Confront racism

The recent request to remove “Thunderbolt” from Founders Memorial Library needs to be examined in a larger arena.

The American Library Association’s Freedom to Read Statement says, in part, “It is in the public interest for publishers and librarians to make available the widest diversity of views and expressions, including those which are unorthodox or unpopular with the majority.”

It would not make sense for the library to balance its collection of non-racist materials with an equal number of racist materials. Our society and the debate on discriminatory have moved well beyond that point. Yet, discrminatory ideas still abound. We obviously need further debate on the ideas which are presented in publications like “Thunderbolt”.

There is little question that “Thunderbolt” is a racist publication, particularly in light of its subtitle, “The White Man’s Viewpoint.” It would be ideal if “Thunderbolt” would be relegated to history from lack of reader interest. We must never lose sight of the fact that societies can have a conscious sense of purpose and can distance themselves from moral and social wrongs, like we did with legalized slavery. We must not be afraid to confront ideas like those presented in “Thunderbolt”. We must be willing to take the lead of John F. Kennedy when he said, “We are not afraid to entrust the American people with unpleasant facts, foreign ideas, alien philosophies and competitive values. For a nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people.”

The Founders Memorial Library’s copy of “Thunderbolt” is not the issue, and its removal is not the solution. “Thunderbolt” is but a microcosm of a much larger issue, and its removal ushers in a new set of problems. Dwight D. Eisenhower said, “Don’t think that you are going to conceal thoughts by concealing evidence that they ever existed. People who hold unpopular ideas are still a part of America, and even if they have ideas that are contrary to our own, they have a right to them and a right to have them in places where they are accessible to others. We must not be complacent and allow these ideas to gain further foothold in society. We must counter them and know why we are countering them.”

The challenge at NIU is to confront, personally or in open debate, the ideas presented in “Thunderbolt”. Individuals need to come face to face with these ideas and properly place them in their own thinking. We must be willing to know why discrimination is wrong, be willing to express this verbally and be willing to counter discriminatory expressions. When it comes to the future there are people who let it happen, make it happen and those who wonder what happened. For a better future, invest some time, learn the issues and determine what is right and wrong.

Byron Anderson


Founders Memorial Library