The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
In middle school, many people read Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. If you aren’t familiar with this text, it’s about a futuristic American society in which books are outlawed and “firemen” burn any books that are found. Now, this once-popular book is banned from schools.
The American Library Association (ALA) keeps a list of banned books. Recently, the director of the ALA, Deborah Stone, told CBS News that the recently banned books were mostly on two topics: Black American history or the LGBTQ+ community. Stone said the efforts to ban these books are usually “a coordinated effort by activists targeting school boards.”
A few weeks ago, a book about an Asian American immigrant family running a motel was banned in Texas. Front Desk by Kelly Yang is a story about family, friendship and community. According to Texas republicans, this book about an Asian girl living her life is “critical race theory.” A website called No Left Turn in Education has gone so far as to publish an entire list of books that they think should be banned from schools. Here are some of the books mentioned:
A book about a Black boy from Georgia applying to colleges. When he faces racism at his school and has nobody to talk to, he writes letters to Martin Luther King Jr.
Stamped (YA Edition)
A history book for young adults told from the point of view of Black activists Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi.
The Hate U Give
A book about a girl named Starr Carter who goes to a predominantly white high school but lives in a predominantly Black community. When she’s driving back from a party with her Black childhood best friend, he gets pulled over and shot by the police. After the shooting, Starr finds herself in the center of attention in both her predominantly Black and white communities that she fought so hard to keep separate.
The books are sorted into categories. The categories are not by genre, age level or even race. Instead, they are sorted by offense. Books with mentions of how the justice system treats Black folks differently are in the “anti-police” category. Books about LGBTQ+ people are in a category called “comprehensive sexuality education.” In large, bold text, the website claims “THESE ARE THE BOOKS THAT ARE USED TO SPREAD RADICAL AND RACIST IDEOLOGIES TO OUR STUDENTS.“
In the American education system, books about Black people are called “racist,” but books about slaveowners are not.
The No Left Turn website does not try to hide that its coordinated campaign is to ban books by marginalized communities, specifically Black and LGBTQ+ people. There is a tab labeled CRT code words and the first word on the list is abolitionist. In the eyes of this website, critical race theory is anything to do with race. Blackness is another word on the list, along with BIPOC and whiteness.
Whiteness goes unnamed in school systems, but naming it is a flag for “critical race theory.” Websites like No Left Turn are effectively distributing this information to parents, students and educators. These books and “code words” are being used during school board meetings and in parent-teacher conferences. This rhetoric that Black and LGBTQ+ individuals are inherently dangerous is spreading.
So, what can be done to combat this spread of misinformation?
Here are four effective ways to combat the banning of these stories in schools across the country:
1. Read the books.
2. Email your local school board representatives and tell them how you feel about these books.
3. Start conversations with students, teachers and parents. Ways to do this can be sharing articles on social media (like this one!), emailing your teachers to ask about their thoughts, or speaking at your local school board meetings.
4. Vote for representatives that will advocate for representation for all stories.