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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Black Folks Throwing Books in the Trash Makes ME ANGRY

Dealing with the Douchebags on the forum, I learned some disturbing information:

Someone threw out books I wrote.

No, scratch that, someone threw books in the garbage.

Now I don’t know if it was a book club, a bookstore like Hue-Man, or a vendor I gave books to, but the people on that board state they found my book in the trash along with some other books. That really upsets me. It upsets me more than the mocking my work got on that board.

Now I have books from other authors. Some I like, some I don’t. I don’t throw them away. I feel throwing books away is a step away from fascism and two steps away from barbarism. The only thing more savage than throwing away books is tearing pages out of a book or burning them.

Anyone who willfully throws books away or destroys them does not deserve to enjoy the freedom this country offers them. It is an act of malice of forethought. They’d probably do well as a member of Hitler’s SS or the Taliban. Those fascist regimes like many others throughout history thrived on keeping knowledge from the masses and utilized the suppression of information to keep people oppressed.

I worked in a public college library and that brief experience taught me how valuable books are. From the Circulation Desk I watched poor students fight to use the few reserve copies of textbooks in that collection every day. I also watched as students were forced to do research from books with entire chapters torn out of them and pages ripped out of them. And it hurt my heart to tell students who were looking for books they needed for term papers they were lost or stolen by irresponsible patrons. I hated seeing the disappointed looks on their faces when I had to tell them that books that were listed in the Library’s catalog weren’t on the shelf. That’s why I’m so angry that someone just callously threw away one of my titles along with a bunch of other books.

In between the pages of books are knowledge. Knowledge can empower people, inspire them, uplift people and make people grow. And that’s why no one should EVER throw a book in the trash.

Instead of tossing my book and others on the street, the individual who callously discarded them should have made an effort to find a library to donate them to. From my experience working in that college library, I learned many of the books in the library’s collection were lost, stolen, and mutilated by patrons. And when books are lost or stolen or mutilated in a library’s collection, they don’t get replaced by librarians for YEARS. Why? Libraries just don’t have the money. Every year the state cuts their budgets and that forces them to make harsh decisions regarding opening hours, computers and the condition of their crumbling collections.

Even if my book didn’t make it to the shelf of that library, it could have been used in their book sale to help them raise funds to buy new books to replace damaged, lost or stolen ones in their collection.

Another place they could have taken those books to is a homeless shelter. Having volunteered to help the homeless a couple of years ago in Americorps* VISTA, I can tell readers homeless people never get enough books. People who live on the streets know how important knowledge is and devour literature like it was candy.

And another place they could have taken them is the courthouse. Jurors are always looking for something to read to pass the time in the jury room during Jury Duty.

All of these were better alternatives than throwing books in the trash. Some of these options were even tax deductible. Heck, even Ebay is a better option than throwing books in the garbage.

As an African-American I’m really upset about this callous discarding of books because I know who I gave my books to: African-American book vendors, African-American bookstores and African-American book clubs. I’d think those brothers and sisters would understand how valuable books are historically moreso than anyone else. I’d think they’d understand how our slave ancestors fought and scrapped to learn how to read when states like Georgia and North Carolina passed laws making it illegal to teach a black person to read or write during slavery. For them to throw books away is a SLAP IN THE FACE to every black person who fought so black people could overcome Slavery, Jim Crow and other forms of oppression the course of 400 years.

For a black person today to throw a book away to me is just egregious. It shows me how brothers and sisters take their freedom for granted these days. It also shows me how so many brothers and sisters have no understanding of the sacrifices our slave ancestors and relatives made and still make so they can be where they are today. And it shows me how little brothers and sisters value the power a good education can give them to change their lives.

In the film How U Like Me Now, BJ Brown states “The easiest place to hide information from a brotha is in between the pages of a book.” Chris Rock also stated this in one of his comedy sketches back in the day. Sadly, as I continue to self-publish books I’m finding the truth in what they said. In the book that was thrown away was a recipe for success in the business world. I wrote it culled from lessons I learned in the STRIVE job readiness workshop and things I learned on my own working in the business world over several years. Enmeshed in that story were tips on how to survive in the business world, how to dress professionally, how to apply soft skills such as networking, presenting and how to handle conflicts in the business world, tools black folks desperately need to survive in the world of the work.

Along with those tips I wanted to show how much fun work can be. I wrote this story so it could inspire brothers and sisters and so they could see what careers could be available to them in foodservice, and that African-Americans owning businesses and working at a job is not a “White” thing but has always been a “black” thing since before Slavery. Black folks do aspire to be other things than criminals, hustlers, gangstas, entertainers, clergy, and sports stars, but the media rarely ever tells the stories of those hardworking brothers and sisters with the college educations and the careers. That’s why I’m so passionate about publishing my books and so angry when people just throw them away.

This experience has shown me how far behind my brothers and sisters are. Even after electing the first African-American President, there’s work we all still have to do. As a writer I have to work harder in finding ways to share my knowledge with brothers and sisters, and ways for them to understand why that knowledge is valuable. When black folks throw away books written by other black folks, there is something SERIOUSLY wrong with the state of our community.


  1. Shawn, as an author I share your anger, but I'm so so much older than you that I can understand what goes on here. A lot of Black people are so brainwashed that they cannot believe in themselves and if they aren't being downgraded and depicted as the lowest of the lowe, it doesn't "feel" comfortable.

    We're as much what we aspire to be as what we were born to be -- human beings. As an older African American, I can only shake my head in sorrow and do all I can to combat this kind of destructive ignorance. Hitler's rise began with book burnings and hatred. We all know where that ended. It can happen here.

  2. That's what I'm scared of. From what I'm observing, so many African-Americans are taking their lives for granted, and have no idea how many things we were denied in the past or how many sacrifices people made to get us here. It scares me how so many African-Americans are brainwashed to think things like books aren't valuable, and that brothers and sisters would throw them in the trash. If this is the future of Black America I'm really worried.

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