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May 26, 2023

Who Speaks For Amanda Gorman?

Who Speaks For Amanda Gorman?

Yesterday, I bought a copy of "The Hill We Climb". I figured it was the least I could do in the face of its banning by a Miami Dade elementary school. Why Daily Salinas, mother of one of the students at the Bob Graham school, requested that the book be removed is not known to me. We can glean some intelligence from her submission to the school board.

Apparently pages 12 - 13 of the Oprah Winfrey edition of the book was deemed by Ms. Salinas as“not educational and have indirectly hate messages”.

The offending lines of poetry follow:

We braved the belly of the beast.

We've learned that quiet isn't always peace,

And the norms and notions of what "just  is"

                              Isn't always justice.


And yet the dawn is ours before we knew it.

                             Somehow we do it.

Somehow we weathered and witnessed

A nation that isn't broken, but simply


I wonder what indirect hate messages are contained within these lines? Is it the reference to "justice" at a time when the murder of George Floyd was still smarting raw in our collective memories? Who hasn’t watched the video of that merciless killing and not felt sorrow and anger in equal measure while understanding that such atrocities have been perpetrated on black men for generations? And yet, some members of our polity have construed that collective anguish, expressed in both protest and word, as a hate message. Is that, the offending idea that was interpreted as hate? Only Ms. Salinas can answer.

Might the reference to “the dawn is ours”, be what troubles Ms Salinas? Is the fact that "a skinny black girl", laying claim to her rightful share of the country, a source of alarm for those fed a steady diet of white replacement theory? Can the word “ours” be understood as exclusionary to white people and as such laden with hatred, presaging a plot to overthrow the primacy of the white race? Only Ms. Salinas can advise us if that is the case, and what exactly triggered her delicate sensibilities.

I don’t know which line, idea, or thought contains the supposed hidden hate message that has so offended Ms. Salinas. She is now the subject of of a scrutiny which I expect is deeply discomfiting. Her Facebook sharing of a post supportive of The Protocols Of Zion, a racist fabrication more than a century old, has done little to enhance her credibility as a judicious arbiter of literature. Ms. Salinas has since apologized for that post, advising the she loves the Jewish community and that she is “not what that post says”.

I do not know who Daily Salinas is. I take no pleasure in the scorn being foisted upon her. There is way too much schadenfreude in what passes as contempory commentary and dialogue. I do not know if she is simply a misguided footsoldier hopped up on a diet of rage stimulating disinformation that turned her into a tool of shadowy types who would destablize American society for their own unfathomable purposes.

What troubles me most about this sorry episode, is that book banning has become commonplace, a background music, a soundtrack to the destructive downward spiral that passes as public discourse. Have we really begun to embark on a path that has more in common with the book burning of the Third Reich and the auto-da-fé excesses of Savanarola's Florence?

Who speaks for the beauty of Amanda Gordon's words and her message of hope to a nation traumatized and troubled by a global pandemic and an attempted coup? Where are the words of support from our politicians and leaders for the genius of a 22 year old black woman who called on our nation to "close the divide because we know to put our future first, we must first put our differences aside". In what world, can such words be construed as containing hatred and why do you remain silent? It is unconsionable, cowardly and unAmerican.

I encourage you to contact your elected representatives of Federal, State and Local governments and ask them to speak clearly their support for Ms. Gordan. In years to come, we will remember her standing in the sun on the steps of Capitol Hill, clad in her bright yellow coat and red headband, bravely delivering words of hope and truth. Those were not words to be hidden away, but to be embraced by every American. Who speaks for Amanda Gordon and her words of beauty?

Do you speak for her?

And so, I suggest that you buy a copy of Amanda Gordon's "The Hill We Climb". Give it an honored place on the shelves in your home. Do not let dust gather on its pages. Take it down and read it for yourself at moments when you need hope  and inspiration. Read it to your children and grandchildren, nieces and nephews. They may not understand all the words, but they will apprehend its call to greatness, the obligation and duty of all Americans to form "a more perfect union"