Sep. 12th, 2011

pameladlloyd: Horton the Elephant, from Dr. Suess' book, Horton Hears a Who (A Person's a Person)
Today, I've read three blog posts about prejudice back-to-back. The first is a first-hand narrative of an American woman of Arab and Jewish descent, Shoshana Hebshi, who, along with two Indian men, was detained and held by police yesterday. All three were strangers who happened to be seated next to each other on a flight to Detroit, and someone on the plane reported the three individuals as suspicious. The second describes the difficulties authors Sherwood Smith and Rachel Manija Brown have faced in their attempts to find representation for their collaboration, which has as one of its characters a young man who is gay, and links to yet another case in which author Jessica Verday was told that her story would be published in an anthology only if she changed the sex of one of the characters, so that a relationship involving that character would be between a male and female, instead of between two males.

Ms. Hebshi's post, Some real Shock and Awe: Racially profiled and cuffed in Detroit, on her blog Stories from the Heartland, is quite upsetting. So far as I can tell from her description of the incident, the police and Homeland Security (I HATE the name of that department!) personnel did what they were required to do without excessive force or deliberate prejudice, but it was clearly prejudice that brought their attention to Ms. Hebshi and the two other passengers who were detained. You can contrast Ms. Hebshi's story with articles detailing the incident in which she was involved and a similar incident on another plane at No charges against 3 detained at Detroit airport and Military jets safely escort NYC, Detroit flights.

It makes me sad and angry to know that ten years after the attack on the Twin Towers, many Americans are not only still living in fear, but with such a strong level of prejudice that they feel the need to see suspicious activity where there isn't any. This is such a sad commentary on what has become of our nation in the last decade. We need to fight prejudice, not imaginary enemies.

In Rachel Manija Brown's and Sherwood Smith's account of censorship regarding LGBTQ characters in a YA novel, one statement jumped out at me: "silence, however well-motivated and reasonable […] allows the problem to flourish." One of those authors, Sherwood Smith, has been a LiveJournal friend of mine for some years. Her posts, often about writing, have consistently been thoughtful and thought-provoking.

It seems crazy to me that now, when we've known for decades that homosexuality is genetic and natural—it is also found in many other species from birds to primates, when people are finally beginning (again, the history is really interesting) to have the legal right to marry, when it's been well-publicized that homosexual teens are at high risk for suicide due to their feelings of isolation and rejection, when electronic books and self-publishing are threatening traditional publishing (so, limiting your books to "safe" books means cutting out yet another chunk of the market), that anyone in the publishing industry thinks they need to censor the sexual orientation of teens. People, get a clue! Homosexuality is neither a character flaw, nor a disease. Kids won't change their orientation, just because they read about characters with a different orientation in a book or story. They won't "catch" a different orientation, just because they read about it.

But, reading books with LGBTQ characters can help LGBTQ teens feel less alone. And, reading books with LGBTQ characters can help straight teens recognize that being gay is neither wrong, nor dangerous. Maybe, just maybe, reading books with LGBTQ characters will save someone's life.

Prejudice. We all experience it; that's part of being human. Treating people right? That's also part of being human, or it should be, and I hope that we, all of us, every single one of my cousins on this planet—and that's all of you, can learn to overcome the impulse to prejudice, and replace that with actions that reflect kindness and respect for everyone.

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