Letters from readers on what matters in Lafayette.

LETTER: We cannot stand silent

Volunteers with PFLAG Lafayette paint a rainbow flag and the transgender flag onto the Lafayette sign in Parc Sans Souci in celebration of LGBT Pride Month in downtown Lafayette, LA on June 19, 2019. PFLAG, which formerly stood for Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, is a national organization which seeks to unite those in the LGBTQ+ community with families and allies. Photo by Paul Kieu

Last week, the Lafayette Public Library’s Director, Danny Gillane, announced that the library system would no longer be creating displays highlighting national and local celebrations such as Pride and Black History months, as well as any others which highlight only a specific part of the local population, such as Cajun & Creole culture, and any religious or other group specific topics. While not outright stated, it must be assumed this includes works which highlight disabilities, as well. This proclamation was put forth in an attempt, according to Gillane, to remove the library system and its workers from the front lines of the political culture wars.

That this came about at the start of Pride Month is almost certainly not an accident, following closely on the heels of a number of attempts to ban books and other media which portray the reality of LGBTQ+ life in a culture which is increasingly hostile and alienating. Gillane and those in control of the library system have made a conscious decision to set aside the power they have been given to stand up for those whose voices have been silenced by society, the pushed aside and forgotten who have had their very identities politicized against their will, to further an agenda of marginalization and control which grows stronger with each decision like this one.

For those of us old enough to remember, this is not the first time that the majority has attempted to quite literally still voices which it found uncomfortable or outside the narrow status quo here in Acadiana. There was a time, not terribly long ago, when Cajun and Creole cultures were almost completely stamped out by those in power, all in the name of homogeneity of culture, on the basis that, if we stopped highlighting our differences, we could all live harmoniously. 

The problem is, when we remove color from the world, we excise its soul. When we tell a person of color; a queer person; those with different abilities, beliefs, languages, or cultures from the majority that their lived experience is not worthy of the spotlight, we not only invalidate that experience, but we lose the opportunity to grow — as individuals and as a community. Rather than bring us together, it forces us apart by highlighting those differences as something excluded from the greater whole, rather than a vibrant part of it. 

The library system, where children and adults alike from all walks of life, often those marginalized by society, go to find knowledge, to explore, to connect, and to find safety, can never not be on the front line. Turning one’s back to the struggle does not end the war, only signals to those for whom it is being fought that they are not worth fighting for. And we believe they are always worth fighting for.

At the Acadiana Queer Collective, our mission is to, first and foremost, help to create a safe, inclusive community in a place whose culture is known for welcoming the downtrodden, for never losing sight of our own heritage as outcasts who, until very recently, had their own culture all but destroyed. We believe we are better when we are all recognized for the unique, beautiful parts we add to the whole. We know that without representation, without being shown that they have a place in the world, marginalized groups suffer. It is our duty as humans sharing the world, especially those in power, to ease that suffering when and where we can.

Libraries are, more than any other public institution, beacons of hope whose sole purpose is to carry forth the flame of knowledge, to welcome all who would seek it, and to open the eyes of their communities to all that exists in the world. This cannot be accomplished by hiding that light for fear of drawing fire. The library is not on the front line. It is the front line. So we at AQC cannot stand silently while it actively silences the voices of our siblings who stand in harm’s way. We did not choose to be politicized, either, but turning our backs on one another is not the way to safety, only to defeat.

Acadiana Queer Collective strives to make a safe and inclusive community for Acadiana’s LGBTQIA+ of all ages.