What it means to be BANNED in DeSantistan (a.k.a. Florida)
An editorial cartoon, a note about THE TALK being banned in Florida, and a Candorville comic strip
This editorial cartoon is free, but paid subscribers a scroll down to view a fun Timelapse animation of the cartoon’s creation.
If Florida isn’t the dumbest of the fifty states, it’s certainly a contender for the title. I’ll explain in a moment.
My graphic memoir THE TALK is among 43 library books banned by Manatee County, FL. “All of the books were marked ‘inappropriate for grade level and age group’” according to the Bradenton Herald. “Five books include either fiction or
nonfiction accounts of racism, people of color being shot by police, or negative encounters with law enforcement… The complaints claimed the books have “racist commentary” and “misrepresent history and policing in America,” and one “promotes BLM (Black Lives Matter).”
White supremacists are easy to spot. They’re the ones who describe the condemnation of anti-Black racism, as “racist commentary”— the ones who say those who decry racism are “the real racists.” They dismiss Black people’s lived experiences, and Black people’s perspectives, as “misrepresentations” of history and policing. They react angrily to minorities who are simply telling their own stories. And as Lemont finds out in today’s Candorville, some of their ranks probably work as moderators at
Minorities telling our own stories from our own points of view isn’t just offensive to white supremacists, it’s illegitimate. You can spot white supremacists because they’re the ones gleefully and methodically breathing air into a bubble of mythology about America as the land of liberty, and then accusing minority authors of “indoctrinating children” because their stories just might puncture that bubble.
That gaslighting isn’t new. It’s something I explore in The Talk, and something Black Americans have experienced on a daily basis ever since the government betrayed them by ending Reconstruction several generations too soon. White supremacists in the South murdered dozens of Black elected officials, and many who weren’t slaughtered were imprisoned. Jim Crow laws immediately turned Black Americans back into endangered, second class citizens whose subjugation was codified in law, and whose voices were silenced. It was so thorough and effective that it was a major inspiration for Adolph Hitler’s NAZI movement.
The right wing, Hitler-quoting, book-banning Moms for Liberty extremist group is not comprised of historians, or scholars, or anyone with any particular experience or insight. Most of them probably haven’t read any of the books they insist should be banned. They’re willfully ignorant.
But no, that’s not why Florida is quite possibly the dumbest state in the Union. These far right fanatics are intelligent, and they’re operating from a playbook that’s led to the collapse of more than a few democracies.
They don’t want to read the experiences of Black people and other minorities they despise. But more than that, they don’t want others to read it either, lest they develop empathy. They don’t want children to learn the truth about our nation’s history, because children grow into adults who might have developed enough empathy to want to do something to correct the injustice, if only they’d had a chance to learn about it. White supremacist fascism cannot survive in a sea of empathetic people. But it can thrive on a raging river of outraged spittle, as I alluded to last March in this cartoon:
Florida is quite possibly the dumbest state in the union not because groups that weaponize ignorance operate there, but because so many voters allow those groups to succeed. In an intelligent state, voters elect leaders who don’t bow to fascism or stoke it. They elect leaders who - despite their many flaws - fight fascism as soon as it rears its head. In an intelligent state, parents take it upon themselves to organize immediate opposition.
Book banning isn’t just a right wing phenomenon. Leftists have also targeted books. The difference is in frequency, and reason.
While activists across the political spectrum have sought to restrict or protest some forms of literature, the vast majority of book challenges are from conservative-leaning groups, researchers say. Only a handful of efforts have also come from liberal sources, mainly targeting books with racist or offensive language.
It’s tempting to agree with those bans, considering how they seemed to successfully kill the spread of antisemitism and xenophobia in Europe after World War II. But those bans may not have had as much to do with it as it seemed. Seventy-five years after the war ended, most of those who lived through those times have died. The horrors of the Holocaust and the clarity of opinion about the evils of fascism have all but disappeared from living memory. And the same hateful right wing authoritarianism that’s ascendant in the United States, is also threatening to once again infest Europe. And that’s by design. The worst element of the United States inspired racist sadism in Europe a century ago, and it’s doing it again.
A decade or two from now, the history of these times will be written. Depending on how well we respond to the march of fascism in America and across much of the world, students may actually get to read that history. It’ll be a chapter about how in the early twenties, the American autocratic right were so cognizant of the power of literature that they fought to pull the books they feared most off the shelves. And I’m more than a little pleased that those students will find my book somewhere on that list.
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