Hundreds of books dealing with racism and sexuality have been pulled from libraries for review, NBC News reported. Up to 75 formal requests by parents and community members have been filed to school districts in Texas to ban books from libraries. NBC reported the amount of book challenges received by the Texas school districts at the beginning of this school year is more than they’ve seen in the past two decades.
The Katy Independent School District, for example, has pulled a number of books from their schools and libraries as a result of parents’ concerns for children being exposed to sexually explicit content in books exploring gender, reported NBC.
“Why are we sexualizing our precious children?” a Katy parent said at a November school board meeting after she suggested that books about LGBTQ relationships are causing children to improperly question their gender identities and sexual orientations. “Why are our libraries filled with pornography?”
Free speech advocates have also denied the books in question qualify as “pornographic,” per NBC. Other parents complained about books mentioning the history of racism ranging from picture books to biographies.
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.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has suggested criminal charges for school staff members who provide access to young adult books and Rep. Matt Krause composed a list of 850 books on racism and sexuality that might make students feel ‘uncomfortable,’ reported NBC. Krause called on Texas school districts to investigate whether those titles are held in their schools and libraries.
Some retired librarians have collaborated with grassroots organizers to push back against the book challenges, per NBC. However, many chose to resign to avoid the line of fire from parents.
“There have always been efforts to censor books, but what we’re seeing right now is frankly unprecedented,” said Carolyn Foote, a retired school librarian in Austin who’s helping lead the #FReadom campaign. “A library is a place of voluntary inquiry. That means when a student walks in, they’re not forced to check out a book that they or their parents find objectionable. But they also don’t have authority to say what books should or shouldn’t be available to other students.”
White parents have somehow equated pornographic content to stories about sexuality and the Black experience. In an attempt to avoid ‘white guilt’ and preserve their ignorance, these parents have disregarded the ways in which their children can benefit from or identify with these fictional characters.
“Some parents want to pretend that books are the source of darkness in kids’ lives. The reality for most kids is that difficulties, challenges, harm, oppression — those are present in their own lives, and books that reflect that reality can help to make them feel less alone,” said author Ashley Hope Pérez, via NBC.