South Carolina Cops Have Thoughts On Your High School Reading List
Cops in South Carolina are not at all happy about two books on a high school summer reading list for college-prep English, complaining that the books -- which kids can choose not to read -- supposedly advance an anti-police agenda. Heaven knows innocent high schoolers would never encounter the notion that white cops mistreat unarmed black males if they weren't exposed to these terrible, terrible books. Especially not at Wando High School in Mt. Pleasant, just across the bridge from Charleston, where Walter Scott was shot dead, in the back, by a cop who then tried to plant a taser on Scott's body. Shame on those leftist teachers!
The books, The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas and All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely, are among four choices available for summer reading by students in advance of their 9th-grade English 1 class. Students only need to read one novel, but apparently plots involving one of the top issues kids think about is utterly inappropriate to the poor embattled members of the Fraternal Order of Police for Tri-County Lodge #3. FOP president John Blackmon told local teevee station WCBD that he had received "hundreds" of outraged messages from angry cops and parents about the terrible evil books -- although the intrepid reporters didn't ask him to share any proof of that claim. In any case, said Blackmon, reading books will make young people not love Officer Friendly, who only wants to help:
Freshmen, they're at the age where their interactions with law enforcement have been very minimal. They're not driving yet, they haven't been stopped for speeding, they don't have these type of interactions. This is putting in their minds, it's almost an indoctrination of distrust of police and we've got to put a stop to that.
Yes, kids are such impressionable little things, and there's no way teenagers in the Charleston area would ever come across the notion that cops aren't trustworthy. Best to have police pre-approval for all reading assignments, even the optional ones.
The Hate U Give is about a young black girl who sees her best friend get killed by a white cop during a traffic stop, which is such an absurdly unlikely scenario that it certainly isn't worth a fictional treatment. While we haven't read any of the offerings (looks like we may have to; and by the way, those Amazon linkies include a kickback to Yr Wonkette), we're sure that Offisa B is completely right and that it's a wholly negative depiction of police as irredeemable racists. Sure would be embarrassing for him if that turned out not to be the case, huh? Let's see if the anti-censorship group CBLDF has a counterpoint, maybe?
Block neglected to mention that The Hate U Give also depicts a police officer as one of the strong moral centers, a father figure, and positive role model for the main character Starr in the book [...] Starr's Uncle Carlos is a detective on the same police force and remains a strong counterpoint to the the officer who shot Khalil.
Oh lord, you certainly can't expect children to grapple with complexity, can you? All police must be heroes, not just some, exactly as they are in reality and 1950s TV shows.
The other challenged book, All American Boys, is about a black teen, Rashad, wrongly accused by a white cop of shoplifting and then beaten up for "resisting arrest" because he won't "STAY STILL" while getting pummeled. Again, the sort of thing that's so completely impossible to imagine that only a crazed liberal propagandist could make it up. The beating is on video, and witnessed by Quinn, a white basketball-star classmate of Rashad's, who initially pretends he didn't see it, but has to decide whether to speak up. To add moral complexity, the cop who beats Rashad is also his surrogate father, who saved Quinn from a life of trouble after Quinn's dad died in Afghanistan. Yes, we are talking YA novel soap opera here, but that also suggests the cop is hardly a one-dimensionally evil guy, no? The book swaps POV between the boys as the school and the community become divided over the incident.
Both books have won multiple awards, including the Coretta Scott King Honor, and both spent weeks on the New York Times bestseller list for YA fiction. The Hate U Give has been pulled from class reading lists after angry parents in Texas and Missouri complained about bad words, a description of a party "smelling like weed," and a mention of boys dancing "so close to girls they just about need condoms," which suggests author Angie Thomas is not a good Baptist. The Hate U Give (it can be acronymed as THUG!) has also been adapted as a film, due out in October, so its entirely possible the FOP will help boost ticket sales in the Charlotte area.
All American Boys has made its way to the ALA's list of frequently challenged books as well, although it's also been the focus of two separate NPR pieces praising it for sparking no-easy-answers discussions about race and policing. Yes, the coastal elites like it, so it must be put in its place.
The other books on the list are Love Letters to the Dead (a girl writes letters to famous dead people like Kurt Cobain, Janis Joplin, and Amelia Earhart) and 23 Minutes(a girl discovers she can "rewind" time and change things -- but only the last 23 minutes. She witnesses a deadly bank robbery, of course). They apparently didn't bother the FOP, because dead celebrities and science fiction won't turn kids into cop-killing thugs. Lesson to YA writers: Dress up your social commentary in fantasy, and then the cops will leave your books alone.
As we all know, public employees like teachers should never bring politics into their work. That's best left to police unions. Now we're just waiting for the complaints from firefighters' unions about Fahrenheit 451.
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[Comic Book Legal Defense Fund / WCBD / All American Boys / The Hate U Give/ NPR / NPR]
Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.