Libraries and libraries are facing efforts to hide books from black people, LGBTI people

When the Anderson Bookstore in Naperville announced on June 9 that someone was taking books off their displays and hiding them in the store, they didn’t specify what kind of books were being taken.

I postulated that the hidden volumes were books about gay youth and trans-acceptance, that part of human behavior that is currently designated for particular harassment by those who feel entitled to place limits on human nature that increase their comfort.

But this is not the type of book intended.

“Any book with a cover on which a person of color appears is covered,” explained Ginny Wehrli-Hemmeter, director of events and marketing at Anderson’s, one of the largest independent bookstores in the Chicago area.

About 50 books were found folded behind other books. The police have been notified; A man was caught red-handed.

And my next thought – that this must be a strange anomaly – wasn’t correct. Could people be offended by a children’s book scene about Jackie Robinson? In 2022? I guess this must be the handiwork of some lonely haters in the western suburbs who indulge in fixable acts of racism.

Unfortunately, this is not the case.

Banner posted at Anderson Library in Naperville.

Anderson’s Bookshop notes that they have always been an advocate for diversity, as evidenced by the store’s banner posted on their Facebook page, and their management is grateful for the outpouring of community support after they announced that the Juneteenth show was being hidden.

While other large independent bookstores in and around Chicago—Book Stall in Winnetka, Powell’s in Hyde Park—do not report similar vigilante abuse, they are endemic to public libraries across the country.

“Highly targeted books are about the lives and experiences of LGBT people,” said Deborah Caldwell Stone, director of the Office of Intellectual Freedom at the Chicago-based American Library Association.

But it is by no means limited to them. Black people’s lives are also a special focus, she added, “with the misconception that books about black people are a kind of ‘critical race theory.’ There is a lot of rhetoric that is used to discredit this material. It’s really tragic.”

Caldwell Stone said that rather than being the work of isolated guards, these purges are organized in plain sight. She pointed to “Hide Pride,” an effort by Catholic Foote, which encourages people to review books that include gender issues en masse from public libraries to avoid the risk that a child will see one.

“they have website, a social media presence,” Caldwell Stone said. “It is amazing to see that they have the idea that public libraries are just for them, and they should take action to sterilize the library of material that reflects the lives of gay, lesbian and transgender people. It is a real effort to silence the voices of the communities that are finally finding a place on the public stage in our society so that we can understand the experiences of others.”

CatholicVote’s website explains what it wants parents to do.

“Go to the children’s section and take all the Pride Month books off the shelves,” the book directs parents, asking them to review the books, then “put the Pride books on a shelf out of children’s reach.”

Their website shares before-and-after photos of libraries stockpiled by parents who, dissatisfied with simply raising their own children, have appointed themselves as moral guardians of everyone else’s children as well, no matter what belief or philosophy these same parents fancy as a free exercise.

The CatholicVote . website contains

CatholicVote’s “Hide the Pride” website contains photos of book shows that parents have stripped clean of.

Brian Burch, president of Madison-based CatholicVote, estimates that perhaps 50 or 100 bookstore books have been removed by members.

“We have urged parents to exercise responsibility in their community to remove what we believe are inappropriate books from these exhibits, so the innocence of children is protected,” he said. “These books provoke conversations that are best for families, in the time, place, and manner of the parents’ choice—not the libraries.”

Some of these books include pictures of sexual acts, Burch said, and libraries should store them where they can only be accessed by adults.

He did not specify exactly what kind of harm such books are supposed to cause, except to point out that their presence in libraries undermines the rights of parents to tightly control what their children learn about life. It makes me ask: Should children be taught that gays and transgender people exist?

“I think that’s a question that every parent has to decide for themselves,” Burch said. “We shouldn’t have taxpayer-funded institutions teaching kids about it.”

Since any group could put the word “Catholic” in their name, and with the intent of not allowing “Vote Catholics” to be the undisputed spokesperson for a great faith, I reached out to the Archdiocese of Chicago to get their point of view on the matter. They did not disappoint.

“Not everything that calls themselves ‘Catholic’ is actually part of our church,” said Paula Waters, the Archdiocese’s chief communications officer. “CatholicVote is not a Catholic organization, it is not part of the church, is endorsed by the church or has anything to do with the church. It has no standing. It is a PAC and appears to be well funded.”

Before we finish, let’s review the dynamics of bullying. First, bullies must do themselves harm. They are the victims – or their children, anyway. Thus, their aggressive actions are justified. In doing so, reality is reversed: Books that reassure transgender youth, or celebrate black history, do not open the door to acceptance for groups that have been abused and marginalized by haters for years. No, they Recruitment Efforts to wean children of haters away from what some parents should consider too mild tendencies, or to make them feel bad, because their ancestors were the kind who built America’s wretched 400-year racist past.

Like voter fraud, the harm to children by encountering such books is deeply feared and is entirely theoretical. It leads to a completely inverted view, in which the powerful Catholic Church – as conceived by a certain segment of believers – is invoked as a defense against the possibility of a Kindergarten in Tutu examining a book suggesting that they might also be children of a god.

Haters succeed so much that they make people think the merits of an unfounded cause. I’m sure some black readers don’t want to be cramped with LGBTQ people – totally different situations! They should realize that this is not about them, not really. It’s about bullying and insecure people identifying themselves with who they aren’t, thus oppressing anyone who can escape the oppression. The specific victim hardly matters, and it changes like fashion. The key is to choose a group that is abundant enough to be portrayed as a threat but rare enough to be unable to make a strong defense. Race, gender, and religion, is exactly the same impulse – to go after something that is different from you, to keep it out of sight, because their presence might suggest some other way than your life.

But it is not ethical. untenable. It is not a good breeding. It is the value system of the Inquisition. Jews might find themselves burned in their synagogues, again, if the law did not disregard it.

Let’s finish with Deborah Caldwell Stone of the American Library Association providing the bad news for those who somehow missed the memo.

“Public libraries are community institutions that aim to serve everyone,” she said. We are a diverse and plural society. We must hold our public institutions accountable for this diversity and ensure that everyone is included in the library. Everyone should find books that reflect their lives and needs. Everyone is a taxpayer who supports the library, which should anticipate and celebrate diversity of viewpoints, and diversity of identities in society. To understand it just because someone else’s story on the shelf doesn’t take away from you.”