Glenn Youngkin, Virginia’s Republican governor-elect was elected last month.A campaign ad featuring a parent upset about the 1987 novel being taught to her son as a high school senior.
It is not the only book of Morrison’s, a Black woman, to be challenged in some communities — and as the debate over education again heats up, books have become a flashpoint around the U.S.
According to the American Library Association’s list of most challenged books in schools and libraries, there are many books that have been banned or challenged.
Most of the books on the 2020 list — the most recent available — are challenged, banned or restricted due to alleged “LGBTQIA+ content,” “anti-police messages,” themes of race, “divisive language” and “sexually explicit language,” according to the ALA.
Deborah Stone, Director of ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom said that there is an organized effort to challenge books on two broad topics: racism, Black American history, and the LGBTQ community.
Stone said campaigns to ban books may be spreading more easily due to social media, and ALA has seen different people from different communities use the same language when arguing against books — a clue that they got the idea from someone else, possibly online.
She said that campaigns to ban books are usually coordinated by activists targeting school boards.
Stone said that books that have themes about race are often prohibited under the “false claim of critical race theories.” “We’re talking about works of literature, we’re talking about individuals talking about their experiences in society — not critical race theory,” she said. “But, there’s a real effort for restriction and limitation of access to these material.”
Critical race theoryThese ideas have been present in American history and offer an academic framework to understand the ways in which racism is reinforced in U.S. institutions and law.
There isBut its tenets are inspiring. to pass laws banning critical racism theory. This makes it easier for parents and children to campaign against certain books.
Texas’ new law bans critical race theory in the classroom. Teachers cannot discuss the idea of “one race, or sex being inherently superior to other races or sex.”
Stone stated that Jerry Craft’s novel “New Kid,” which is about an African American boy who moves to a school that is majority White, has won literary awards. Parents in Katy, Texas, stopped Craft’s October appearance and had “New Kid” temporarily removed by the school, “just because it represented critical race theories,” she stated.
Bonnie Anderson, a former Katy Independent School Board candidate, said that the book was inappropriate instructional material. She spoke to CBS affiliate KKTV about the book in October. “They are directed at White children who display microaggressions towards children of color. The books don’t say that they want White children to feel oppressed, but that is exactly what they will do.
Omerly Sanchez, a parent, told KKTV that her son in elementary school loved the book. Sanchez stated that Sanchez “he said it was funny.”
Like other laws banning critical race theory, a Tennessee law prohibits teaching any concepts that would make someone feel discomfort, guilt or anguish solely because of their race or gender. It also prohibits lessons that suggest that anyone, based on race or sex is “inherently priviledged, racist, and sexist, or oppressive,” whether consciously or subconsciously.
Sharon Roberson is the president and CEO of YWCA of Nashville and Middle Tennessee. Roberson wrote to the Tennessee Department of Education claiming that it would have detrimental effects on education and society in general.
“The intention really is to make us fight against each other.” Roberson stated that people will say that discussing these issues is going to cause harm children. Teachers are trained to teach, and if they want their students to have the benefit of a global society like ours, they need to know their history.
Stone stated that it is not only books that have themes of race that are frequently challenged. “Coming of age” books that depict puberty, sexuality or sex acts are commonly considered “obscene” — even though these themes are just one part of the book, and the concern often misrepresents the piece of literature as a whole.
“‘Beloved’ is one of the best examples of that — that’s in the headlines right now — it isn’t pornographic or obscene, it just deals with sex,” she said.
The book is set during the Reconstruction era. It vividly depicts the horrors and legacy of slavery. There are also explicit and violent passages.
Texas Republican legislators are trying to enforce a ban against what they consider “divisive ideas.”
Republican State Representative Matt Krause compiled a list of 850 books that he believes should not be banned. These included “Rainbow,” a first book of Pride, which is aimed at young readers and “Underneath It All”: A History of Women’s Underwear, which is aimed at young adults. Krause, a candidate to be Texas attorney general, wrote a letter asking Texas school districts to report how many books they have made available to students.
According to CBS Dallas Krause also asked districts to identify other books that might contain human sexuality, sexually transmitted illnesses, HIV/AIDS, sexually explicit imagery or material that could make students feel discomfort or guilt, anguish or any other form psychological distress due to their race or sex. CBS News reached out for comment to Krause and is still waiting for his response.
Jeff Cason is another Republican state lawmaker from Texas. called onThe state’s attorney general is to investigate schools districts that have sexually explicit books in the library. One of the books he deemed inappropriate is “Gender Queer,” by Maia Kobabe, which its publisher describes as a “useful and touching guide on gender identity.”
Texas Governor Greg Abbott, echoing Krause’s concerns and Cason’s, asked the Texas Association of School Boards (TASB) to remove books from school libraries he deemed “pornographic” and “obscene” earlier in the month.
Stone said books “that reflect the lives of LGBTQIA persons and families,” are often targeted as “obscene” or “pornographic” – which they are often not. She said, “You might not have the audience, your child might be the audience but there is an audience for the book and they are often desperately needed.”
According to My Central Jersey, parents of students at North Hunterdon High School in New Jersey challenged books with LGBTQ themes like “Gender Queer” or “Lawn Boy.”
Parents gathered in large numbers at a Hamilton County School Board meeting to discuss challenges to books on the reading list for grades 8-12, including Angie Thomas’ “The hate U Give,” CBS affiliate WDEF TV reports.
In Virginia Beach, Virginia, school officials asked the superintendent to ban four books – “Lawn Boy,” “Gender Queer,” “A Lesson Before Dying” by Ernest Gaines and “The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison — for “pornographic content,” according to The Virginian-Pilot, which obtained copies of their email to the superintendent.
Stone stated that censorship that prohibits the reading of certain books is a violation to library users’ First Amendment rights. Stone also stated that every parent has the right to raise concerns about a book. She stated, “It’s also part of the First Amendment, the right petition.”
Stone said that ALA encourages libraries, school boards, and schools to listen to concerns about books. But, Stone also stated that there should be a “reconsideration procedure” that asks petitioners if and how they read the book.
Stone stated that just because someone says a book’s inappropriate or obscene, it doesn’t necessarily mean it is. It just means that it doesn’t fit their values or needs.
Source: CBS News