Op-Ed: Clinging to old classics can go hand in hand with banning books
In a recent op-ed, a prominent critic of the “Banned Books Week” promoted the idea that banning books leads to better books. “If books are banned because they are offensive, why not ban them if they aren’t?” the critic asked. “To me, the difference is that Banned Books Week is a special occasion to bring attention to censorship, while reading banned books is the norm and we are part of that.”
The critic’s logic is that we should read only banned books, and that books should be banned only when they are offensive rather than on a whim. But what if such an approach were applied to everything we read?
One of the most common responses to the idea that books should be banned when they’re written by white males rather than any other group has to do with the fact that white males make up the majority of writers. While this is an important point, there’s a much more important reason why we should keep reading what our white male author friends have written: because we already have books in our lives by the same white male authors.
The books we already own are what we live in, whether we like them or not.
What if books were banned because they were written by white males — and not because they were offensive. Or because they were written by people of color, and not by white people. Or in some other way harmful? Or if they were deemed a historical document, instead of a personal collection? Maybe they were written by women, and not by men? Or by people who were born before the founding of the United States, and not after? Or were written during an age when people in that group were not allowed to read or write?
What would we be left with if all books were banned, whether our favorite writers were white dudes or any other race?
We’d be left with lots of books, many without a single female or any other group writers.
But we do have a lot of books, even by white guys, by women and people of color. And they are a part of our lives, whether we like it or not. Some have become classics, helping to change lives both in the short-term and over generations. Others have been abandoned over time by their writers,