By Keeping My Books Banned, Central York, PA School Board Has Chosen Crass Censorship Over Meaningful Dialogue
by Nkechi Taifa
What in the heck is going on with my brand-new friends in the Central York, PA. school board, the ones who gave me such a great assist promoting my soon-to-be re-issued books by publicly banning them, causing the local NAACP publicly complain?
First, the board bans my works — Shining Legacy, (which at that time included Three Tales of Wisdom) and Reparations Yes — and quite a few other books by Black and Latinx authors — part of a multicultural resource guide for the public school district.
After that, weekday in-person protests in front of the board headquarters ensued, sponsored by the Panther Anti-Racist Union (go, students!) and concerned parents and faculty.
Then, on Monday, only hours before the board was going to meet again, the board superintendent, Michael Snell, retires.
Then, at that meeting later that night, the board moves to Zoom, so as to not deal with any riled-up cubs, I guess.
Here’s what the Board President Jane Johnson said, in a statement, about the banning: “The board believes that the fundamental purpose of school is that of core academics, objective education without indoctrination from any political or social agenda, and we look forward to the forthcoming review of the list and bringing balance to our classrooms.”
“Objective?” “Balance?” Searching my personal historical database, I’m sure I’ve heard those words before. Whose objective? Balanced on what scale?
Here’s what Veronica Gemma, the board vice-president, said about the list: “We will not teach a curriculum that teaches division and hate.”
(Louis Lomax to Elijah Muhammad, from 1959’s documentary The Hate That Hate Produced: “Do you teach hate?” Muhammad: “No.” Lomax: “What do you teach?” Muhammad: “Truth.”)
Now, here’s what’s really interesting: reportedly, many of the books on the list are in the district’s middle school library.
So real books about real racism and white supremacy are good enough to have on hand as references for those youth, but not to be taught to them directly? Why not?
Well, here’s apparently the answer from Mike Wagner, a board member: “This isn’t going to be a popular thing I’m going to say, but my feeling is the reason we got this list to where it is because there were members on the board who did not trust the teachers to do their jobs, and, second, we did not trust the administration to do their jobs when it came to this list.”
Wow! No, it’s not, Mike. But it’s instructive. Thanks. I’m sure Central York’s teachers and administrators appreciated such a public show of support.
So, the board wants to “vet” the list so the dangerous, untrustworthy district teachers and administrators won’t subconsciously slip and say historically bad words.
Is what’s going on in Central York like that line made famous in that 20th-century classic film Cool Hand Luke, “What we have here is a failure to communicate?” Is it also, as Wagner, says, a failure of trust of teachers and their bosses?
Why are the teachers and administrators suspect but the librarians get a pass?
What is going on is simple: the list of resources pushes the students and teachers to confront brutal truths about America. So those realities must be vetted and purged as much as possible before the students ask too many pointed and uncomfortable questions about Pennsylvania, America and the world.
Too late, I think.
The new school superintendent was recently named and has been appointed. His name is Dr. Peter J. Aiken. Let’s see what he does. And then let’s see how the young Panther cubs and parents respond.
Nkechi Taifa is an attorney and author of an upcoming trilogy of books for children: Shining Legacy, The Adventures of Kojo and Ama, and Three Tales of Wisdom.