Public Schools

Not all states are banning books. This one is protecting them.

  Rhys Long

Illinois takes a stand

We finally have some good news concerning book censorship in America: Illinois just passed a bill outlawing book bans in public libraries, becoming the first state in the nation to do so. Illinois becomes the first state in the recent waves of legislation to outlaw book bans.

At the signing ceremony for this new bill, Governor J.B. Pritzker (D) perfectly summed up the problem with book bans: “Book bans are about censorship, marginalizing people, marginalizing ideas and facts. Regimes banned books, not democracies. … We refuse to let a vitriolic strain of white nationalism coursing through our country determine whose histories are told … in Illinois.”

Partisan and doctrinal appeals should have no place in deciding the materials to which the public has access, and the whims of Christian Nationalists should not dictate who gets a voice in literature.

Books bans: A long history

Book banning is not a new phenomenon; a controversial religious pamphlet was banned in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1650, anti-slavery works were banned in the South in the first half of the 19th century, countless works were banned during the Civil Rights era and many more thought to contain Communist or socialist ideas were banned under McCarthyism. Book banning is not exclusive to the U.S., either. The most famous historical example of book censorship is from Nazi Germany, where the government banned and burned books written by Jewish, liberal and leftist authors.

In each case, whether at home or abroad, book banning is fueled by intolerance and fear. Books are a powerful tool by which we disseminate challenging ideas and useful information, and banned books usually push against the status quo or offer support and understanding to marginalized groups. That is why these books pose a threat to the Christian Nationalist agenda.

Books defenders speak up

The irony of book bans is that banning a book sometimes results in increased sales and attention for the title. Maus I and II, a set of graphic novels about the Holocaust, saw a spike in sales after being banned in Tennessee. Antiracist Baby and Genderqueer have seen similar results. These bans also galvanize popular authors like Stephen King into encouraging young people to seek out and read banned books.

But not every banned book becomes an overnight bestseller. Most, without the right combination of media buzz and public outrage, simply sink into oblivion. This is to say that we can’t rely on public attention alone to combat these bans and support banned books or authors. While public outcry is an ever-effective tool, it is even more important that legislators be made aware and made to care about stopping book bans.

Hopefully, this Illinois bill will lead to copycat bills across the country that protect our books and the people they represent.

For Nex and all 2SLGBTQ+ students in Oklahoma

Remove Ryan Walters

We are calling for the Oklahoma Legislature to immediately remove Ryan Walters from his position as Oklahoma Superintendent and to begin an investigation into the Oklahoma Department of Education’s policies that have led to a the rampant harassment of 2SLGBTQ+ students.

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