In order not to make white children feel guilty, some American states have muted books on racism or sexism. Teachers speak of a “witch hunt”.
The school war is declared in Texas, where the authorities of this conservative state in the southern United States are attacking books educating schoolchildren about racism and gender identity, believing that they make white children feel guilty. Illustration of this offensive, led by about fifteen states in the country, a comic strip relating the unintentional microaggressions that an African-American child suffers because of his skin color, was withdrawn in October from school libraries in western Houston.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,” says Brandon Rottinghaus, professor of political science at the University of Houston.
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, Glenn Youngkin 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 setting to the index 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, for its part, called the parliamentary inquiry a “witch hunt”, after the passage of a law framing very precisely the way in which 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 removed and placed on the commission’s roster, which is 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, in the running to become a state prosecutor, as “a prolific author of anti-LGBTQ laws”.
“Uncomfortable all the time”
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 were working together and I did something unknowingly that offends you, you should be able to tell me without getting angry,” he explains. 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 ”.
The tensions created by the ban one “New Kid” prompted New Yorker Alessandra Bastagli to launch a campaign to send copies of the book at dozens of Texas schools. “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 work, sent free of charge to libraries upon request. The Houston African-American bookstore shipping orders on Thursday said all the books were gone.
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United States – Conservatives in Texas police school readings