The Inconvenience of Truth

What happens when the ‘rights’ of one parent deprive every other child in the school, the district, or even the entire state?  What happens when we lie to our children about everything that embarrasses us?  The classic Renaissance statue David, by Michelangelo, and now the story of Ruby Bridges, the little girl who changed the rules in 1960, all verboten because one or two parents were embarrassed.  Here’s what Charles Blow has to say about it …

A Florida School Banned a Disney Movie About Ruby Bridges. So I Watched It.

By Charles M. Blow

29 March 2023

This month, an elementary school in St. Petersburg, Fla., stopped showing a 1998 Disney movie about Ruby Bridges, the 6-year-old Black girl who integrated a public elementary school in New Orleans in 1960, because of a complaint lodged by a single parent who said she feared the film might teach children that white people hate Black people.

The school banned the film until it could be reviewed. So I decided to review the film myself.

First, here’s a refresher on Ruby: When she integrated that school, she had to be escorted by federal marshals. She was met by throngs of white racists — adults! — jeering, hurling epithets, spitting at her and threatening her life. Parents withdrew their children.

Only one teacher would teach her, so every day that 6-year-old girl had to be in class by herself, save for the teacher, and eat lunch alone.

Ruby became afraid to eat because one of the protesters threatened to poison her. Her father lost his job, and the local grocery asked that her family not come back to the store.

All of this was endured by a Black first grader, but now a Florida parent worries that it’s too much for second graders to hear, see and learn about.

Furthermore, of all the ways Ruby’s story could have been portrayed, the Disney version is the most generous, including developed story lines for Ruby’s white teacher and the white psychiatrist who treated her. And in the end, another white teacher and a white student come around to some form of acceptance.

The movie is what you’d expect: a lamentable story about a deplorable chapter in our history, earnestly told, with some of the sharpest edges blunted, making it easier for children to absorb.

But in Florida, the point isn’t the protection of children but the deceiving of them. It’s to fight so-called woke indoctrination with a historical whitewash.

And the state has given individual parents extraordinary authority as foot soldiers in this campaign: In this case, a single objecting parent is apparently enough to have a lesson about our very recent history questioned or even banned. Remember: Bridges isn’t some ancient figure in a dusty textbook, she’s alive and well today. She’s 12 years younger than my own mother.

Earlier this year, in the same school district, Toni Morrison’s “The Bluest Eye” was banned from all district high schools because a parent complained about a rape scene in the book.

Also this month, a principal in Florida was pressured to resign after students were shown Michelangelo’s statue of David, a biblical figure no less, and three parents complained.

Giving so few parents so much power to take educational options away from other parents and children runs counter to the spirit of democracy and free inquiry, and enshrines a form of parental tyranny of the hypersensitive, the inexplicably aggrieved and the maliciously oppressive.

It portends an era of bedlam in Florida’s schools, all courtesy of extremist state legislators’ and Gov. Ron DeSantis’s quixotic war on wokeness.

What happens if this glove gets turned inside out and minority parents begin to complain about the teaching of other aspects of American history and culture?

What happens if they reject lessons or books about Thomas Jefferson because he raped a teenage girl he enslaved, Sally Hemings, and was the father of her children, including at least one born while she was a child herself. (For the record, I consider all sex between enslavers and those they enslaved rape, because it was impossible for the enslaved to consent.)

What happens if a parent objects to a school celebrating Columbus Day because Christopher Columbus was a maniacal colonizer who sold young girls as sex slaves?

What happens if parents object to books about and celebrations of Thanksgiving because the standard portrayal of the first Thanksgiving as a meeting among friends who came together to share bounty and overcome difference is a fairy tale?

What if they object to the Bible itself, which includes rape, incest, torture and murder?

History is full of horribleness. We do ourselves and our children no favors pretending otherwise.

Learning about human cruelty is necessarily uncomfortable. It is in that discomfort that our empathy is revealed and our righteousness awakened.

These debates continue to center on the discomfort of white children, but seem to ignore the feelings of Black children, discomfort or otherwise.

As I watched the film, I was incredibly uncomfortable, sometimes angry, sometimes near tears as I revisited Ruby’s story.

How did that happen? How do we honor that moment, condemning the cruelty of the racists and exalting her bravery? And how do we address the effect of racial discrimination on the American experience?

If an accurate depiction of white racism and cruelty is a metric by which educational instruction and materials can be banned, how is a true and full teaching of American history possible?

Maybe distortion is the point. It’s the resurrection of a Lost Cause moment in which a revisionist history is crafted to rehabilitate Southern racists.

The wave of censorship we’re seeing also invokes, for me, the “slave” Bible, an abridged text used in the 1800s in the West Indies to try to pacify the enslaved. Passages that evoked liberation were cut and passages that supported slavery were kept. It was a tool of psychological warfare masquerading as sacred text.

DeSantis’s Florida is engaged in similar psychological warfare. Its battlegrounds are race, gender and sexuality, and it is napalming inclusive narratives.

The state’s crusading censors are choosing the comfort of ignorance over the inconvenience of truth.

25 thoughts on “The Inconvenience of Truth

  1. I think the DeSantis rule on censorship is, If we ban it, it’s for the good of the children. If the other side bans it, it’s political correctness gone mad and censorship and–oh, you know, a few other cut-and-paste slogans.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Take away parents’ rights to be in control of what a child learns! This is how racism and gender issues and a whole lot of society’s other issues and problems are able to continue to fester to the detriment of society. It is not schools that teach racism, it is PARENTS! And now it is also a racist governor in a racist state representing a racist political party who wants to make the whole nation racist! Stop him/them now while you still can! Please!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • You are so right … prejudices of every sort are handed down from one generation to the next and this is the society that DeSantis and others like him would love to create. “Stop him now” is easier said than done, as I’m sure you are aware. Sigh.


  3. My how the tables have turned. In my day, if a parent didn’t want their child to be “traumatized” by something being shown at school, that one pupil was excused from the class while the filmstrip (ha, told ya it’s been awhile) or film was shown. Florida is nuts.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Actually, from what I understand, a note was sent home with each child and parents were given a choice to opt out of their child seeing the movie, but apparently this one mother decided to turn it into a cultural battleground. And Florida is fertile ground for cultural battles!!! Ha ha … yeah, it’s been a while for me, too!


  4. Jill, the lesson the parent misses is you cannot put blinders on your children and hide ugly truths from them. But, we cannot govern what parents teach or don’t teach. But, we should not kowtow to change curriculum each time a parent complains. The answer is a note to the teacher saying, I would prefer this not be made available to my child.

    I think it was you that pointed out in a piece that a reference to Rosa Parks was made to a new textbook omitting that she is Black, which entirely misses the point. I guess references to the Birmingham bombing killing four Black girls, Emmett Till, Tulsa massacre, Selma Bridge violence, Dorothy Counts, or Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit” being banned by the FBI from being player did not really happen.

    We already have a hard time learning the lessons of our history. When we have parents and elected officials white washing all history that makes white bad for the aggressive behavior of some, we will be needing a lot of paint.

    The piece by John Oliver on the Florida governor is priceless and a much needed watch. Keith

    Liked by 3 people

    • You can put blinders on them only so long as you control their environment, but as soon as you no longer control that, then the blinders fall off and … if they’re really smart, they know you lied to them. Further research and I found out that prior to showing the movie, the school sent home notes telling parents that they had the right to opt out of their child viewing it, but instead of doing that, this parent decided to make a federal case out of it and deprive the entire school!

      Yes, one district in Florida has re-written the story of Rosa Parks and apparently she just refused to give up her seat because she was stubborn! Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr … Oh yes, there are so many stories they could alter in such a way that in another two generations, the entire history of the U.S. will be altered. Except … the books have already been written, the truth is out there, and some will go in search of it. You cannot hide a 6,000-pound elephant easily, no matter the size of your house.

      I really must watch that John Oliver piece!!!


  5. Pingback: The Inconvenience of Truth | Ned Hamson's Second Line View of the News

  6. Maybe, the parents believe, that, by keeping these “controversial” movies out of reach of children is protecting them, but by not allowing them to, learn about, these, important issues that we are, faced with every single day, how will the children be, fully, prepared, for this world of ours, when they, eventually, become, adults? So, it’s still, the parents, who have a say, in what the children are, able and allowed to, read, not based off of, what’s, socially, responsible, what they should be learning, to, better prepare them, for a, more, diverse world, of the, future.

    Liked by 3 people

    • You ask how will children be fully prepared for the world, and the answer is that they won’t be, can’t be, for they are being taught only one side of any story. Someday they will grow up and be lost in the world. Or, they will grow up having been fed a steady diet of conspiracy theories and Fox ‘News’ lies, and won’t be able to function in life. So, they’ll probably buy a gun and kill themselves or somebody else.


  7. Note to Readers: After posting this, I decided to check out the movie in question. I purchased it on my Amazon Prime account, thinking to watch the first 20 minutes or so, as the hour was late, but ended up watching the entire movie. Through tears, through anger … it is well worth watching, so if you can, I hope that you will. This child went through so much, but her courage persevered. Are we really willing to step back, to ignore what was accomplished by her and others during that time, to return to a time of racial hatred?

    Liked by 2 people

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