In recent weeks, schools in Texas have begun rapidly banning books, and a list has been compiled of 850 books to be potentially banned. The books at risk feature themes such as critical race theory, racism, LGBTQ+ and sex education. There is a heated debate around whether this ban is justified or not, as there is a gray area between those concerned about children and others wanting to erase minorities from literature.
In Nov. 2021, Gov. Greg Abbot of Texas called for the Texas State Library and Archives Commission and the State Board of Education to develop a statewide system to prevent books featuring certain content from entering Texas public schools and school libraries. This call was made by the governor after parents complained about public schools and school libraries exposing their children to “inappropriate” books featuring content they deemed offensive. The book banning is not only a Texas issue, but also a nationwide issue. The American Library Association has over 230 books nationwide under review, as certain parents across the country find them unacceptable to show minors.
The side against the book ban makes the claim that those perpetuating it are trying to erase marginalized groups and their histories. Most of the books on the ban list are by authors of color and LGBTQ+ identities. Books such as “I am Rosa Parks,” a children’s picture book showing the struggle of Rosa Parks, made the list. Other books showing modern depictions of young people of color such as “I am Malala” were also banned.
Students of color and LGBTQ+ identities have pushed back against the banning of such books. These books portray the histories and present-day situations of some minority students attending school in predominantly white, heteronormative districts. They provide representation for such students, allowing them to feel seen and heard. It is also beneficial for white, straight children to see, and thus better understand, marginalized groups through such literature. The world is not white and straight, and books should depict everyone’s world, not just one group’s world. In addition, parents should want their children to learn about the atrocities that have happened in the United States. The wrongs done in history will repeat themselves if they are not taught. The books depicting appropriate stories of history and other identities need to be allowed and circulated in schools. They improve and diversify the culture of the U.S. and reflect the nation’s modernity.
With that being said, there are also books deserving to be on the list. A large portion of books on the list depict topics highly inappropriate for minors. These books contain pornography, race blaming, and abortion. One book contested by parents from multiple states, “Gender Queer” by Maia Kobabe, is a graphic novel depicting explicit sex between two gender non-conforming minors. People in support of the book staying on shelves in public school libraries deemed its protestors as homophobic and transphobic. This book, however, depicts scenes that belong to a rated R film. It is certainly not meant for an audience under the age of 18.
Another book that belongs on the list is “White Fragility” by Robin DiAngelo, which suggests there is a problem with white youth in America today. This book may evoke feelings of guilt in impressionable youth and can further lead to racial divide. The book belongs in a college setting rather than a middle school or high school setting and shouldn’t be imposed on students. Both “Gender Queer” and “White Fragility” are small examples of why this book ban has some legitimacy. There is only so much that a minor should be exposed to, and books dealing with such adult concepts could lead to psychological damage. The protection of children should be prioritized.
The book ban overall is a hot, developing issue. It should be treated with care and all sides should listen to each other’s concerns. Children are the ones being affected by this book ban. The adults who are making the decisions need to prioritize the youth rather than their own biases. Educators, psychologists, and other people specialized in caring for the minds of children need to be at the forefront of this matter. Diversity is a great thing, but its depictions need to be suitable for its audiences.