“Protecting the Children”

Book ban attempts hit a record high in 2022. What used to be individual book complaints have morphed now into movements for multiple removals and are organized by national groups. A number of librarians have been harassed and threated. A large majority of complaints about books come from conservatives and are directed toward works with LGBTQ+ or racial themes. Conservative states have passed or proposed laws restricting books, and there has been a push to make book bans and challenges easier in red states. An Arkansas law that allows librarians and booksellers to be criminally charged over providing “harmful” materials to minors has been temporarily blocked by a federal judge.

Aside from the fact that practice of book-banning is simply censorship, there are several problems with the current conservative rage to ban books in both schools and public libraries.  First, it is done under the guise of “protecting the children.” What it’s really about is protecting the comfort of parents. This has been true historically and is true now. (“In the 1950s, adults in Alabama crusaded against The Rabbit’s Wedding, which told the story of a black and white rabbit getting married.”) Today the topics are primarily race, ethnicity, and gender identity. The exact reasons for the push to ban vary, but the targeted books have one thing in common: “they empower the people those groups [who want to ban them] would rather see weakened.

Book-banning often ignores the lives of the very kids they purport to protect. For example, many want books that refer to characters having two parents of the same gender banned, when that may be a fact of life for some of the students involved or their classmates. Students often experience bias and prejudice based on skin color or hair style at very early ages; a fact which the book-banners are quick to ignore.

What began as a movement ostensibly about parents’ rights in their child’s education has become something else; it has become a movement to eliminate access—for all students—to books with which certain parents disagree. Theresa Vargas, writing in The Washington Post, says, “I can respect that some people will want to put down the books I want to pick up. What I can’t respect is their belief that they have the right to snatch from my hands, and the hands of other parents, books that we want to read to our children. That picture books are coming under attack shows that the objectors fight never was about supporting parental choice. It’s always been about eliminating choice.

So what this book banning is really about is parents or groups trying to prevent children—any children— from encountering any ideas of which they don’t fully approve. It’s a matter of attempting to brain-wash children into believing exactly what their parents want them to believe. However, it won’t work. Even with all this effort, kids will discover ideas in the most unlikely places (they have access to the internet after all) and they will be who they are, regardless of parental indoctrination. As Rob Sanders, author of Pride: The Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag says, “Look at me. I’m almost 65, I grew up reading only books that featured parents who were heterosexual and characters who experienced the world in gender-normative ways. Those books did not make me straight.

Date: Sunday, 30. July 2023 21:46
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