The Culture-War Trap
Conservative politicians and organizations have stepped up efforts to ban books about sexual and racial identity while mimicking left-wing arguments about diversity and inclusion. Progressives would be well advised to steer clear of the losing battle over hurt feelings and focus on promoting their economic and political agendas.
NEW YORK – The United States is in the midst of a book-banning frenzy. According to PEN America, 1,648 books were prohibited in public schools across the country between July 2021 and June 2022. That number is expected to increase this year as conservative politicians and organizations step up efforts to censor works dealing with sexual and racial identity.
Republican-controlled states like Florida and Utah have cracked down on school libraries in recent months, banning titles that address racial as well as gender and sexual issues, such as Ibram X. Kendi’s How to Be an Antiracist and Maia Kobabe’s Gender Queer: A Memoir. In parts of Florida, schools have been instructed to limit access to books on race and diversity, and they have been warned that teachers sharing so-called “obscene and pornographic materials” with students could face five years in prison. In South Carolina, Governor Henry McMaster pointed to Kobabe’s book, which won the American Library Association’s Alex Award for young adult literature in 2020, as an example of “obscene and pornographic materials.”
Today’s book bans are largely driven by right-wing populist politicians and parent groups claiming to protect wholesome, family-oriented Christian communities from the decadence of urban America. As such, a children’s book featuring LGBTQ+ characters falls under their definition of pornography.