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Librarian Vandalizes 2 Public Libraries, Spray Painting “Groomers”: Book Censorship News, June 24, 2022

Kelly Jensen


Kelly is a former librarian and a long-time blogger at STACKED. She's the editor/author of (DON'T) CALL ME CRAZY: 33 VOICES START THE CONVERSATION ABOUT MENTAL HEALTH and the editor/author of HERE WE ARE: FEMINISM FOR THE REAL WORLD. Her next book, BODY TALK, will publish in Fall 2020. Follow her on Instagram @heykellyjensen.

This week, as thousands of library workers descend upon DC to attend the first in-person ALA annual convention since the beginning of the pandemic, just down the road, two libraries are cleaning up graffiti. The Greenbelt branch library and the New Carrollton branch library of the Prince Georges County system were vandalized by 30-year-old Charles Sutherland. “Groomer” was sprayed on both libraries, a word that has become the rallying cry for the right against educators and library workers who dare to talk about LGBTQ+ issues or provide queer books. Sutherland is being charged with a hate crime.

The story in and of itself is worth talking about, as it’s not the first such incident this month. And in fact, it’s part of a long line of hatred and intimidation of queer people in public institutions this month alone:

The Sutherland story has a bit of a twist, though: he himself is a librarian. The hatred for the work librarians do came from within the fold, utilizing the rhetoric of right-wing extremists.

If you’re going to ALA this week, ask about this. Their stance of silence and neutrality around the hate crimes being committed and the threats of violence for those simply doing their job is unacceptable.

Being “united against book bans” does nothing if those who are working within the systems are themselves eager to spread the hate and bigotry. Old keys won’t open the new doors of censorship, and it’s beyond time for those who are involved in the organization to demand better.

Call To Action

This week, you need to write to each of your representatives at the state and federal level, as the Supreme Court just ruled on a case that will have detrimental effects on American public education.

In a 6-3 ruling, the court determined that in states where voucher programs allow for individuals to choose whether their kids go to public or private schools, religious schools cannot be exempted. This ruling is precisely what right-wing groups are hoping for, as more spin off their own brands of Evangelical conservative education systems to indoctrinate their children to white supremacist ideas.

This ruling is going to accelerate the book banning. If you’re thinking that’s a big leap, it’s not. You can read the ways it is done here, but in short, if funding is now tied to where people send their kids to school, a parent complains about a book in the school and isn’t satisfied with the results, they pull their kid from said school to send to one of their preferred schools on taxpayer’s money (taxpayer money is paying for these private, religious vouchers). Now, there is less money to go to the public school, further gutting already damaged systems.

Right-wing groups are celebrating this ruling all over their networks. Meanwhile, it’s mostly been quiet from everyone else, despite the fact this will have a chilling effect on not only on public education systems, but on free speech within them.

So why write your representatives if it’s been passed by the Supreme Court? You want to advocate for your state to examine and reevaluate their voucher programs to ensure your tax money does not go to fund these initiatives and if they do, you demand that religious institutions pay taxes themselves.

This Week’s Book Censorship News: June 24, 2022