Within the past week, our United Teachers of Lowell organized and hosted a FirstBook “Books on Wheels” event where over 2000 students and their families received free books. As we sorted and organized 40,000+ books, we heard about a fire in a near-by Lawrence school, the Bruce School, and the impact of the loss on students, teachers and classrooms. What could we do to help?
Hearing that the destruction impacted 7th and 8th grade classrooms, we set aside over 500 books from our event to donate to the Bruce School. The books were selected by Lowell middle-school teachers working to unpack pallets, boxed up by students and educators who were volunteering at our event, and picked up on Saturday – our event’s distribution day – by the Principal of the Bruce School and the Lawrence Schools COO. One would think this would be a feel-good moment. Not so fast.
We sent a press release (link here) to the Lawrence Eagle Tribune and other news outlets in the Merrimack Valley. However, the report in the Lawrence Eagle Tribune was not accurate (I refer to paragraph 3) and stated that all the donated books were in Spanish. This is simply untrue.
As a co-chair of the event, our concern in Lowell was that the diversity of the donated materials from FirstBook (and the Disney Publishing house) would not be reflective of our LOWELL community, and as a Lowell community, we raised funds to supplement the FirstBook truck with many linguistic and culturally diverse books. Those supplemental books, meant for our Lowell families, were not included in the donation to Bruce School.
And so, with inaccurate reporting, the caller to the United Teachers of Lowell based her outburst on misinformation.
Dear Anonymous Caller to the UTL Office,
I regret that I was not there to take your phone call. In what can only be characterized as boorish and rude behavior, I understand you are angry and upset that the United Teachers of Lowell donated books to the Bruce School. You seem to be upset that “we” shouldn’t be giving Spanish language books to “those people”. In fact, how dare we do so?
As I understand it, your objections seem to be focused on the linguistic quality of the books because they were not “American”. Madam, I am not sure which language you consider “American” as most of us are immigrants to this continent, unless you intend for everyone to learn and speak the language of indigenous people.
You are, of course, aware that America is a very large land area which includes countries in both Northern and Southern hemispheres. Just considering the North American continent would encompass at least two other languages, including a very large country to our south where the citizens speak the language you object to, Spanish.
As an acquaintance of mine said to me, recent political posturing appears to have given people a microphone to spout hate and ugliness. So let me be perfectly clear that I do understand the unstated purpose for your telephone call. Racism and intolerance.
Regardless of what the language make up of the donated books, you have boldly allowed your prejudices and bias to reach the point at which you feel free to blast away at an act of generosity from one organization to another without regard to tolerance of differences. Your ignorance is on display.
Unfortunately, the climate of tolerance in our country is being challenged, and an atmosphere of intolerance may become more accepted, even in progressive states such as Massachusetts.
This cannot stand. Your comments were out of line, hateful and intolerant of our communities.