North Carolina is making international headlines again specifically in Randolph County. On September 16, the Randolph County School Board took the book Invisible Man out of public school libraries by the request of one parent without asking for public comment on this issue. Ironically, this move happened the week before National Banned Books week. The school board had voted 5-2 to ban this book which caused an outrage of Randolph County citizens.
Citizens in the community took action in very creative ways such as Books A Million giving away free copies of Invisible Man to all high school seniors. One high school senior dedicated her senior project to this case and also organized a “Banned Book Read Out” at the public library that will correspond with Banned Books Week. Another group “Visibility” organized an e-advocacy letter writing event and countless other citizens wrote letters to the editor to the local newspaper The Courier Tribune. The editor, Ray Criscoe, stated that he did not read one response in favor of the ban.
This book is important to the history of our nation and has been an important part of literature. It has been listed as one of the top 100 by the American Book review, and banning this book is counterproductive to critical thought in our school system. This book has themes and motifs about social injustice which is important for our youth. It deals with themes on racism and the obstacle to individual identity. Are we not supposed to prepare our youth for higher education and critical thinking?
By their misguided decision to ban this book they are doing exactly what the author speaks and warns about. This is keeping silent the voices of our past and of injustices perpetuated by our nation’s majority “white privilege” might not be aware of. The author challenges the complexity of his identity and internalized oppression which is limited not only by the racism in society as well as society’s ideologies and assumptions. The book challenges the ideologies of society which are often too one-dimensional to serve something as complex as the human condition.
Here is some excerpts from the book:
“What and how much had I lost by trying to do only what was expected of me instead of what I myself had wished to do?”
“For, like almost everyone else in our country, I started out with my share of optimism. I believed in hard work and progress and action, but now, after first being ‘for’ society and then ‘against’ it, I assign myself no rank or any limit, and such an attitude is very much against the trend of the times. But my world has become one of infinite possibilities. What a phrase – still it’s a good phrase and a good view of life, and a man shouldn’t accept any other; that much I’ve learned underground. Until some gang succeeds in putting the world in a strait jacket, its definition is possibility.”
“I am an invisible man. No I am not a spook like those who haunted Edgar Allen Poe: Nor am I one of your Hollywood movie ectoplasms .I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids- and I might even be said to possess a mind. I am invisible, simply because people refuse to see me.”
― Ralph Ellison’ Invisible Man
As a result of the public outcry on this terribly misguided action, the Randolph County school board decided today in a vote of 6-1 to rescind the ban on this book. We must not be kept silent in our freedom of speech or censorship of our media will be next.