Stop reading now if you still believe in Santa Claus.
He doesn’t exist, folks. Neither does the Easter Bunny or the Tooth Fairy, and Harry Potter isn’t real either. But here’s the kicker: five years from now, Harry Potter may not exist as you know him. He may be next in line for a big fat dose of censorship.
As if I haven’t felt orphaned enough all of my life with the young death of my mother and the emotional detachment of my father, now I am finding out that some of my best friends aren’t who I thought they were – that their integrity was no more real than Mary Poppins.
I’ve known for ages that works of Mark Twain have been banned from schools based upon its language. My thought on that is “If you’re going to be ashamed of it later, don’t do it to begin with.” Twain was simply using the slang of the times, but we want to clean up our history with a nice whitewash (pun intended – if you don’t get it, go acquaint yourself with Tom Sawyer). So, not only were kids everywhere being deprived of this great adventure story, but now someone wants to make sure history is shined up with an artificial polish. “Like all great works, the book must be read with an understanding of the mores and lexicon of its time.” I can’t help but fantasize about the dressing down Mr. Clemens would have given modern editors if he could stand before them today, but his stance has been shouted from the grave, in the original text of his stories.
Few writers have regrets about their work. Not after all of the effort that went into its creation, and the bloody paper trail leading to its audience.
Today I was disheartened to see a list of other stories that, over the years, have been stripped of their rights to give voice to their authors. Charlie And The Chocolate Factory: “Originally, the Oompa Loompas were black Pygmies who happily worked for Wonka in return for all the chocolate they could eat (but no pay). Accused of racism, Roald Dahl changed the text and illustrations to tone down the offensive material.”
Nancy Drew: “Yes, dear reader, even Nancy Drew, first published in 1932, is full of racist and anti-immigrant depictions. These were removed when the books were updated in later years, in response to numerous complaints.”
And even if you’ve never heard of Little Black Sambo, I’m sure you can figure out the issue there. Sambo wandered off with the likes of Uncle Remus into a happy, lyrical sunset where bluebirds tweet a tasteful melody while perching on the shoulders of a white maiden girl who sits waiting for her dashing prince.
To take words from anyone by denying them access to stories, to music, to any kind of artistic expression at all is no better than deliberately blinding each generation to come. How can we expand their minds by closing our own?
All of my life, I’ve been censored, except for one place: on paper. And whether I’m reading about Huck’s adventures on the big river with Nigger Jim, or listening to Ice Cube’s rhymes telling me a story today of the ‘hood, they’re all tales that don’t deserve to be rewritten with an eraser or baked into a forbidden fruit pie. If I’d never heard the bigotry of Archie Bunker, I might never have been inspired to speak against such issues. He was a man of his times, and God bless Norman Lear for holding up that mirror.
It’s my choice to be offended, or to learn with an open mind. The words I string together today will show the future my own history of the world I grew up in. I wonder how long after I’m dead that an editor will shoot their arrow into my back with their self-righteous bravado?
"Where I'm from, we believe in all sorts of things that aren't true... we call it history." – Gregory Maguire, Wicked: The Life And Times Of The Wicked Witch Of The West.
© Kymberlie Ingalls
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