You wouldn’t expect a health food store to carry Pringles.
Nor would you tune in to the Cartoon Network in search of episodes of Mad Men or Breaking Bad.
So we’re wondering why Rush Limbaugh thinks the Teaching for Change Bookstore at Busboys and Poets in Washington, D.C., should carry his Rush Revere line of books for young readers?
If you don’t know about the Teaching for Change Bookstore—and it’s well worth knowing—here’s the lowdown. It’s small and selective. Its children’s section gives priority to books that feature children of color. They do not offer Mr. Limbaugh’s books.
That such a bookstore is rare and needed will come as no surprise to teachers and librarians who struggle to find children’s books featuring characters who reflect the diverse children of the United States. We wrote about this problem recently in our magazine.
Limbaugh, however, takes issue with the bookstore’s mission. It offends him. In fact, it seems to infuriate him. He used up a chunk of radio time on his June 16 show to denounce the store’s selection criteria as “racist and bigoted.”
And then he got personal. He decided to smear the folks who run Teaching for Change—people we at Teaching Tolerance know and respect as allies in the struggle for social justice. The character assassination poured forth from Limbaugh’s mouth: He called Teaching for Change the “most bigoted, racist people,” “loony” and “simply dumb.”
By the time Rush finished, he wasn’t simply vilifying the good people who run the Teaching for Change Bookstore. In his telling, they morphed from narrow-minded booksellers into powerful foes, who “happen to be running the country … in Washington … in charge of the public school system … running daycare …” and who “show up at Obama’s fundraisers.”
His war cry had the expected results: Limbaugh’s followers inundated Teaching for Change with what TFC describes as “vicious, hateful messages.”
I don’t doubt it. When one sows hate and anger, as Limbaugh does so well, hate and anger are the harvest. We experienced it here at Teaching Tolerance in 2012, when the American Family Association attacked our Mix It Up at Lunch Day program.
That attack backfired. Despite the avalanche of ugly messages, we were buoyed by the outpouring of support from teachers, friends and allies, including Teaching for Change.
Costello is the director of Teaching Tolerance.