We say we want equity.
We say we want equality.
We say we want to teach social justice.
That we want our kids to be awake, to be critical, to be citizens who not just consume information, but tear it apart, ask the hard questions and then draw their own conclusions. Who stand up, who fight for what they know is right, who knows what it means to be afraid of the decisions they make but still keep fighting.
We want them to feel safe with us.
To matter with us.
To be something even more than they were before with us.
We say we want to teach all children and help them discover their superpowers so that they too believe that they can be someone.
But our censored libraries tell different stories.
Our libraries tell us of the fear we feel.
The decisions we make.
The way we exclude without meaning to.
The way we keep the white, cis-gender, hetero norm the norm.
The way we perpetuate the privilege so many of us live.
When we say we want equity we cannot shout those words without looking at the equity that our libraries represent.
Do we have all our children’s stories represented?
Can all of our children find themselves in our books?
Can those who are not ready to label themselves find the answer they may not even know they needed within our pages?
Can those who feel marginalized, disenfranchised, rejected find a home within the pages of the books we place on our shelves?
Can those who mainstream society tend to label as “other” find a representation of the normal being they are? One that is not other, but one that just is?
I get that we are afraid to offend. I get that we are afraid for our jobs. I get that we worry about backlash, pushback, and questioning. But perhaps that is why we became teachers so that we can fight for those who society has tried so hard to silence? So that our voices can join those whose voices are just a whisper.
So that we can stand up for those who do not have the armor of white privilege, of hetero privilege, of middle-class privilege, of cisgender privilege and say that their stories are part of the human story and therefore deserves to be in the very books we hand to children. And once we are standing up, we can give them our space, so that they can reclaim the void that society wants to keep them in.
I cannot say that I teach all children if I do not have all children’s stories represented on my shelves. It’s as simple, and as complicated as that.
Don’t forget that not being able to find yourself in a story is not just a tragedy, it is a complete erasure of your identity. One that we easily can forget when our own identity is constantly represented.
So fight for yourself. Fight for your books. Fight on and fight hard. All of our children are counting on us.
PS: If you want to be smarter, follow my friend Dana Stachowiak.