The American Library Association (ALA) has reported increasing attempts to ban books across the US; most of the books deal with race or LGBT themes. ALA director Deborah Caldwell-Stone expressed concern over the uptick:
“We’re seeing what appears to be a campaign to remove books, particularly books dealing with LGBTQIA themes and books dealing with racism.”
LGBT books have always drawn disgust from conservative Christians. However, recent media campaigns to dismantle discussions surrounding race, gender and sexuality have lent to an even greater assault.
Conservative media has homed in on critical race theory (CRT). CRT is typically a graduate-level legal framework. Critical race theorists assert that racism inheres within US institutions.
In less than four months, Fox News mentioned CRT a total of 1,300 times. Right-wing media continues to claim CRT defiles American schools, preaching white guilt and black victimhood.
In some cases, any mention of historical racism is tantamount to CRT. Glenn Youngkin won the Virginia governor race all while denouncing CRT. In one of his campaign ads, a mother condemned the “explicit material” in Toni Morrison’s Beloved, a book about the lingering impact of slavery during reconstruction. Attempts to ban books like Beloved ride along a wave of nostalgia, a desire to disregard America’s sins.
Beyond revisionist history, however, these book bans repress dissenting viewpoints. The south Pennsylvania district banned a slew of books largely written by people of color. One of those authors was Ibram X. Kendi, a popular critic of US policy.
In a Atlantic op-ed, Kendi addressed the recent obsession over CRT: “it is wrong to claim that teachers educating their students about past and present racism ‘are stomping on the grave of Martin Luther King,’ to quote Mandel.”
All the while, LGBT books receive the brunt of the ire. Multiple politicians have challenged the book Gender Queer: a Memoir by Maia Kobabe.
South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster urged an investigation into the book. Texas Rep. Jeff Cason did the same. In addition, districts in Virginia and Florida removed the book from school libraries.
Maia uses the pronouns e/em/eir. The autobiography deals with eir own gender identity and the struggles of coming out as non-binary. Maia has stressed the importance of its subject matter to young readers.
In a Washington Post op-ed, e argued that “removing or restricting queer books in libraries and schools is like cutting a lifeline for queer youth, who might not yet even know what terms to ask Google to find out more about their own identities, bodies and health."
In 2020, the ALA reported 273 attempts to ban books. Now, in 2021, that figure is expected to grow significantly. Overall, the attack on CRT and LGBT books derive from career aspirations. Politicians and media pundits pander to a minority in the hopes of exploiting the worst of human nature. Regardless of the usefulness of CRT, self-pitying whites have manufactured their own reality. In this twisted reality, systemic inequality is a distant memory, one that is impolite to acknowledge.