An Open Letter to Leonard Pitts

Im pretty tired of the whole “banned/censored book” controversy, but reading this past weekend’s Leonard Pitts column in the Miami Herald put me over the edge:

Mr. Pitts,

First, I do not agree with the actions of the Concerned Cuban parents vis a vis the Discovering Cuba book, and I find your sending a copy to each library missing its own quite honorable and noteworthy. Im curious, however, are you only sending copies of this “censored” book in particular, or will you be taking it upon yourself to replace all censored books in all school districts such as, for example, Huck Finn in certain districts of America’s South? As I understand it, Tom Sawyer’s fictional novel is the fifth most challenged book in the US, according to the ALA.

Also, let’s say there was a book titled, say, “Vamos a Selma”, wherein the South was depicted as “utopian before the civil rights movement.” And it showed photographs of African-Americans sitting in the back seats of buses and captioned “In Selma, all African-Americans are guaranteed seats in public transportation.” Or showed photographs of African-Americans lined up at a drinking fountain with a sign that reads “blacks only” above it and captioned the photograph “African-Americans even have their own water fountains in Selma!” And yet another photo of African-Americans in the cotton fields captioned “African-Americans share in the robust economic activity of Selma!”

Obviously, all of the above are profound falsehoods, not very unlike the same falsehood portrayed in the Vamos a Cuba and Discovering Cuba books. All three are, if I may, BS.

My question to you is, since your editorial takes the righteous stance of non-censorship and you take certain Cuban-American parents to task – including subtle innuendo such as calling those who agree with Dalila Rodriguez “confederates” and claiming that the Cuban-American community “have committed assault, banned magazines, blocked freeways and spent tens of thousands of public dollars pursuing constitutionally illiterate positions in court” – would you fight to keep “Vamos a Selma” in public school libraries, and would you take certain members of the African-American community to task, in as denigrating a fashion, for wanting to keep Vamos a Selma off the shelves?

Im just curious as to whether you truly belive in what youre preaching or if youre just jumping on the hypocrisy bandwagon.

Best regards,

Val Prieto

I also want to note that Mr. Pitts complains about Cuban-Americans “blocking freeways and committing assault” and such. I guess he wasnt around or in Miami during the McDuffie Riots. Lots of assaults and blocked streets back then. Some pretty big fires, too.

29 thoughts on “An Open Letter to Leonard Pitts”

  1. Val,

    BEAUTIFUL !! I couldn’t have said it better. I agree with everything you said in your letter. Let’s not forget the Lozano riots of 1989.

  2. Mira, Val, Leonard has been living up to his surname (PITTS) since he arrived @ the herald. He’s infuriated me with his double standard for many years, and I stopped reading him in the ’90s. I’m glad you are taking him on. He’s a sanctimonious EQUIVOCADO, always edgy, always ready to be offended, always on the verge of an aneurism at the “antics” of the exile community.

    Let’s drop the subject of riots if you are black … it doesn’t help you anywhere in the country.

    Good for you. I hope he responds, but I wouldn’t bet my colada on it.

  3. That’s a great analogy. Every ethnic group in the US can whine and complain about nonsense; take the Taco Bell Chihuhua, for example. But God forbid Cubans stand up for wanting reference books to be factual and we’re intolerant book censors.Thanks for taking time out to answer Pitts.

  4. I came this close to writing Pitts a letter using the Vamos A Selma analogy you wrote. Eventually, I had too little time and I figured Pitts wouldn’t get it anyway.

    Nevertheless, nice job and please let us know if/what he responds with.

  5. Quite frankly, I don’t give a rat’s ass about Mr. Pitt’s lack of creativity or his biased leftist prejudiced opinions. He’s neither the first nor the last among the MSM to throw punches at the Cuban-American exile community. For the last 48 years we’ve been taking everything they throw at us and IT ONLY MAKES US STRONGER.

    Mr. Pitts can’t “pigeon-hole” us so maligning the WHOLE Cuban-American community is the best he can do. Sticks and stones can brake my bones but PRINT can never hurt me.

  6. I don’t claim to speak for Mr. Pitts or anyone critical of what Ms. Rodriguez is doing, but I doubt that they would advocate stealing a library book called “Vamos a Selma” from the shelves of public schools. Protest it? Yes. Appeal for its removal? Maybe. Follow case law in the determination of whether it stays or not? Certainly.

    The main issue here for critics is not whether or not the book is offensive to certain members of the community, because it clearly is. The main issue is that we respect the laws of this country as we determine whether it stays or goes.

    Your fictional “Vamos a Selma” would be terribly offensive to the black community if it were on our school shelves. But, personally, I would be just as outraged if African-Americans started stealing those books without having the patience to attempt to remove the books lawfully.


  7. i dont find “vamos a selma” offensive in the slightest (im not offended by vamos a cuba either).. its just a book expressing an opinion.. educate the kids on the reality.. use the book to show the hypocrisy

  8. Rick,

    …but I doubt that they would advocate stealing a library book called “Vamos a Selma” from the shelves of public schools.

    How do you come to this conclusion? What, in your eyes, makes African-Americans so different from Cuban-Americans when it comes to an issue such as this? Have you read about just how many district schools throughout the country have bowed to the pressures of the African-American community, the NAACP and other – to use Pitts’ term – groups of African-American confederates to remove Huck Finn, among other works, from their school libraries? And how many non-African-American groups have supported these suits and boycotts and book bannings?

    Why must it be so difficult, especially in South Florida, for Cuban-Americans to find support from non-CA’s on issues such as this one? South Floridians know exactly what the Cuban-American community has been through, they see their suffering and sacrificies every day on the local news and print media. Theyve heard harrowing stories from neighbors, workmates, friends, colleagues, etc… So what makes the Cuban-American community immune to solidarity?

    If the book is chock full of bullshit and is in the reference section of a library, why is everyone other than CA’s so intent on forcing that book to stay on the reference shelves?

    Is it because CA’s are considered extremists? Nah. There’s plenty of other groups with their extremists that get support form their communities. So why is it, exactly, that i cant get you to support these folks on this issue?

  9. Well, Val, could it be, uh, resentment? Bigotry? Hypocrisy? Double standard? Whatever it is, it certainly won’t stand up to rational analysis. But hey, it doesn’t really matter. It’s just those damn Cubans bitching and raising a fuss, like always, and after all, who cares? It’s not like they’re a PROPER minority or anything, so screw’em.

  10. when i was a kid, i had a report to write on cuba.. this was back when we used encyclopedias and the dewey decimal system.. anyways, one of the sources (if you are interested, it was the world book encyclopedia) had the line “castro provides free health care and education” blabla.. i never forget how my dad lectured me on “interpetation” and how a ‘true’ statement can be a misrepresentation and the like.. he didnt throw the books out, he didnt complain to the library that had books with similar statements.. he just educated me on the reality.. thats the best remedy for the book..

  11. For the last few months, Rick has waged a relentless campaign at Stuck on the Palmetto against what he perceives as Cuban-American intolerance and fanaticism (backed up by Alex, his boy Friday). Thread after thread devoted to maligning us, resorting even to quoting Prensa Latina, the Castroite news service, to make his case. If it’s not an obsession with him, then I don’t know what it is. Now he is threatening to start a fund to combat Cuban-American censorship and its ominous consequences for the future of this republic. I swear, if he could beat us back into the ocean like the Coast Guard does, Rick would do it:

  12. Val: I don’t think you’re hearing what I’m saying. Non C-A’s do understand the reason why C-A’s would like the book removed. What we don’t understand and don’t approve of is the stealing of library books.

    I, in fact, equivocate C-A’s to African-Americans when I say that I would react the same if they were stealing books. I don’t understand why you accuse me of treating A-A’s different from C-A’s in this issue.

    And this is not a rub on the entire C-A community as some, like Manuel Tellechea, would like you to believe. I disapprove of this small group of C-A extremists who are stealing these books.

    Let’s not confuse the issues here. I think it’s pretty simple: Do you disapprove of anyone stealing books out of a school library simply because they disagree with the book’s message?

    I say “Yes, I do.”

    I’m simply saying we need to follow established methods of removing the books from the shelves. Methods that are approved by the community and the laws of this country.

    And, yes, it is astonishing some of the things that MAT comes up with.

  13. Rick:

    Yes, I “astonish” you and Alex all over your blog every day.

    I suppose you mean you mean that you make no distinction between Cuban-Americans and African-Americans when it comes to “censorship.”
    “Equivocate,” however, would mean the exact opposite, namely, that you are unable to decide whether you should treat them equally or not.

    Then again, you could mean anything or nothing; it’s hard to tell with you.

  14. Rick,

    I get what you are trying to prove. No need to use the word “stealing” in every sentence. Problem is, you dont get it.

    Their keeping just one book from the library is not an attempt at censorship or a theft, it is their way of protesting what they feel is wrong. Just like it’s perfectly acceptable to desecrate the American Flag as an act of protest, it is also perfectly acceptable to keep a book from a library- not steal it, as they themselves proclaimed they had said missing books – as an act of protest.

    They didnt “steal” any books on some midnight B&E and then turn around and sell them on Ebay.

    It’s an act of protest for crying out loud. Are you saying they dont have a right to protest via their own peaceful means?

    let’s think about whose rights are really being trampled on here…

  15. Val: I’m not trying to “prove” anything. I’m simply explaining my opinion.

    Dalila and the group she belongs to may be responsible for up to 17 books, all copies of Vamos a Cuba, that have been checked out and not returned on time to public school libraries around the county, according to the Herald. Dalila has stated to the Herald that she has no intention of returning her copy of Discovering Cuba to the school. Like a person who rents a carpet cleaner from Home Depot and has no intention of returning it, Dalila has stolen the book.

    Your original post questioned whether Mr. Pitts and those who shared his opinion would react the same way to the fictional “Vamos a Selma.” I explained that I thought they would. I know I would.

    If you want to now move this debate to whether checking out books from public schools without any intention of ever returning them is an acceptable form of protest, I suppose we could do that. But your original post had nothing to do with that.


  16. Rick,

    There’s a huge difference between not returning a carpet cleaner at Home Depot and not returning a book one finds offensive to a public library. The former can be considered either an act of laziness or theft, the latter – again, as proven by the fact that said group stated they were keeping the books – various copies of ONE SINGLE book – is an act of protest.

    I may not agree with their actions, just like I dont agree with PETA protesters dumping chicken blood on kids leaving KFC, but this is simply not an act of theft, and any argument to the contrary is moot.

    My original post didnt mention this act of protest because I believed it to be understood, as common sense dictates, that it is an act of protest. The simple fact that they called a press conference and stated they were keeping said book copies makes it so.

  17. Rick:

    Let me turn your stupid comparison against you. Suppose that someone rented a carpet cleaner from Walmart and then held a press conference where he announced that he would not return said carpet cleaner because of Walmart’s failure to offer comprehensive health insurance to all its employees. What would your position have been in that case? We know what your real position would have been (unless it had been a Cuban exile who had borrowed the carpet cleaner). We know also what you are going to say now your position is.

    If Dalila Rodríguez had walked into Walmart’s or Barnes & Noble and walked out with a book she had not purchased, that would be theft. But she did not do that. She borrowed a book from a library, which is perfectly legal, and then declined to return it; for which the penalties are a fine of 5 cents per day, reimbursement of the cost of the book ($12.95), or revocation of her library card.

    You, however, want Dalila arrested and prosecuted for her act of civil disobedience, which is protected by the Constitution and 200 years of case law. Do not pretend to fool us because we are unto your game: If Dalila were black and she had removed “Vamos a Selma” from the book shelves, you would be applauding her. With you, it’s all about pigmentation not principle.

    So, go ahead, set up your fund or foundation to fight “Cuban-American censorship” in Miami. Maybe I will set up my own foundation to fight your limitless stupidity about Cuba and respectfully request donations of anti-Castro books for you. Let’s start with Arenas’ memoirs. You should certainly take to that.

  18. There is no question that this whole book business, not just now but from the start, would have gone quite differently (assuming it would have happened at all, which is highly unlikely) if it had involved the hypothetical “Vamos a Selma” instead of “Vamos a Cuba.” Saying or believing that it SHOULD have been treated the same way is nice, but wishful thinking at best. In other words, it doesn’t change reality at all.

    There IS hypocrisy and there IS a double standard when it comes to the Cuban exile community and its cause, as well as Cuba in general, and that’s by no means limited to this book situation. This is beyond obvious in the way the MSM routinely operates and has consistently operated in this arena for decades. Again, let’s stick to reality. Whitewashing it is not only useless but condescending and insulting.

  19. I have always regarded Pitts as a sanctimonious, hypocritic, pompous ass. He makes a living out of playing the race card. That’s very pathetic.

    I am sure that Pitts would have a conniption if the public school libraries would have the books

    “Little Black Sambo”

    The “Wonderful Tar Baby Story” by Uncle Remus

    and “Huckleberry Finn” with tales of Jim, the slave.
    Pitts would say to these books, “Burn, baby, burn,” the notorious chant of black rioters.

  20. The irony here is that none of these books is racist. On the contrary they all present a sympathetic portrayal of people of color.

    “Little Black Sambo” has nothing to do with blacks; it is the story of a little boy’s adventures in India. “The Wonderful Tar Baby Story” is not a racist; blacks of an earlier age considered it a loving portrayal rooted in black folklore (if the Uncle Remus stories are disparaged today it is because no one bothers to read them). And, of course, “Huckleberry Finn” is generally regarded as America’s greatest novel (There was no literature before it and everything that came afterwards comes from it, as one critic said). In fact, Jim was the most humanistic and fully realized portrait of an African-American ever attempted by a white author.

  21. So I suppose you do want to debate the definition of theft, Val, and I’ll gladly indulge you even though SrCohiba, who is a lawyer as you know, has already defined what Ms. Rodriguez is doing as petit theft. Granted it isn’t a heavy charge, but it is a criminal act, nonetheless.

    By definition, to steal is to “take another’s property property wrongfully, often surreptitiously.”

    The book is the property of the Miami-Dade County Public School System. They bought it. They own it. They loan it out to people by allowing it to be checked out.

    When a person like Dalila decides she is not ever going to return a checked out book, as she has told the Herald, she has wrongfully appropriated the property of Miami-Dade County Schools. To rightfully hold on to it she could simply renew her “loan” and check it out again or make other arrangements. She has not done this. She has stolen the book.

    It may be an act of protest but as sometimes occurs with acts of protest, she is committing a crime.

    Again, I don’t have any problem with acts of protest as long as they are legal. Why she doesn’t keep simply checking the book out again and again is beyond me. That would be legal and I would have no beef with it.

    No proving anything here. I’m trying to explain my rationale for my opinion. If you think I’m wrong, so be it. I think my reasoning is sound and justifies my opinion.

  22. If Dalila Rodríguez had wanted to remove the offending book surreptitiously, she could have done so and never evoked Rick’s maniacal anger (in Stuck on the Palmetto he equated her act to that of a convicted child rapist and killer). But because Ms. Rodríguez was engaging in an act of civil disobedience, she herself accepted responsibility for her act, with whatever personal consequences it may carry. In other words, she acted exactly as Rosa Parks did.

    Rick and his sidekick Alex (ex-gansibele) have continually belittled Dalila’s act of civil disobedience, concocting strange and irrevelevant excuses for why hers should not be regarded as such. And yet there is nothing that differentiates Rosa Parks from Dalila Rodríguez except their color. Borrowing a library book and sitting on a bus both seem innocuous enough acts. Neither deserves to be punished by the state. Yet Rick is adamant that Dalila must be arrested and Alex denies that her protest is an act of civil disobedience because she has not been arrested. Apparently the PETA grandstanders and Greenpeace kooks are legitimate protestors because they arrange for staged arrests. Dalila is not because she is not the hyprocrite that they are.

    Of course, Rosa Parks’ act is more important historically. But does every act of civil disobedience have to be as important as Parks’ to be recognized as legitimate? Who instituted that litmus test and applied it only to Cuban-Americans?

    Dalila is trying to protect her child and everybody’s children from exposure to something as corrosive to the human soul as segregation was in its day, that is, the exaltation of tyranny as a human panacea and the concurrent degradation of the people suffering it. The lies that she fights, which are as pernicious as the lies Parks’ confronted, deny the humanity of some human beings by excusing their subjugation by a tyrannical creed no less odious than segregation.

    Dalila Rodriguez’s act of civil disodedience, for which she is ready to accept any consequences that may befall her, is also deserving of our respect and appreciation because it also seeks to elevate the human spirit and break the shackles of oppression.

  23. It is interesting how so many are so intensely focused on the legality of the act in question as opposed to the reason behind the act. I’m convinced that if a similarly illegal act had been committed by, say, an African-American protesting racism, the exact opposite would be happening. The illegality of the act would be glossed over or downplayed, while the justness of the cause would be placed front and center.

    Or are these scrupulous defenders of the law ready to say that every time a black American broke a segregation law in protest, he or she was simply a criminal who deserved no special dispensation or consideration due to the motive? If they believe that, let them say so. If not, well, you do the math.

    Again, generally speaking, there is bias and double standard at work here. Denying that (which is entirely predictable) doesn’t make it any less true.

  24. Puhhhhleeeeasssee! Most of above is ridiculous . Y’all are criticizing Mr. Pitts for what he MIGHT say or do in some other scenario in your head . As for his position & response to the situation , I’ll say what I often do after reading Mr. Pitts’ column : ” Amen, Brother !” ( btw , I’m white/blond-blue-eyed ( & w/ a little Onondaga hidden in the background.), so please spare the ” If-a-black/African American-said/did-that-he’d-be-singin’-a-different-tune line of drivel . ;D

Comments are closed.