These Cops Are Trying to Ban Books Exposing Police Brutality at a South Carolina School

Police outside of Charleston, South Carolina, don’t believe that high school students should read about police brutality. So even though two books on the subject were assigned on a summer reading list for a high school freshman class, local police made sure to express their objectionsThe Hate U Give is a book about a teenage girl dealing with the shooting of her unarmed best friend at the hands of police. All American Boys chronicles the experience of a teenage boy who is wrongly accused of stealing and then is beaten by a police officer. Both are award-winning books that made it on to the New York Times bestseller list. Neither book is required—they are two on a list of eight and students are only asked to choose one to read.

Instead of doing his actual job of, you know, protecting people, John Blackmon is incredibly concerned about the book selections. He is president of the Fraternal Order of Police Tri-County Lodge #3, a union that represents local, state and federal officers in the area. In an interview with local news, he claims that there is “an influx of tremendous outrage at the selections” and is subsequently demanding that the books be removed.

Who knows why he has so much time on his hands to worry about what teachers are doing in their classrooms with their students. But somehow, he does. And, in fact, he thinks these books are indoctrinating a culture of distrust and unnecessarily stoking animosity toward the police. He also thinks freshman students are far too young to have any meaningful interactions with police. He’s very wrong. Especially for students who live in low-income areas where police interactions are an unfortunate and regular part of life. 

“There are other socio-economic topics that are available and they want to focus half of their effort on negativity towards the police?” Blackmon said. “That seems odd to me.”

What’s odd, but not surprising, is how disconnected Blackmon is from reality. Police brutality is literally everywhere in our society—whether he chooses to see it or not. Young people are especially attuned to this. They repeatedly see and engage with videos and social media postings about the killing and abuse of unarmed people of color by police. And in Blackmon’s own state of South Carolina, in 2015, police officer Michael Slager was convicted of killing an unarmed black man, Michael Scott, and sentenced to 20 years in prison. That incident, where Slager shot Scott in the back as he was running away, was actually caught on video.

Blackmon’s notion that negativity directed at police in America is somehow not warranted is the height of privilege and ignorance. It’s also one of the ways that white supremacy culture is upheld. Insisting on young people having unearned loyalty and respect for police, without critique or question, isn’t freedom. It’s actually the same indoctrination Blackmon claims to be worried about. This is also interfering with a potential learning experience for students that reflects our current reality. Now that the police and parents have complained, the school is reviewing the reading list along with the teach who assigned it. So much for freedom of thought and a lack of censorship in education. Next stop: banning and burning books. It may sound like its hyperbolic, but in Trump’s America, anything is possible. 


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