Sarah Sense-Wilson just wants to do what is right for kids like her daughter. That's why she's petitioning Seattle Public Schools to ban the book "Brave New World" from its approved reading list.
Sense-Wilson, who is Native American, is upset that her daughter, a high school student, was required to read the controversial work, based on its repeated use of the world "savage" to refer to Native Americans.
I understand her concern over this derogatory, painful word and what it invokes. Yes, the word is loaded. But there is no word in the English language, no matter how offensive, that we should refuse to expose ourselves to in any context because doing so would undermine our collective responsibility to our history as a country.
It's not uncommon for parents to object to specific literature because of racially derogative language. Take Huck Finn and the n-word; the book is so controversial and "offensive" it's banned by school districts here and across the country.
Over the years I've heard all the excuses and rationales for why Huck Finn should be banned including accusations the author was an unapologetic racist who hated Black people, which isn't true, by the way.
Folks say the book relied unnecessarily on racial stereotypes and glorified a Southern antebellum society well out of date at the time it was published. For most, the book's biggest crime is that it uses the n-word. Often. Some have even argued reading the book is a traumatizing and degrading experience for Black students.
In banning Huck Finn because of the n-word, we lose, not just an opportunity to discuss and understand the social construct of racism in American society, but we deny ourselves and our kids the essential opportunity to study one of the best, or at least one of the most controversial works of American literature we've ever had.
When taught appropriately, books like Huck Finn and Brave New World are platforms to discuss and better understand the fallible concept of racial, intellectual superiority. It cuts to the original intention of the mere idea of the forced identity known as the nigger or the savage, and the equally false concept of White superiority.
It is a crime to refuse reading these books and experiencing these ultimate, teachable moments -- because of the use of a single word.
Leave Brave New World on the school library shelves. The concept of the savage is not exclusively a Native American burden; it's a burden for us all to carry. None of us should run from it or try and deny it simply because it causes pain.
When we distance ourselves from the hurtful aspects of history, we condemn ourselves to experience them again.