Tolerance Through Books

So much of history is forgotten so quickly — out of sight, out of mind as my mother says. We forget how quickly we can devolve in our worst selves. We stand upright, we opine on matters intellectual, we think for ourselves, but we can rapidly fall apart into an animalistic them vs us perspective. We need history, we need literature, we need art, we need music to remind us of our darker counterparts and our worst moments.

I was pleasantly surprised by the sentence handed down to five teenagers who defaced a historic black school house in Virginia: reading books. Reading books that changed my perspective on the world, “Things Fall Apart,” “The Color Purple,” “Native Son,” “The Sun Also Rises.”

We can and should discuss the disparity in punishment for these boys (white and brown) vs black boys of the same age. Not minority boys of the same age, black boys. The differences are clear and appalling.

But this is a reflection of what our judicial system should do, particularly for juvenile offenders: teach them. Show them the world beyond their narrow perspective. That’s the point of writing, to transport you from where you are to another perspective, another world, another history. To remind you of what you already know, or give you someone else’s eyes for a moment to see and vicariously live their experiences. Who knows if it it will work, but we all know that locking up a bunch of kids doesn’t. In a depressing news cycle, this article was a pleasant read.

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