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Tennessee Mom Calls Book On Cervical Cancer Cells ‘Pornographic’
Jackie Sims, a Knoxville TN mother of a 15 year old son wants The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks book banned; her discourse is “I consider the book pornographic” The critical thinking skills of other parents in the district worry this one mother’s objection to the book will threaten the experience for all the students.
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rachel Skloot is an easy to read, expertly detailed biography describing the great-granddaughter of slaves. The intersectionality in 1951 is a 37 year old Black woman, Henrietta Lacks suffering from a painful “knot on my womb” who sought treatment at John Hopkins Charity Hospital in Baltimore MD. She was diagnosed with cervical cancer, however prior to beginning the treatment program, the doctor cut two dime-size samples of tissue; one cancerous, one healthy from her cervix, without her knowledge or consent. The tissue was given to a scientist who had been attempting to establish a continuously reproducing, or immortal, human cell line for use in cancer research. The lab technician tagged an abbreviation of Henrietta Lacks’ name on the sample tubes. “HeLa” These cells were able to accelerate the way to test effectiveness of the Salk polio vaccine.
Today an estimated 50 million metric tons of HeLa cells have been sold and distributed generating billions of dollars to corporate industry and over 76,000 research articles written citing the use of HeLa cells. Henrietta Lacks died nearly 65 years ago and was buried in an unmarked grave and until recently; she now rests next to her mother’s headstone in the family cemetery in Clover VA. Never has any research institution, university, or company given any money to the poverty-stricken Lacks family.
Although important, my view of the book is not the issue; my argument is in the censorship of this or any book.
Ms. Sims prejudicial plans for ultimate domination of censorship and dictating her ideology on other people’s children in the self-righteous conviction she has the sole authority, rational and interpretative skills to define pornography in literature. By projecting her skewered philosophy on others she evidently believes teenagers don’t have the capacity to understand the difference between scientific research information/knowledge and erotica.
Interestingly this article comes just in time for “Banned Books Week” an annual event held the last week of September which draws attention to and focuses on the damage of censorship by spotlighting the value of free and open access to information.
With a greater number of people becoming progressive in the past few years, many previously censored books have been dropped from banned book lists and are no longer considered controversial, for example; Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird and The Diary of Anne Frank, both bring to light prejudice, the corrupt judicial domination system, and what it means to be different, therefore being subjected to intolerance and discrimination.
Literature is art and no singular person or group should be able to decide what should or should not be read. The First Amendment guarantees our right to free speech, which includes the right to read and write books, which to some is potentially too violent, hateful, or offensive. However a good education depends on protecting the right to read, inquire, question and think for ourselves.
Some words may offend but much worse is having no words at all.