Doug Wolter: To become truly woke, check your bookshelf

Doug Wolter
Doug Wolter

I am rummaging through my extensive book collection this week, self-editing to avoid the potential embarrassment of having them flagged by the thought police.

It has come to my attention that my bookcases may contain a volume or two that run afoul of the new arbiters of truth. One must be sure to keep oneself in line with the czars of wokeness. It is important to be woke. You can lose your job if you’re not woke nowadays.

But you must also think before you speak. If you thought you were a person of integrity but then discover you’re willing to abandon your core principles at the first hint of criticism, you could turn into Drew Brees.

You see, I have come across a timely National Public Radio online post. It reads, in part:

“You may have seen the phrase ‘decolonize your bookshelf’ floating around. In essence, it is about actively resisting and casting aside the colonialist ideas of narrative, storytelling, and literature that have pervaded the American psyche for so long.


If you are white, take a moment to examine your bookshelf. What do you see? What books and authors have you allowed to influence your worldview, and how do you process the issues of racism and prejudice toward the disenfranchised? Have you considered that, if you identify as white and read only the work of white authors, you are in some ways listening to an extension of your own voice on repeat? While the details and depth of experience may differ, white voices have dominated what has been considered canon for eons. That means non-white readers have had to process stories and historical events through a white author’s lens.”

Truthfully, I don’t know how many white authors I’ve got on my bookshelves. I never thought about it till now.

I mean, there are a lot of them. David McCullough and Stephen E. Ambrose are foremost among my American history authors, and they are indeed white. I have biographies about U.S. presidents George Washington, Theodore Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Thomas Jefferson, Ronald Reagan, Andrew Jackson and Calvin Coolidge (who were, unfortunately, white guys) and I’m sure some of the authors were white, too. I don’t know if whiteness counts so much with my sports books, but I suppose whatever the color of the author a few “colonialist” ideas managed to filter through.

It’s just hard to know what’s acceptable and what’s not. I think I’m in need of more education on the subject.

For instance, one of my all-time favorite novels is “To Kill a Mockingbird.” It was written by a white author, Harper Lee (but she was also a woman, which ought to count for something, right?). Anyway, the story contains, according to one historian, “the most enduring fictional image of racial heroism.”

I liked the book, and I loved Atticus Finch. Does that matter?

I’m currently reading a book about Abraham Lincoln, who used to be an American hero but now has become controversial. He freed the slaves, of course, but that was a long time ago. American history isn’t being taught today like it was when I was in elementary school, so I’m sure if you took a poll, 40 percent of Americans between the ages of 17 and 27 will assume Lincoln was the creator of the Lincoln Town Car.

I’m a baby boomer, so my American history education respected our presidents, taught that all men are created equal, taught the value of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, and appreciated Western Civilization in general.


All that stuff has become contentious nowadays as we rush headlong toward revolution, having decided that it’s no longer worthwhile to work toward the goals that, however unevenly attained, once defined our country.

But don’t blame me for how I was raised. You see, it’s not my fault that I had a World War II veteran for a father, who saluted the flag. And it wasn’t my fault that my second-grade teacher, Mrs. Fern Truckenmiller, taught us the following song about our first president: “First in war, first in peace, first in the hearts of his countrymen. That is the story of Washington...”

I guess I’d better get rid of that Washington biography now, just to be safe. And I guess I’d better be more careful about what I write, myself.

I have in fact completed nine books of my own, of mostly faith-based fiction. My latest offering, “The Eleventh Year,” is brand new. It’s dystopian in nature, and it’s about a Christian family maneuvering through a new and sinister American system that persecutes believers by throwing them in work camps.

Take it with a grain of salt, though. The book was finished before those wonderful peaceful protests occurred in our major American cities that resulted in the destruction of entire neighborhoods, and we now know (don’t we?) how foolish it is to envision a future where our constitutional freedoms have been removed.

You can buy the book online through Do it quickly, though. If you wait too long, you might discover that it has been banned.


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