Conservatives Come After Black Athlete Books In School Libraries

When discussing public schools and education in our country, nothing other than child safety and better pay for teachers rises higher than my interest in stopping the banning of books from classrooms and libraries. The fever about this issue seems to ebb and flow, depending on the need for book banners to deflect from some other embarrassing issue in their partisan tent, or to create a culture war atmosphere designed to roil the base. Since book banning has always been scorned and ridiculed throughout history, it does beg the question as to why conservatives seem so hell-bent on picking up the torch.

I read what can only be called an alarming story about the 20th largest school district in the nation, that being Duval County Florida.  It was there that three children’s books that narrate the lives of Black sports personalities—heroes, in fact for many–were pulled from the school library shelves.  We know the books tell the stories of these men who fought through racism to reach great heights in their profession. 

The books are:

The entire school system should not be made to suffer the loss of these books because some white parents cannot accept how racism absolutely did pervade almost every aspect of our society. That these three sports figures did find ways to be resolute and determined to rise and stand atop their peers should be applauded.  If it makes some students recalibrate their thinking about history and racism and come to realize their parents might be the ones who need some books to read, all the better.

This absurdity is the result of Potomac Fever that has made Governor Ron DeSantis forget the needs of his constituents as he covets the votes of the harshest conservative elements in early primary states. Creating a battle over censorship of books about racism and LGBTQ issues will only warm him to right-wing activists heading into 2024.  With Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay Law” and the flawed history instruction about racism there is no doubt as to the reasons people around the country must be engaged so to stop this activity locally.  (Wherever one might live.)

During the 2022 midterm elections, I became aware of (yet another needlessly contentious) school board election about books and racism. I repeat, in 2022. At the heart of the matter were two books at the Greenville High School in Michigan that some parents found to be ‘beyond the pale’. They were Looking for Alaska and Me, Earl and the Dying Girl, books that one might not read in Sunday school, but knowing schools are an arena of education for broadening minds and knowledge allows these critically acclaimed books to be totally appropriate.

Looking for Alaska, published in 2005 by author John Green, is an award-winning young adult novel that focuses on themes of meaning, grief, hope, and youth-adult relationships. Me, Earl and the Dying Girl is a New York Times bestselling book published in 2012 by author Jesse Andrews, and is described as being about an awkward teen, his friend, and a girl with terminal cancer.  Both books remain on the shelves and that decision then pitted book banners against actual educators in the November election. This blogger was heartened to learn after the balloting that the educators prevailed.

When I write about doggedly fighting at the local level to stop the book banners perhaps no more incentive as to why pushing back against the madness is doable than what occurred in Boise, Idaho. High school student Shiva Rajbhandari was elected to the school board and defeated an incumbent who steadfastly refused to reject an endorsement from a local right-wing extremist group that pushed to censor local libraries. Most times all that is required to stop a book banner is for one person to stand up and clearly state what needs to be heard about the freedom to read a book of one’s choice.

For several years, I worked with the local literacy council.  My student for most of that time was a wonderful woman from Iran who wanted to read with more comprehension and be able to talk about the headlines of the day. I grew up in a home where books were emphasized at every turn and given as gifts at the holidays.  My Dad was from the depression era and only attended school through the 8th grade, but every Friday night drove me to the small local public library for books to last a week.  He knew the power of a book.  We all must feel the same as he did when raising me.

As book-banning stories percolate around the nation, but mostly in red states, I was struck by an antidote to the madness which landed in my email recently.  It makes for a perfect ending to this post.

Donald Trump’s Weak Efforts To Deflect From Looming Legal Woes

President Nixon with Anwar Sadat waving from a motorcade through Alexandria, Egypt June 12, 1974.

It once was a trait of sitting presidents that when domestic politics became unbearable a foreign trip was planned to divert attention and showcase the power and skills of a leader. Perhaps the most prime example of such a transparent move was when President Richard Nixon took his phlebitis-ridden leg to Egypt to talk with President Sadat. With an open-air motorcade, the beleaguered Watergate figure waved to the cheering throngs.  It did make for powerful imagery on evening newscasts and morning papers across the United States. It was but a mere respite because in the end the law always prevails.

Late Saturday night I thought of Nixon in Egypt as I read some of the news reports following Donald Trump’s campaign appearances earlier that day. Apart from the oddly disjointed packaging of his remarks and his clear desire to undermine Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, I asked a question as to why a sudden need to be in front of a group of people to make a headline at this time?  After all, Trump has been mostly invisible since his announcement to seek the 2024 Republican presidential nomination in late 2022. As with most political moves, regardless of person or party, I like to know what drives and motivates action.

Early Monday morning it became clear as to why Trump was trying to insert a headline over the weekend so as to divert and deflect from the real news about the one-termer.  The Manhattan district attorney’s office began presenting evidence to a grand jury about Trump’s role in paying hush money to porn star Stormy Daniels during his 2016 presidential campaign.  This is the brick-by-brick construction of potential criminal charges that District Attorney Alvin Bragg needs to bring his case to fruition. There was no need to further grasp the weight of the matter than to know David Pecker, the former publisher of The National Enquirer, was seen entering the courthouse with his lawyer early in the morning. 

Meanwhile, in the famed Fulton County case things were far beyond simmering as we read last week that District Attorney Fani Willis stated in court that decisions in the case were “imminent”.  This case has been fascinating to follow as it has grown and would appear to be not only the first to press charges against Trump but also legal actions that have burrowed the fastest into the fake elector issue, a highly troubling attempted illegal power grab by an autocrat.

The case started when Trump called Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and made a statement that proves his disdain for our election processes and any notion of common decency.  Trump asked if the Georgian could “find” the votes needed to overturn Trump’s narrow election loss in the state to Joe Biden. 

“All I want to do is this: I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have,” Trump said on the call.

It then comes as no surprise with these legal developments percolating in various states and the heat increasing daily Trump would seek out his own ‘Nixon Cairo moment’. Needless to say, Trump lacks in the finer arts of politics and optics.  In his meandering comments from behind a podium, and even with a teleprompter, Trump was trying to dodge his future problems. He tried to deter the GOP from siding closer to DeSantis. Trump claimed that the Florida governor was “trying to rewrite history” regarding the Covid pandemic. “There are Republican governors that did not close their states,” he said and then added, “Florida was closed for a long period of time.” 

Michael Cohen wrote a stinger of a column this morning with this pithy take on the weekend events, most cutting and too true.

This feels oddly unfair to DeSantis. Few governors have gone to greater lengths to ensure their state’s citizens are exposed to and die from COVID-19 … and he’s not even getting any credit from the former president. FFS, what does a Republican have to do to imperil the lives of their constituents and get rewarded for it?

Nixon could escape the heat and investigations by standing on the world stage with power all about him.  In contrast, to see Trump squirm for headlines and try to deflect from his future legal woes seems akin to a small boy putting on his dad’s suit. For now, at least, not an orange suit.

Sadat and Nixon 1974

Treating Migrants Humanely On National Radar Following Ron DeSantis’ Racist Actions

Racist tactics by conservatives have always been ugly

We know what plays to approval on Fox News in the evening hours when profoundly ridiculous notions and racist attitudes are presented. We also know those same views will meet strong disagreement and rejection from large swaths of the nation that is not wedded to the absurd network. What makes the FOX crowds giddy does not translate well to the nation as a whole. A case in point would be the plain mean-spirited abuse of migrants at the hands of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. 

This was underscored when a new poll from Reuters-Ipsos was published Friday which showed that only a third of Americans think it’s appropriate for Republican governors to fly or bus migrants to other states. Half of the Republicans polled and only 1 in 6 Democrats said it was something in which they could agree. Twenty-nine percent of Republicans and 55 percent of Democrats say they opposed the practice. Forty-five percent–including 63 percent of Democrats and 31 percent of Republicans–said state leaders transporting migrants were committing illegal migrant trafficking.

The poll is reflective of the mood in the nation following the awful news of flying migrants thousands of miles across the country to Martha’s Vineyard.  The island off Massachusetts only has 17,000 year-round residents, and as we know from news reports this spring has housing problems for their workers who arrive during the warm months as tourists roam about.  Making a purely partisan point with the lives of migrants was unseeingly, and immoral.

It is truly troubling that some Republican pols are comfortable with the use and manipulation of people–vulnerable migrants—for the single purpose of scoring points with white voters who willingly watch FOX News. That network does not present migrants as human beings fleeing dreadful conditions in their homelands or that they seek to work hard or will find many businesses in every sector in each state wishing to hire them.  (Jobs, it needs noting, those same white FOX News viewers will not fill.)

I noted on my Twitter feed a slice from history that made a strong point about this situation.  The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library posted a tweet comparing the DeSantis racism with the “reverse Freedom Rides” that occurred in the 1960s in our nation. 

“To embarrass Northern liberals and humiliate Black people, southern White Citizens Councils started their so-called ‘Reverse Freedom Rides,’ giving Black people one-way tickets to northern cities with false promises of jobs, housing, and better lives”.

Americans know racism when they see it, and the strong rebuke of DeSantis that was registered across the nation has made one point most clear. Stop using migrants as political pawns.