It’s Banned Books Week, and I’m trying to stop being a victim of censorship. Self-censorship.
Charlie and I took a flight to Canada shortly after 9/11. He was consistently waved through security, while I was stopped at every stage; as a young man with brown skin and a goatee, it was painfully obvious that I was being racially profiled. At one point, a security agent started methodically thumbing through my book, The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood. Given his reaction, it was obvious to me that I’d made a mistake carrying something with “Assassin” in the title, and that for my own safety, I needed to be more cautious when flying, by avoiding “suspicious” books.
For the past seven years, I’ve been incredibly careful about the books I carry with me on planes, to avoid being seen as suspicious. Anything could give offense. For example, I wanted to give my grandfather in India a book on early Middle Eastern history; it pissed me off, but I self-censored at the last minute, worried about the consequences of taking it with me on a flight to India.
I’m now in Canada again for a few days, and for the first time since 9/11, I’ve worked up the courage to bring a “suspicious” book onto a plane: a copy of Igniting a Revolution: Voices in Defense of the Earth, a collection of articles about radical environmentalists. I’m not trying to prove any kind of a point by bringing it; I’d started reading the book at home, and just wanted to finish it.
I hope my tiny act of personal bravery doesn’t backfire, but I’m finally willing to take the chance. I’ve spent this decade self-censoring, out of fear of what people who have power over me might think. I’m heartsick, and I’ve had enough.Posted by Anirvan