What Can YOU Do?
“I’m so sorry you’re going through this.”
“I’m here if you need to talk.”
“Don’t read the comments.”
“How can I help?”
“What do you need?”
A close friend of mine is a fantastic teacher. Her colleagues know it. Her students and their parents know it. Her teacher’s union knows it. But her administration isn’t over the moon for her. And they’ve done some pretty demoralizing, petty, threatening, and illegal things to close her down. See, the thing is, my friend knows right from wrong. She knows the value of learning, professionalism, respect, and unity. And when she sees something, she says something.Isn’t that we try to teach the next generation? I see that on my bus every day. And today, on Martin Luther King Jr Day, when we celebrate his birth and the importance of his words and actions, I think about the words that he is known for,
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
As librarians, we know that censorship happens. If we don’t see it first hand, we’ve heard about it at a neighboring library or from a colleague. Maybe we’ve read an article that has shocked us; or saddened us. And there will come a day when you will witness it and you will have to decide what your role will be. Will you send a private message to the librarian? Will you support them in the struggle of a challenge? Are you quietly glad that you’re not in the spotlight? Are you scared that if you say something, the spotlight will widen and you’ll be hit? What would happen if more people joined in the spotlight? If one person becomes two and two people become ten, would a point about what is right and wrong be made? If you hear that a book is removed from library shelves and there is a board meeting to discuss, what will your role be?
My friend, the teacher, was put on administrative leave for circulating a petition about standardized testing. When news reached the parents, petitions were circulated by parents, students, and community members alike, demanding her return to the classroom. Many people reached out to her on Facebook and her response is this;
“I need you to choose strength over fear and to continue to speak up for what is right. Yes, what happened to me was scary. But what would have been even scarier is if nothing had been said at all. Silence is how issues go unaddressed and problems go unsolved. And some pretty scary things happen when nobody speaks up and says “That’s not right.” So when you contemplate what happened to me, do not look at it through a lens of fear and apprehension. Instead, look at all of the people who stood up and said “That’s enough” and went on to work towards righting a wrong and making sure my voice was heard. If the result of my experience is silence, then fear and intimidation win. But if, instead, people are inspired to stand up, and speak the truth, then something good can truly come from travesty. That is what I need the most.”