Black Parents Push Back Against Book Bans

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Natosha Daniels, a leader in the Round Rock Black Parents Association, speaks on The Rachel Maddow Show about the censorship attempted in her school district. Photo: Via msnbc.com

Across the United States, classrooms have found themselves in a battle against censorship.

By Cori Zaragoza, Staff Writer

A January 27th article by The New York Times revealed that a Tennessee school board has banned the teaching of “Maus”, a graphic novel that centers around the Holocaust. The Associated Press reported that in Georgia, Republicans have said they will go forward with a proposal that would allow parents to protest books or online material that they feel could harm their children. These are just a few examples of the onslaught of censorship that schools have been dealing with.

In Round Rock, Texas, the fight came to a head when a parent complained about a book by Jason Reynold and Ibram X. Kendi, titled “Stamped: Racism, Anti-Racism, and You”. The book is a history of racist ideas that have existed in the United States and won the national book award for nonfiction in 2016.

The Texas school board considered removing the book from their curriculum, until a group of parents stepped up. The Round Rock Black Parents Association organized a petition to keep the book on the curriculum, and acquired over 3,600 supporters. In short, they won, and the book was allowed to be kept on.

“The broader message is that these book bans are not going away because they’re part of a larger effort, in my opinion, to destabilize education,” said Natosha Daniels, a former assistant principal and leader in the Round Rock Black Parents Association, on the Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC News.

Daniels said when she first heard complaints about Reynold’s and Kendi’s book, she said she went to the Presidents of the Black Student Union in her district and asked their thoughts on the controversy.

“One of the first things that a student told me was ‘If they’re trying to ban this book, then why are we reading ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ in 8th grade? Why are they not banning ‘Of Mice And Men’?’ That was their first thought,” she shared. “They were like, ‘They’re never going to ban stories of white saviorism, only stories of Blackness will be banned.’ And I think that’s very telling that they recognize that this is blatant racism, the fact that they’re not banning those other books.”

Daniels credits the support of the Round Rock community with the success of averting a book ban. The Round Rock Black Parents Association organized groups, such as Anti-Racists Coming Together (ACT), to speak out at school boards and express their concerns. Community organization, Daniels says, is the key to fighting back against censorship.

“One of the most successful things that we were able to do was partner with several organizations around us. So it was not only run by parents, there were many voices; it was educators in solidarity,” Daniels said.