By now, just about in everyone in Dearborn is aware of the book banning saga in the Dearborn Public Schools. A number of concerned citizens and parents have voiced their objections to the presence of certain books in school libraries, namely books that explore LGBTQ+ themes and lifestyles. Undoubtedly, parents should have a say in the education of their children and the materials they are exposed to.
On Monday and Thursday evenings the Dearborn School Board held open meetings where citizens were invited to express themselves on this topic. On Monday night, hundreds of people packed into the meeting. The building was overflowing with residents. After conducting some normal business, the Board was preparing to enter into the phase of the meeting that would feature public comments. At that time, the Board abruptly took a recess because of overflow concerns. Eventually, the meeting was canceled. This decision rightly angered and confused many of the attendees.
The Board should have been prepared for a large crowd and the decision to suddenly halt and postpone the proceeding came off as an attempt to avoid a difficult conversation. Surely, the Board should have handled this situation with much more tact and respect for those who took time to attend and politically engage.
Those who oppose the inclusion of the books in question claim they object to sexually explicit materials in the school libraries. If it were simply that, we’re sure we could find a consensus. However, on Monday night, one could not avoid seeing a large sign carrying the words: “Homosexuality Big Sin. Marriage between Man and Woman.” Other signs denounced “grooming”, “indoctrination” and “pedophilia.” This can only lead us to believe this is about much more than sexually explicit materials. It is also clearly about erasing narratives about alternative lifestyles, specifically voices from the LGBTQ+ community.
On Monday night, before postponing the proceedings to Thursday night, the Board heard a presentation from district employees outlining a process to object to books. They also noted that parental consent is required for certain books with more mature themes. Further, the books in question have been pulled from the shelves for review. Finally, parents can opt their children out of reading certain books if they wish to do so.
On Monday night, one could not avoid seeing a large sign carrying the words: “Homosexuality Big Sin. Marriage between Man and Woman.” Other signs denounced “grooming”, “indoctrination” and “pedophilia.” This can only lead us to believe this is about much more than sexually explicit materials. It is also clearly about erasing narratives about alternative lifestyles, specifically voices from the LGBTQ community.
On Thursday night, however, the objections continued. Those against the books want them removed altogether. This whole saga has erupted into one side asking for government censorship in the public schools. While we can understand a position that objects to sexually explicit material, we cannot accept a stance that seeks to censor material that explores subject matter that a certain segment of society finds morally objectionable. This puts us down a slippery path of censorship.
America has been built on avoiding a tyranny of the majority and protecting the rights of minorities. While America has often struggled to live up to that standard, that ideal should remain something we always uphold.
The position embraced by the “anti-book” crowd leads us into dangerous dimensions. Imagine that a Muslim writes a book about her experiences as a veiled woman. She explores the terrible bigotry she has faced, often with harsh language and disturbing scenes. A community made up of mostly conservative Christians demands the removal of this book from their public school library. They say, “We don’t want our kids learning about Islam, a religion that goes against everything we believe.” Surely, we would collectively denounce their efforts. And we would be right in doing so.
Ultimately, this whole episode is about inclusion and freedom of expression. What kind of city and society do we want to live in? We believe in one that celebrates diversity. After the meeting was canceled on Monday night, many of those in favor of banning the books decried how their freedom of expression was being denied. Yet now, they wish to inflict that same prohibition of those who believe in different lifestyles than they do.
Again, this is not simply about banning sexually explicit materials. One can make a strong case why such materials would be inappropriate in school libraries, even those in high schools. The district has articulated a review process for such materials. So why do the protests continue? Because, sadly, this is about much more than that.
Both DePerno and Karamo are right-wing members of the Republican Party. Both are election deniers. Both are strong supporters of former President Trump, who famously campaigned on and later implemented the Muslim Ban.
On Thursday night, at Stout Middle School, where Monday’s meeting was continued, many continued to protest the inclusion of LGBT+ materials in the schools. While those against the books have proclaimed this is not about partisan politics, they were joined by Republican candidates for statewide office. Matthew DePerno, the GOP nominee for attorney general, and Kristina Karamo, the GOP nominee for secretary of state, both united with the anti-book protesters, speaking in support of removing the books in question. DePerno and Karamo received loud applause after their remarks.
Both DePerno and Karamo are right-wing members of the Republican Party. Both are election deniers. Both are strong supporters of former President Trump, who famously campaigned on and later implemented the Muslim Ban. Karamo has spread conspiracy theories about the January 6 insurrection, stating, “I believe this is completely Antifa posing as Trump supporters.” Hundreds of federal indictments have proved her wrong. DePerno is currently the subject of a criminal investigation for participating in a scheme to seize and tamper with voting machines in the 2020 election. But perhaps more importantly than all of this, they are both part of a right-wing faction of the GOP that has consistently demonized Arab and Muslim Americans. Is this who anyone in our community wants to align themselves with?
Dearborn Mayor Abdullah Hammoud and U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib have both warned that certain forces would attempt to divide our community and turn some Arab Americans into political pawns. On Thursday night in Dearborn, we saw that play out. Republican candidates who are part of a machine that sought to ban Muslims from entering the United States suddenly stood with Muslim Americans at a Dearborn School Board meeting, all to push an anti-diversity agenda. We wonder if DePerno and Karamo had ever visited Dearborn before tonight.
At a certain point in Thursday’s meeting, a man approached the microphone. He started to speak. “My name is Jackson Wagner. I was born in Dearborn. I’ve lived here my entire life. And I am a gay man.” After that last sentence, many in the crowd booed. Is that an action these parents want to teach their children?
Mr. Wagner continued: “Diversity has always been Dearborn’s strength. Let’s never forget that. We have schools to train students to be engaged citizens of a democracy and to coexist with people different than them. How can we teach the next generation of citizens to embrace democratic values like freedom of the press, freedom of speech and freedom of religion if we betray these principles and deny them these liberties in schools? Dearborn should be a city where everyone knows they are safe, and loved and supported.”
We could not agree more.
Marion MourtadaOctober 15, 2022 at 2:00 am
People who align themselves with either partisan political party should hold those they vote in to account first and foremost .. Unfortunately the mainstream media aligned with the Democrat party didn’t cover Obama’s Muslim bans or Obama’s wars in the Muslim world like they covered Trump’s Muslim ban. While he didn’t start any news wars, he did commit other questionable war acts which the Democrats really never opposed .. As a Muslim. mayor Abdallah should know better than to play into partisan politics dividing people while accusing the other partisan party side of dividing people .. Both parties do it and both parties are guilty of Islamophobia, but in different ways ..
Sexually explicit books are not appropriate for schools to make available to minors period and to my knowledge are against Michigan laws..
KittOctober 15, 2022 at 10:21 am
The mainstream media is not aligned with the Democratic party. That’s only your opinion; it’s not a fact. You bring up Obama’s “Muslim ban” without reference. Sanctioning specific countries as terroristic w/limited restrictions for Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Syria (March 2011); Libya, Somalia, & Yemen (May 2011) was not w/o justification ~ regardless of U.S. interference. Trump was overtly racist & bigoted. Yeah, stand behind that pig of a man.
I do not discount your observation that regardless of platform there is considerable Islamophobia by political entities. I’d point out that the Trump administration has done MORE to foment division by promoting white supremacy. He is not a fan of any issue, any community of color, culture or religion unless it promotes him or his hate-filled agenda.
As for banning books. Not a fan of that either. Ever read ‘Fahrenheit 451’ by Ray Bradbury. It’s about book banning gone turbo.j
Marion MourtadaOctober 18, 2022 at 5:45 pm
Of course the mainstream medias are aligned with one or the other partisan parties, and they make it obvious by the way they spin things to favor one party over the other, just as the Arab American news is spinning things to favor the Democrat party over the Republican Party, . I mentioned the Obama ban and all the wars he took us into in the Muslim majority world because the Trump ban was mentioned to get Muslims to vote for the left. I have never been a supporter of Trump and while I acknowledge that Obama was more appealing as a person I was not a supporter of his either. Neither party is preferable in my opinion as both serve corporate military interests above the American people’s interests, while they both participate in fear mongering to keep we the people divided and distracted .. Nobody was calling for the books to be banned either, but calling for censoring them from underage children in public schools. So let’s stick to the facts ..
Ayman FadelOctober 16, 2022 at 7:49 am
This editorial is excellent!
What do Muslims think their children should do when their friends discuss their sexuality? Should their children say, “I cannot be your friend if you talk to me about these things.”?
MichelleOctober 17, 2022 at 1:00 pm
I don’t see a problem with the books being in the High School, because by the time children get into High School, they should be mature enough to learn about different sexualities. While I understand that homosexuality is against a religion. Let us not go back into time. This is 2022 and our children are learning things we never did as children. If we take away these books in a high school setting only, shouldn’t we then take away the cell phones, laptops and internet-based devices? It is my personal opinion as a mom of 5 children and a longtime resident of Dearborn Heights, that our children see more sexuality and inappropriate things on the internet than in a book. Lastly, I feel like by banning the books in a high school setting, that we as a community are sending a message that discriminating against gay and lesbian people are okay and it is not. Where do we draw the line? Who’s to say another parent isn’t going to complain about books on the Holocaust and Slavery? Should be then pull these books out too?
I do think that these books should not be in elementary school, or middle school – because the children are not mature enough to learn this type of information yet. It is also very sad to watch adults yelling and screaming at each other during these meetings. We are adults, and our children are watching us. This is America and we are each allowed to have an opinion. But we should be able to discuss our differences in a calm way. Thank you.