Today is a sad day in Mudsville, people!
The ALSC (Association for Library Services to Children) announced that they are removing Laura Ingalls Wilder name from the award given to authors and illustrators who make significant contributions to children's literature. The reason? Her references to Native Americans as savages and Indians is a form of racism. It doesn't mater that those books reflect the history of the nation during the 1800s. All that matters is the, “ALSC has had to grapple with the inconsistency between Wilder’s legacy and its core values of inclusiveness, integrity and respect, and responsiveness through an award that bears Wilder’s name.” They add that it is no way "censorship." What? Of course it is.
Oxford's Living English Dictionary defines censorship as, "The suppression or prohibition of any parts of books, films, news, etc. that are considered obscene, politically unacceptable, or a threat to security."
Racism is a terrible thing. It denies the rights of certain individuals because of the color of their skin and opens the door to prejudice, isolation, and bigotry. I know what racism is first-hand. I am part Cherokee, however, I take after my Irish father. My siblings did not. They, like my mother, had a darker skin color, thick black hair, high cheek bones, and beautiful deep brown eyes. My first experience was when a teacher asked me, "if the little half-breed playing on the swings" was my sister. That teacher met with a kick to her knee, and I sat at home for a few days. Yes, even in the 1950s, Native Americans were considered inferior to whites. That being said, history is history.
America's forefathers, make that "our forefathers", fought Native Americans and took away their lands, their homes, their ability to hunt and feed their families, and denied them the right to practice their customs. They kept some as slaves (my great-grandmother was one), they forced the Five Civilized Tribes to walk the Trail of Tears, and tore apart families when they forced their young children to attend schools like Carlisle where they were prohibited to even speak their native tongue. History is full of atrocities like these within all nationalities, races, and governments.
So what is my problem with the removal of her name from the award? Two things.
First, to me it is the same as what the Nazi's did when they burned all books that did not paint their regime in a good light or that did not support their superiority. I can only imagine what it was like during those times for the authors who wrote anything that was considered "politically unacceptable". Don't you think the Nazi's removed names from awards?
Second, the only way we can move forward as a country--or as individuals--is to look back at the mistakes we made and take steps to never, never repeat them. The adage, "learn from your mistakes" is probably to most important thing we can do as human beings. If we followed that very simple advice, we would see history as a learning tool for the future.
I don't like American history portraying a peoples who were only fighting to protect their way of life as savages. However, that is the way the media, the wealthy businessmen who wanted what wasn't theirs, the politicians, and even the military portrayed them. And, that portrayal is evident in Laura Ingalls Wilder's stories about "Indians". She saw them as savages. To the world in the 1800s that is who Native Americans were. Are her books divisive and racist? Her world was, and that is the world she wrote about. We cannot change history. We can change the present and the future. Removing her name is a form of censorship, and a move, as far as I am concerned, in the wrong direction for real change.