I was enraged, but not surprised when The Washington Post reported recently that “an analysis of book challenges from across the nation shows the majority were filed by just 11 people.” While many on the far-right would have us believe there is some kind of grassroots groundswell against teaching accurate history and respecting people of all genders and sexualities, the truth is that this “unprecedented” astroturf movement has been skillfully crafted by people who only care about money and power.
[L]ibrary and free speech advocates warn that the rise in book challenges, especially those targeting LGBTQ texts, will imperil teachers’ ability to do their jobs, undermine the mental health of LGBTQ students and rob children of exposure to lives different from their own.
This is so important for us to understand (especially during Pride Month since more than half of challenged books have LGBTQ+ themes) because Americans can and should stand up for the values of freedom and equality that our country was founded on. Hate groups like the so-called Moms For Liberty, American College of Pediatricians, Alliance Defending Freedom, and many more are fronts for the same forces that have been working for my entire lifetime against the equality of everyone who doesn’t look like they just stepped out of a meeting of President Nixon’s Cabinet, pictured here in the year I was born.
The truth is, the majority of mom voters believe a few parents should not be able to ban books for an entire school or district. That’s why it’s imperative for the rest of us to be as noisy and well-organized as the self-appointed censors are. Fortunately we have many examples to inspire us such as Grace Linn, the 100-year-old Floridian who spoke out at the Martin County School Board meeting against banning books. She even made a wonderful quilt dedicated to the many important books that have been banned over the years! “Remember that in Nazi Germany, they started that book banning...they burned books. When you burn books, you try to take control, and that's not good,” said Linn.
I have hope that caring parents, grandparents, educators, students, and community members can organize and turn the tide and protect our children's freedom to learn so they can grow into the unique and wonderful people they want to be. Many school boards have been inundated with requests but they are pushing back. For example in North Carolina the Wake County School Board rejected all 189 complaints filed by Moms for Liberty, none of which were from parents in the schools where they filed complaints.
“I fully support their right as parents to not have their child read a book in the school library,” Renee Sekel, a [Wake County] parent who has opposed the book challenge efforts, said in an interview. “What I do not support is them infringing on my right as a parent to have my child read books in the school library.”
Why are people who don’t even live in a community trying to ban books in that community? Because this is part of a coordinated effort to create distrust in our awesome public schools to move forward a well-funded, right-wing agenda by trying anything that might work. They are basically throwing hate spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks. When they keep throwing their hate spaghetti at the wall, we will be there with giant bowls of love pasta.
"Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced."
- James Baldwin
Just like not talking about race won’t change the existence of people of color or the systems that discriminate against them, not talking about sexuality won’t change the fact that an increasing number of Americans are not heterosexual. Pretending we don’t exist will hurt so many people who doubt their own value and humanity as a result of the messages they receive and don’t receive about all the different ways a person can be. Many children are just beginning to notice feelings of attraction and gender, so it’s an especially important time to let kids know that there is nothing wrong with them and that they aren’t alone.