Banned books in the “land of the free”
Isabel Langguth explores the history of book banning and why it is still happening today.
Banned books and censorship are not new components of history; funnily enough, you can read many books about them. Books have been confiscated, burned, shredded. If you can think of it, odds are that somewhere, somehow, a book has been through it.
Notoriously, countries have banned books focusing on parts of history they would rather not acknowledge to try and keep the younger generation patriotic and ready to support their country no matter what. America is the poster child for this, going as far as preventing students from learning about the theory of evolution in heavily Christian states. China has also dabbled in the censorship, famously banning Yang Jishen’s negative retelling of the Great Chinese Famine, even though there don’t seem to be many ways one can positively discuss one of the worst famines the world has ever seen.
Recent efforts have focused on schools in America to ban or restrict students’ access to specific books concerning race and LGBTQ+ issues. The Guardian reported last month that Republican politicians across several states were making these pushes.
The irony of such efforts has not been missed by many, as the Republican party is notorious for embracing the rhetoric of America as the ‘land of the free’ and stressing the importance of maintaining freedom of speech, despite offence and or potential harm to communities.
The irony of such efforts has not been missed by many, as the Republican party is notorious for embracing the rhetoric of America as the ‘land of the free’
In the wake of the ‘don’t say gay’ bill in February of this year in Florida, which bans students from discussing sexuality and gender identity in schools, the attempts to ban LGBTQ+ material in books have been met with a rightfully harsh response. Students and teachers alike have protested both the bill and the requests made by politicians to remove specific books from curriculums and libraries.
The current attempts to restrict books have been made with remarks that parents desire more control over their children’s learning in the classroom. Unfortunately, this argument seems to be more of a conveniently created narrative to push for tighter control over students and teachers alike.
CNN found that only 12% of parents in America desired to have more say in what their children were reading about and being taught in school. And yet, with no significant evidence or complaints from parents about specific books in school libraries or classrooms, the pushes for censorship seem to be growing across states.
Around the same time the ‘don’t say gay’ bill was introduced, an obscenity law was passed in Kansas, preventing all homosexual material or discussion by teachers in classrooms, including books with any gay themes or characters.
This book banning is a clear stand against LGBTQ+ and minority communities and places individuals in the impacted schools in great danger of targeted harassment and discrimination. But, as with the many other times that laws have targeted minority communities, there is little acknowledgement about the vulnerable positions, in this case, children and young adults, are being placed in.
There is no doubt that ignorance leads to discriminatory attitudes and prejudice, often inciting violence against individuals and communities.
This book banning is a clear stand against LGBTQ+ and minority communities and places individuals in the impacted schools in great danger of targeted harassment and discrimination
Throughout history, there has been an unmistakable pattern of banning books based on specific themes relating to minorities, leading to the later infringement of their human rights. While the US may not take it to such an extreme, this banning will work to alienate many students in classrooms and outside.
Without access to such essential content, it is not unreasonable to believe that discriminatory attitudes will grow within the affected student populations. As these politicians are sending a clear message to students: kids, only the white and heterosexual books are worth reading.
Luckily, students, teachers, and parents are avidly protesting across the United States alongside strong support from the American Library Association. However, who knows if this will be enough to prevent the creation of new discriminatory laws and bans and reverse the ones already in place.