Jody Plant: Decision to ban ‘The Bluest Eye’ is outrageous and tragic

Davis County has a history of censorship, racism and homophobia.

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Four of nine books that have been removed from schools in the Canyons School District and placed under review, Nov. 23, 2021. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison, Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe, Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov and Beyond Magenta by Susan Kuklin.

The outmoded Davis School District has announced that it will remove the Nobel Prize-winning novel “The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison.

Davis Country has a disturbing history of censorship, racism and homophobia. One example of many is in 1978 Jeanne Layton, director of the Davis County Library in Bountiful, lost her job for refusing to remove Don DeLillo’s “Americana” from the library shelves.

As argued in a June 5, 2012, editorial in the Salt Lake Tribune, “The Davis County School District is now targeting books for children that portray families headed by same-sex parents and a book with the message that bullying of homosexual teenagers is wrong. In Davis County, it seems, book banning based on intolerance is alive and well.”

This recent decision to ban “The Bluest Eye” is outrageous, disturbing and tragic. The book is a masterpiece describing how racism and discrimination can ruin a child’s life, any life, particularly a Black life. The book also addresses abuse against Black women and children, misconceived ideas of beauty, self loathing, harsh judgments and the lengths women will go to in order to fit with societal standards and how women continue the long fight for equality and respect.

Clearly, the Davis School Board is threatened by this Noble Prize strong work of fiction. We should all be alarmed by this action.

Toni Morrison is celebrated and censored, she was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, the Noble Prize in Literature, the PEN/Saul Bellow Award for Achievement in American Fiction and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Her books are vitally important, a clarion call for equality and humanity for all lives.

Morrison’s rich storytelling gifts us clear narratives of the Black experience. She was an ebullient warrior against censorship, powerfully advocating for libraries and open access to literature for decades. She left the world a huge hole with her passing in 2019.

It seems Davis County would rather expose children to gun violence than allowing them the great experience of reading a Toni Morrison book.

Here’s an idea, why not ban guns instead of books?

Firearms are the leading cause of death for children and teens (ages 1 to 19) in the United States. Every year, 19,000 children and teens are shot and killed or wounded and approximately 3 million are exposed to gun violence. This is far more dangerous than a book about racism.

Let’s keep our children safe, informed of critical Black history and educated with access to great books and libraries.

Jody Plant

Jody Plant, Salt Lake City, is a visual artist and retired librarian.