“Another parent in Katy, a Houston suburb, asked the district to remove a children’s biography of Michelle Obama, arguing that it promotes “reverse racism” against white people, according to the records obtained by NBC News. A parent in the Dallas suburb of Prosper wanted the school district to ban a children’s picture book about the life of Black Olympian Wilma Rudolph, because it mentions racism that Rudolph faced growing up in Tennessee in the 1940s. In the affluent Eanes Independent School District in Austin, a parent proposed replacing four books about racism, including “How to Be an Antiracist,” by Ibram X. Kendi, with copies of the Bible.” — somehow I don’t think reverse racism is Texas’ biggest problem.
That story gives textbook examples of how censorship works. In many cases school boards and principals are violating their own principles to pull books off the shelves for fear of legal action or angry mobs descending on school boards. I can understand the impulse to get ahead of a government crackdown but I can’t support it.
A part of me thinks parents should just start identical calls to ban books that right-wingers like, but I don’t think that’s a good solution. And it won’t shame them or make them face their own hypocrisy because in my experience they’re not hypocrites. They simply believe they have the right to purge society of stuff they don’t like (including people) and we don’t. Even if they didn’t have a double-standard and encouraged everyone to ban books, that still wouldn’t make it right.
I will admit that discovering book-banning advocate (books with sex are bad!) Ryan Utterback of Kansas has been charged with child molestation does give me a bit of schadenfreude. But even if every one of the banners was a virtuous, decent godly person, banning books is still bad. Utterback says he wants to protect his child but he’s not proposing any sort of parental approval policy. That would allow parents with different standards to tell their kids “sure, read it!”
Mississippi Mayor Gene McGee doesn’t mince words: he’s withholding library funding unless they get rid of gay books that offend his bigoted Christian values. That we live in a secular government that doesn’t enforce religious rulings has apparently escaped his notice — and if he did, he wouldn’t give a crap. Another article suggests it’s because the library didn’t roll over for parent complaints so the mayor’s trying a different tactic (which he doesn’t have the authority to do, though he might get away with it anyway).
Polk County Florida insist they’re not banning books, just removing them until the school board can read and review them. Just because they’ve taken them off the shelf until the school board can review them and decide if they’re appropriate — and there’s no time limit on when they have to do that — it’s totally not a ban. As Joe My God notes, it’s not concerned parents as much as organized conservative groups pushing this.
And then there’s the Tennessee school board that’s pulling Maus from the curriculum.
To put this in perspective, here’s the Smithsonian’s history of book-burning.