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Commentator Mildred Antenor: Concern over rise in book banning

Mildred Antenor
WBGO commentator Mildred Antenor

The Wizard of Oz, Charlotte’s Web, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, The Diary of A Young Girl by Anne Frank, The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison. No. These are not a collection of books at a school library. In fact, if you go to many school libraries across the country right now, you will not find them. They are banned! I know. It sounds ridiculous but that’s where we’re at folks. School boards are banning all types of books from nursery rhymes, to historical books to even the Bible. Yes. That’s right. ---- The bible. Now to be fair, I should mention some of the reasons these groups have given for these bans. Evidently, the consensus is that there is violence and too much negativity and they are deemed too depressing for children. In the case of Charlotte’s Web, the reasoning is that the book has unsuitable topics for children to read about. One prevailing complaint was that the story portrayed talking animals that can act like humans. --- And why was the Bible brought up for banning? According to the Escambia County school board in Florida, the Bible contains too much sexism, violence, genocide, slavery for young minds to process.

The last time I looked at my calendar, it said 2024 not 1917 when Joseph Stalin had books banned because they mentioned religion, LGBT and a host of other topics that were deemed to be anti-Soviet. The Nazi’s followed suit in the 1940s.

But you know, this censorship nonsense is not just occurring at some small local school board meeting in Florida. No. It’s happening all over the country.

This effort disproportionally targets authors of color, LGBT authors. It also raises an equality concern in education. It infringes upon the right of a student to get a full education. Not a sanitized or edited one. It infringes upon the right of a student to get an education that facilitates critical thinking by exposing them to diverse and new ideas. It also puts educators in a very vulnerable position where a teacher could get fired if he or she decides to teach students about how American Indians lost their land or have a discourse about The Black Panther Party or discuss the Stonewall riots or anything that doesn’t fall into the small confines of what the school boards deemed acceptable.

The Guardian recently cast some light on this issue and says that this is being controlled from the top down --- By far-right billionaires. It mentioned that some conservative groups like: Moms for Liberty, Parents Defending Education and No Left Turn in Education, are some of the groups behind this. Apparently, the same far-right conservative billionaires who funded the Tea Party are also funding these fundamentalist groups that are banning books all across the country.

But my question is what are they afraid of? And why this extreme control? Are they afraid of people who have been downgraded in society that now finding their voices?

What this is, is fearmongering and it’s an effort to control a societal paradigm by erasing the voices/writings of marginalized people. This is all in an effort by the far-right conservatives to remain in power and squash any leverage that the disempowered could have.

Mildred Antenor is a professor and the author of the Gladioli Are Invisible: A Memoir