This piece in the New York Times is really something, and I mean that in the worst possible sense.
Erin Aubry Kaplan lives in Inglewood, “a mostly Black and Latino city in southwestern Los Angeles County,” and she decides to build a Little Free Library, as they are called, in her front yard so neighbors walking by can borrow a book. She builds one because she loves books, but because in our puritanical times nothing can be as simple as that, she writes that she also put one up “to signal to my longtime neighbors that we had our own ideas about improvement, and could carry them out in our own way. There are organizations that help people build these little libraries, but I did mine independently. I envisioned it as a place for my neighbors to stay connected during the pandemic.”
Fine. But then things get a little crazy. A white couple stops and looks at her library and Aubry Kaplan freaks out: “Instantly, I was flooded with emotions — astonishment, and then resentment, and then astonishment at my resentment. It all converged into a silent scream in my head of, Get off my lawn!”
She doesn’t yell “Get off my lawn,” thankfully, and she doesn’t take down the library because a white couple stopped and looked at it without even borrowing a book. But, while embarrassed by her initial reaction, she comes to see it as natural: “What I resented was not this specific couple,” she writes, “It was their whiteness.” Technically, she put the little library out for “everyone,” but it was really for everyone but white people, and when the white couple stopped and looked at the books, they were transgressing on black space, once again pushing black people to the margins, appropriating black expression, and gentrifying the black neighborhood. Aren’t whites the worst?
I’m so old, I can remember when librarians would judge people by the content of their character, not by the color of their skin.