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David Thomson: Moving books would be ill-conceived, unfair

To the editor:

The pain felt by families of color who must explain to their children the racist depictions of blacks in the “Tintin” series is unquestioned. I feel deeply for them. But that is not a reason to censor the books. I commend the Jones Library for their difficult but absolutely necessary and correct decision not to remove these books from the children’s shelves where they belong.

The “Tintin” books are filled with stereotypes, some uglier than others. They are racist and have stereotypical depictions of blacks, Jews, orientals, American Indians. White American males are most often greedy businessmen or gangsters and women have almost no role at all. Despite these sometimes appalling flaws, the books are great reading and can stir the imagination of children and adults alike.

Moving these books out of the children’s room would be the easy solution. It would appease the real pain of those hurt by the racist depictions. It would however be the wrong thing to do. Like the ill-conceived nut ban this fall or the infamous cancellation of “West Side Story” several years ago, it would appease a few, salve our consciences and be unfair and hurtful to many others.

David Thomson Northampton

Legacy Comments1

With all respect to Mr. Thomson's thoughtful letter, this reasoning is exactly what's wrong with how these discussions play out in the valley. Conflating very different issues, he states "Like the ill-conceived nut ban this fall or the infamous cancellation of “West Side Story” several years ago, it would appease a few, salve our consciences and be unfair and hurtful to many others." Different cases where decisions are made or requested in order to "appease a few" are, in the end, different cases. I recognize that people want to draw a line against what they see as political correctness run amok, but turning the presence of Tintin in the Congo in the children's section into a do or die moment for freedom of speech is questionable. And, frankly, it's a little perverse to equate a student's right to eat a peanut butter sandwich in school to treating Tintin in Congo as appropriate literature for small children. I have to admit, I might have agreed with Mr. Thomson, or simply not have cared, a few weeks ago. But this discussion has drummed up some sentiments that I think reflect poorly on our communities and how they understand things the purpose of free speech or the day-to-day realities of minority children.

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