Recent developments in several U.S. states have banned Critical Race Theory, AP African American History and books in general. Such widespread movements for censorship of access to knowledge pertaining to civil rights and the histories of minorities in this country ought to be considered incredibly dangerous. Not only are these restrictive measures exemplary of censorship parallel to the warnings in Fahrenheit 451, but they alarm me of the potential future of our children’s inability to grasp historical accuracies and progressive ideologies on an international and intergenerational scale.
Ron DeSantis, Governor of Florida, has passed a series of bills that wildly suppress the accessibility of literature and information that include Black history, diversity and LGBTQ+ topics. His “Curriculum Transparency” bill requires books available in public schools to undergo a vetting process by a school district employee that holds a valid educational media specialist certificate. Essentially, DeSantis is requiring “book selections to be free of pornography and prohibited materials harmful to minors, suited to student needs and appropriate for the grade level and age group.” However, In conjunction with his previous “Parental Rights in Education” law and “Stay WOKE” law, the books that are being attacked are not necessarily the pornographic books his book ban alludes to, but rather books that merely violate his right-wing and conservative world-view.
Books such as “Gift of Ramadan”, “Stonewall: A Building. An Uprising. A Revolution” and “The Drinking Gourd: A Story of the Underground Railroad” have all already been banned in Duval county, Florida. Respectively, these children’s books touch upon the beauty of celebrating and fasting for Ramadan in a multigenerational household, a historic narrative of the gay civil rights movement and the historical fictional account of navigating the Underground Railroad from a child’s point of view. What we’re seeing, consequently, is an intent to erase the importance and livelihoods of different American lives. These topics are not at its base wildly controversial. Ultimately, they tell children’s stories from the perspective of the different identities the American public represents. They contain the principles of working hard, loving family, respecting tradition and history and knowing your significance and self-worth; all values that I am sure all Americans would yearn for their children to understand. Yet, they are banned for the simple fact that they are told through the lens and narrative of marginalized identities. At its root, this type of censorship is a political message that these minorities are meant to stay that way; marginalized, erased from the public sphere and suppressed from having any form of self-representation. Dangerously, this will reaffirm racist hierarchies and institutionalize them for the next generation of growing children.
Additionally and more alarmingly, these series of laws in Florida are representative of a larger movement throughout the United States that seeks to restrict student’s access to historical accuracy and representation of minority identities. 18 states have passed legislation to restrict the inclusion of Critical Race Theory to be implemented in education and workplace trainings. Critical Race Theory and similar theories, essentially position racism as institutional and systemic; it holds the systems and institutions themselves as responsible for furthering a cycle of xenophobia and racism in this country. This “decades-old academic theory” has been prevalent in a general understanding that there are certain policies, laws and systems present in all aspects of life that further perpetuate racism. Such an understanding has been crucial on an administrative, legal and political level to address social concerns such as housing discrimination, police brutality and educational inequalities.
To ban this type of ideology from the state-level is to say that racism is not institutional and inclusion of these sensitive topics in academic and professional settings is illegal and false. In other words, it is erasure of the Black experience, suppression of the progress made for racial and ethnic justice and an attempt to reframe generations of learning that there are clear institutional avenues for the American public to take to address and dismantle our racist and xenophobic tendencies. This can and will have disastrous impacts on the psychology of dynamics between people of color and white people in these states. Consequently, it will provide for further gaps in understanding between red states and blue states; we will eventually be talking past each other about the same topics with wildly different ideologies and references to historical occurrences and their significance thus rendering political discussion futile and absurdly polarized.
With this growing movement to censor literature and information on minorities and minority rights, we are not protecting children, we are severely hurting them. We are hurting them on the international level by reducing their education to a degree far behind other highly-educated countries. And we are hurting them by essentially dumbing down what they have access to. Such movements to censor literature will not stop there, it sets up a gross precedent to censor online forms of media and from there potentially public forms of freedom of speech. Perhaps most importantly, this movement tells non-white and non-heterosexual people that our rights are under attack and that the republican or conservative wing is blinded by a culture war no one wants to be a part of. Rather than bridge the gap of understanding between differing identities, this movement wants to further misinform, disinform and polarize us. What I most fear is not the impact this will have on my own livelihood, but that this direction will lead our future children so far astray from the America I know and believe in, that they will find themselves in a world where censorship and undemocratic access to speech and information is the absolute norm.