This is the final warning to all free thinkers before anti-freedom minded politicians overreach into education and censure librarians and educators for creating and a disturbance, insubordination, violation of policies and failure to follow instructions by offering free books! Which books sparked the ire of school boards and politicians? Why only literature helping youth cope with LGBTQIAP, race, or sexuality topics. Given our society today, youth are in dire need of learning spaces and communities that allow them to safely explore diverse perspectives without being attacked through hateful misinformation at school and on social media. The impact of these bans is intentional in sending a message that trans and queer librarians, teachers, and students are not welcome in school or in the community.
Libraries are in a political battle in Texas as Republicans strive to control access to information by reducing and removing literature dealing with racism or sexuality. Three officials specifically are censuring our right to read and teach and acting as gatekeepers against books and curriculum about sexual orientation and racial identity.
First, Gov. Greg Abbott for calling for criminal charges against school staff members for offering books he deems “pornographic” a term that some politicians and district leaders have interpreted as a catchall for books on sexuality and sexual orientation.
Second, Rep. Matt Krause is subjectively investigating and REMOVING 850 BOOKS in K-12 schools that might “make students feel discomfort” and demanded that Texas school districts investigate whether the books were in their libraries. The majority of the titles dealt with LGBTQIAP themes, and some were targeted for merely including LGBTQIAP characters, according to an analysis by BookRiot.
And third, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick saying teaching of critical race theory should be grounds for firing at Texas universities. The recent book bans in Texas are loosely related to House Bill 3979, a so-called anti-CRT bill that bans teaching any materials that could mean “an individual should feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress on account of the individual’s race or sex.”
Politicians like these as well as local school board officials are using the issue of book censorship to win public office and changing book review policies just to appease the state lawmakers’ biased and uneducated banned list of books 73% of which feature LGBTQIAP characters or themes according to ProPublica and Texas Tribune analysis. Many of the books under fire are newer titles, purchased by school librarians in recent years as part of a nationwide movement to diversify the content available to public school children. This battle in Texas, and specifically in Fort Worth, is foreshadowing the larger battle playing out over library books across the country.
WHY WE NEED TO HELP
We are in an era where people struggle to have an open conversation about divisive topics but yet we are more connected as a society to share information and influence others. This builds factions who want their way and to impose their view on anyone and everyone because they feel that they’re right. These people and honestly everyone at different times in their lives get wrapped up in our own identity that we fail to see or consider different perspectives. Libraries operate on voluntary inquiry and extend equitable access to all learners by offering books with diverse topics to help us broaden our horizons, understand other people, and create inclusive communities.
“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 Ashley Hope Pérez, author of the young adult novel “Out of Darkness”. In so many of the politically approved books, we see only certain races and sexualities which are not relatable to LGBTQIAP youth exploring how they fit into society. Reading modern books about teens with different races and sexualities helps us safely teach young adults that it’s OK to not be white and to have desires; oh and here’s how to be inclusive and how to act on your desires consensually and safely. The authors of the contended books report using real students’ questions and issues from LGBTQIAP advice columns and consult with sex education experts in order to provide LGBTQIAP teens with practical information that’s often omitted from sex ed classes.
Peter Coyl, a librarian who testified on behalf of the American Library Association in 2015 against removing the books said, “People need to be very vigilant and aware of it. It’s a slippery slope. If we allow the restriction of one thing, it’s very easy to slide into more suppression.” Even the legal counsel of Hood County’s attorney warned that such action could spur a lawsuit over unlawful censorship because of potential violations of state law and the U.S. Constitution. The slippery slope here begins when politicians use specific terminology such as pornography as a catchall and fail to distinguish between porn and sexual education.
JOIN THE REVOLUTION
Students are leading the change they want to see in the world in real ways, fighting for their right to read and freedom of speech. High School students in Katy ISD and other districts are forming banned book clubs and creating amazon wishlists for allies to purchase books for them to hand out to students where districts are actively participating in Krause’s book hunt. Students in Granbury ISD started a petition opposing the book removal and gained 600 signatures within a few days. Students are actively advocating and striving to humanize their identities and are retaliatory against politically driven censorship. All this while parents remain active drivers of banning and removing books from libraries.
“EVERY SOCIETY HAS ITS PROTECTORS OF STATUS QUO AND ITS FRATERNITIES OF THE INDIFFERENT WHO ARE NOTORIOUS FOR SLEEPING THROUGH REVOLUTIONS. TODAY, OUR VERY SURVIVAL DEPENDS ON OUR ABILITY TO STAY AWAKE, TO ADJUST TO NEW IDEAS, TO REMAIN VIGILANT AND TO FACE THE CHALLENGE OF CHANGE.”
— REV. DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR.
Librarians and Gen-Z-led, non-profit groups are working to combat censorship in Texas. The American Civil Liberties Union called for an apology from Granbury ISD for removing 100+ books and explicitly affirming its commitment to LGBTQIAP and racial inclusivity. Students are partnering with Voters of Tomorrow Texas to host the Katy ISD FReadom Week and handed out hundreds of copies of the banned books Beloved and Maus. A group of Texas school librarians has launched a social media campaign called #FReadom campaign. And The Texas Library Association (TLA) has launched a grassroots coalition, Texans for the Right to Read, representing Texans who oppose book banning.