(Houston) School war is declared in Texas where the authorities of this conservative state in the southern United States are attacking books that educate schoolchildren about racism and gender identity, believing that they make white children feel guilty.
Illustration of this offensive, led by fifteen states in the country, a comic book relating the unintentional micro-attacks that an African-American child suffers because of his skin color, was withdrawn in October from libraries schools in West Houston.
“New Kid” by Jerry Craft is part of a list of 850 works compiled by a parliamentary committee which investigates in schools books evoking racism or institutional sexism.
The debates on these books “will multiply across the country in urban areas where there is conservative pressure at the state level, but where we are more democratic locally,” said Brandon Rottinghaus, professor. in Political Science at the University of Houston.
” Witch hunt ”
Across the country, the newly elected Republican governor of Virginia has promised parents will have a say in what books public schools choose.
During the campaign, he broadcast the testimony of a mother shocked that her high school son had nightmares after studying “Beloved,” a classic by African-American novelist Toni Morrison.
Pulitzer Prize in 1988, it tells the story of a former slave who chooses to kill her child to avoid him in turn suffering the atrocities of slavery.
Conservatives also denounce the teaching of “critical race theory,” a school of thought that analyzes racism in the United States as a system, with its laws and power logics to the advantage of white people, rather than ‘an individual prejudice against minorities.
It is a question of fighting against the culture “woke”, a term developed by the American left to designate the awareness of injustices in particular related to the color of skin or the gender, and which led to the blacklisting. of books containing racial stereotypes.
The Texas Library Association lamented “the growing censorship” in that state, saying a “parent has the right to determine what is best for their child, but not for all children.”
The Texas Teachers Association has called the parliamentary inquiry a “witch hunt” after the passage of a law framing very precisely how subjects such as racial or gender inequalities should be taught.
In Spring Branch School Academy, “The Breakaways”, a comic strip in which one of the characters was born a girl, but feels like a boy, was withdrawn and placed on the commission’s list based on several complaints from parents against the presence of certain books in libraries.
For its author, Cathy G. Johnson, “the book ban distracts media attention from (the) real evil that politicians like (commission chairman) Matt Krause perpetuate”.
She recalls that the Equality Texas association considers this Republican vying to become a state prosecutor as “a prolific author of anti-LGBTQ laws”.
The book “New Kid” has finally found its place on the shelves. It has been translated into a dozen languages (“Le Nouveau”, in French) and crowned with prestigious awards.
Drawing inspiration from his personal experience and that of his children, Jerry Craft delicately evokes the difficulties of an African-American college student in integrating into a predominantly white private establishment.
“If we worked together and I did something without knowing it that offends you, you should be able to tell me without getting angry,” he told AFP.
Its detractors “prefer to close the door and leave things as they are. But right now my kids and I are uncomfortable all the time, ”he says.
The tensions created by the book ban prompted New Yorker Alessandra Bastagli to launch a campaign to send copies of “New Kid” to dozens of schools in Texas.
“My children were angry and didn’t want the little Texans to be deprived of this book they love,” explains this mother of two children aged 8 and 9 of Italian-Puerto Rican origin.
She has had 200 copies of “New Kid” and “Class Act”, another of the author’s books, sent free of charge to libraries upon request.
On Thursday, the African-American bookstore in Houston responsible for shipping the orders told AFP that all the books were gone.
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Texas Conservatives police school readings