As Olin Library celebrates Banned Books Week, we should consider why our culture condemns “banned” books.
How does the practice of banning, burning, and defacing books further the marginalization of certain groups and limit the importance of diverse representations of the human experience?
Censorship is a tool to suppress narratives that people in power consider inappropriate for individuals to have access to. Those narratives conveniently tend to be those that reflect a diverse range of voices and experiences.
The result, of course, is that primarily straight, white experiences are represented and therefore normalized, while anything that diverges from this norm is considered deviant.
The restriction of the literature that people have access to and the consequent lack of representation and diversity that they see can have a serious impact on their ability to understand and empathize with a range of experiences.
The homogenization of literature also fuels the potential alienation that people questioning their identities or coming from underrepresented and marginalized communities may undergo.
In the current political climate of growing intolerance and fear of difference, it is increasingly important for books to reflect the wide scope of human experience.
Books that present a multitude of narratives allow divergence from the mainstream to be presented as natural, normal, and a facet of human life that deserves to be considered with acceptance and love.
Exposure to stories and voices unlike one’s own can help one learn to approach other people with empathy and kindness—values that we should all exemplify and hold as crucial and uncompromisable.
Furthermore, people that do not find themselves in the so-called norm or mainstream can find media that represent them and treat them with gentleness deeply empowering.
Events like Banned Books Week are important because of the discourse they spark around media censorship. It also challenges the idea that banning certain books is universally unacceptable or taboo.
Banned Books Week will continue until Saturday.