The American Library Association has reported a worrying increase in organized attempts to ban – and in some cases even burn – library books.
According to the ALA, the majority of these groups pushing to ban and destroy books are led by conservative activists.
“It’s a volume of challenges that I have never seen during my time at ALA – the last 20 years. We’ve never had a time where we’ve had four or five reports a day for days, sometimes up to eight a day, ”said ALA director Deborah Caldwell-Stone. The Guardian. “Social media is amplifying local challenges and they are going viral, but we have also observed a number of organizations urging local members to attend school board meetings and challenge books. We are witnessing what appears to be a campaign to remove books, especially books dealing with LGBTQIA themes and books dealing with racism. “
The backlash against school library books is likely related to conservative anger at “critical race theory” and ongoing debates over the mandate of school masks. Conservative politicians and media figures have claimed – mostly incorrectly – that schools teach critical race theory, which recognizes and examines the structural impact of racism on American history and society.
Few schools really delve into the nuances of structural racism. Many still have mask warrants – as recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control – and polls show most parents agree with those warrants. However, a small but extremely vocal group of largely conservative parents – and in some cases lawmakers – have made school boards the latest enemy in their culture war.
The books are already disappearing from the shelves. In Virginia and Utah, Toni Morrison’s books were pulled from some school shelves due to “explicit” content. that of Alison Bechdel Fun house was also removed from northern Kansas due to its LGBTQ themes. In southern Pennsylvania, a long list of books – almost exclusively written by people of color – has been banned.
In Fredericksburg, Virginia, a member of the Spotsylvania school board called for LGBTQ fiction in schools to be burned.
“I think we should throw these books in the fire,” he said. “I guess we live in a world now where our public schools prefer kids to read gay pornography rather than Christ.”
A Facebook event called the “Book Burning Event” asked parents to ask their children to check out “objectionable” books in their school library with the aim of collecting them and burning them in the parking lot.
“Start asking your kids to check out their school library books now!” The ones you do NOT want in our schools. At the school board meeting, we will have a fire pit in the parking lot. The blurb for the Facebook event reads. “Yes, at the end of the year we will have to pay them. But this year, no one will be able to verify them. Don’t hesitate to bring marshmallows and a stick. “
The account that posted the book burning event is no longer available on Facebook after being deleted or hidden. Many commentators have compared it to auto-fire rallies organized by the Nazis before World War II.
Ms Caldwell-Stone said conservative organizations like the Heritage Foundation and Heritage Action had capitalized on the anti-education fury of some parents.
“When you have organizations like Heritage Foundation and Family Policy Alliance that publish materials that tell parents how to challenge books in the school library or public library, down to a challenge form included in the booklet so they can simply fill it in, you “see a challenge to our democratic values of freedom of speech, freedom of thought, freedom of belief,” she said.
She said that while the challenges of undermining school boards are quite worrying, what really troubles her is that elected officials are putting their weight behind censorship campaigns.
In Texas, Governor Greg Abbott asked the state education agency commissioner to notify him of any “case of pornography supplied to minors under the age of 18 for prosecution to the fullest extent of the law “. The “pornography” he was referring to was from books like Homosexual gender and In the dream house by Maria Machado, which deals with the author’s homosexual relationship.
Last year, the ALA reported more than 273 attempts to ban or challenge the use of the books, and predicts the number will increase dramatically in 2021.
“You can find school boards, library boards that are proactively removing these books to avoid controversy. We see school boards and library boards ignoring their policies because someone comes out and claims a book is obscene, ”she said. “It’s easy to claim that a few words, a paragraph, a picture in a graphic novel is somehow obscene or pornographic. But when you assess the work as a whole, you end up with the work of Toni Morrison. Beloved, for example, which was such a flashpoint in the government election in Virginia. “
The Independent Gt