“Buster’s Sugartime” controversy in Tulsa, Oklahoma

The Union School district has had to decide on whether or not to ban a book, “Buster’s Sugartime” because it depicted same sex parents.  Some parents decided they wanted the book banned so their children would not be exposed to what they consider immoral behavior.  Ed Payton, a school board member, addressed those of us who had written to the board in support or against their decision to retain the book in their library.  The following is the correspondence I thought would be interesting to the readers:

On Fri, Jan 29, 2010 at 1:32 PM, Ed Payton wrote:
This email is being sent to everyone who communicated their opinion to me regarding the recent Union Board of Education decision about the book, ‘Buster’s Sugartime’.

This process reminded me how fortunate we are at Union to have Administrators who clearly demonstrated their commitment to our students and their respect for Union parents.

I was one of three board members who voted to retain the book in our library.  I did so because, after careful consideration, I did not believe it was a book advocating any illegal behavior, or particular lifestyle.  Rather, it was a book that provided an opportunity for new readers to improve their reading skills, while expanding their understanding of the world around them.

I would like to correct a perception expressed by a few of you who made remarks in your email about the parents who request the book’s removal (‘homophobic’, ‘narrow-minded’, ‘censors’, etc).  From my direct experience with these parents during the hearing, those criticisms do not apply.  The parents were reasonable individuals, who presented their concerns in a respectful and thoughtful manner.  Their concerns did not appear to emanate from a religious or political agenda, but rather from practical parenting.
They felt it inappropriate for a kindergartener to be able to check out a book which contains references to a same sex couple living in a civil union when such a union is illegal in Oklahoma.  While I disagree with that position, I can still appreciate their concernn. Nothing in their presentation indicated that these individuals are homophobic, book banners or book burners.  In fact, they stated that this book would be totally appropriate in any state where civil unions or gay marriages were recognized.

If we are ever to move beyond the rancor and raised voices that too often accompany discussions related to this and other ‘hot-button’ issues, we must all learn the respect, civility and good manners that were exhibited by the Union Administrators and the Parents in this situation.

Thank you again for taking the time to share your thoughts with me.  I am more convinced than ever that the Board made the correct decision, and am equally convinced that the kindergartner in this matter is fortunate to have parents as engaged as these two.

Ed.

Ed. L. Payton

Sent: Fri, January 29, 2010 2:29:10 PM
Subject: Re: UNION BOOK DECISION

Hi Ed,

First off, thanks for voting to keep the book in the Union school libraries. I’m glad that you did the right thing. Second, thank you for writing and providing those of us who could not attend the Board Meeting with insight into the thoughts behind your votes.
I agree with you wholeheartedly where you stated that we are fortunate that the Board has folks on it now who listened to students, teachers and others who commented on the item in question. A few years ago,
there is a good chance we might not be where we are today and the school district might find itself on the business end of an expensive lawsuit. I’m glad to see that we have made such progress, it gives me hope for a state that some consider hopeless.

However, I’d like to point out that while the parents may indeed have presented their concerns in a professional and respectful manner, the concern they presented was indicative of a homophobic point of view. They were asking you and your fellow board members to remove from view a display of homosexuality that they found offensive for no reason other than the fact that it was homosexual in nature. That, by definition, is homophobia.

There are two types of homophobes: those who are uneducated and scream at the top of their lungs about how the sodomites must be removed from society, that they are going to hell, ad nauseum. The second group is quite educated and presents their homophobia in a much less obnoxious manner. Its the kinder, gentler homophobia and its much more dangerous because those people are smart enough to pass their homophobia off as a legitimate concern. It looks to me like the parents in this situation fall squarely into the second group.

The legality or lack thereof of same-sex unions in Oklahoma is irrelevant to the matter at hand. This is an attempt to tie homosexuality to an illegal act in an effort to distract from the issue at hand while demonizing homosexuals. Our Supreme Court has already spoken on this issue and they were quite clear. Homosexuality is not illegal and the people who practice it (regardless of whether folks believe its a choice or the way they are) are not second class citizens. They are entitled to the same rights and the same exposure in the media as everyone else, including the books found in public school libraries.

Not all viewpoints are equal and some are just plain wrong.  How can one tell the difference? Simply substitute “same sex” and “homosexual” (and other similar terms) with “mixed race couple” and “African American”. If this same parent came to your Board and asked for this book to be removed because it depicted an African American and a Cacasion being together, would the parents have even been given the time of day by the District? I highly doubt that they would have.

This is how to look at something and find out whats really behind the concern. People often say one thing while doing and meaning another. Its human nature to be manipulative and use false fronts to achieve our goals in life. So were the parents in this case really worried just about protecting kids from indecent material, or making sure that their kids never learn that homosexuality exists and has a legitimate place in our society?
If you have further questions about my comments here, or the ones I filed initially, please feel free to call me anytime at 405.886.5095. As one of the thousands of homosexuals who call Oklahoma my home, I’m always happy to reach out to our elected and appointed leadership to increase understanding of and on issues that are important to me.

Keith Kimmel
P.O. Box 6421
Norman, OK 73070-6421

“Dream as if you’ll live forever, live as if you’ll die today.” ~
James Dean (1931-1955)
“When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in a flag and
carrying a cross.” ~ Sinclair Lewis (1885-1951)
“A union of government and religion tends to destroy government and to
degrade religion.” Engel v. Vitale, 370 U.S. 421, 431 (1962)

and, of course, my response:

As another gay citizen of Oklahoma, I applaud Mr. Kimmel’s words, especially:

“Not all viewpoints are equal and some are just plain wrong. How can one tell the difference? Simply substitute “same sex” and “homosexual” (and other similar terms) with “mixed race couple” and “African American”. If this same parent came to your Board and asked for this book to be removed because it depicted an African American and a Cacasion being together, would the parents have even been given the time of day by the District? I highly doubt that they would have.”

Today’s 24/7 cable news media environment and their willingness to apply false equivalence to the progressive vs. conservative viewpoint has somehow taught some the wrong lesson that facts are somehow debatable.  As someone who served on submarines in the Cold War to defend our constitution, I believe in protecting everyone’s right to freedom of speech and expression.  That said, everyone has a right to their opinion but not to have established facts debated.  Like Mr. Kimmel so rightly pointed out, the gay citizens of this nation are equal in every sense except for the fact we have not been able to successfully claim some of the rights others take for granted like full marriage equality, job protections and the ability to openly serve in our military.

Timothy Beauchamp

“Deep experience is never peaceful. “- Henry James

Slowly, but surely, the buckle of the bible belt is evolving. Whether or not they believe in Darwin.

Posted: Saturday, January 30th, 2010 @ 2:29 pm
Categories: General.
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One Response to ““Buster’s Sugartime” controversy in Tulsa, Oklahoma”

  1. Ritorna Says:

    It’s great news that the book was not banned. Of course we know that facts are indeed debatable. Children are taught creationism and evolution – sometimes from different sources, and sometimes from the same source. Both are presented as facts, and both can not be fact. So no wonder children mix up facts with faith.

    Clearly what the parents who wanted the book banned feared was not that a lifestyle would be “promoted” to their children, but rather that their children would be able to see for themselves that having same-sex parents is not a bad thing. This would conflict with the “facts” that those parents are teaching their children. I’m glad they didn’t win this time.

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