas, including abortion.
Talking about trans, non-binary and gender fluid people, homosexuality, bisexuality or any other type of queer sexuality is not indoctrination. It is education. It is representation. It is normalization, because being queer or trans is normal, and everyone, especially children, need to know that their gender and sexuality — whatever it may happen to be — is normal and fine and accepted, because when children who are queer are made to feel that their sexuality or gender identity is abnormal or unusual or wrong — they kill themselves, or if they’re lucky they just end up with debilitating mental health problems.
If you would like to be a contributing factor to the mental anguish that can lead to suicide in young adults and teens, ban books about gender and sexuality. If you’d like to show your support for all children — openly and freely show your acceptance — all the time. Do not ban books whose main subjects are LGBTQ+ human beings and the unique challenges they face.
I’ve heard the argument that there are certain things — like homosexuality and gender issues — that should be left to the parents to explain to their children. Uh uh. Society talks openly and plainly about things that are heteronormative. Society is beginning to talk openly and plainly about LGBTQ+ issues which is part of why this list of banned books exists — because that still makes some people uncomfortable. Imagine how uncomfortable you would feel if those books that made certain folks so uncomfortable — were about your life story — were about you and who you are. Some people still have a problem with treating homosexuality the same way they treat heterosexuality. And the books on this list make that clear.
I want to make it clear that a refusal to openly discuss and completely accept every type of sexuality, gender and race is bigotry. My generation was trained, from birth, to keep quiet about certain topics. Thankfully attitudes are changing, and I am so thankful for that because that means that less children are growing up fearing to be exactly and proudly who they are. More children will grow up feeling accepted by their community and supported and loved for exactly who they are, not in spite of who they are.
We need this to happen. Every person in this room will benefit from it. And if we don’t, every person will suffer more than we already do.