The Black moms in Texas fighting book bans in schools
Texas is one of a number of states trying to ban books that discuss racism in greater detail and the realities outside of the white mainstream in U.S. history.
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Last year, in a town called Round Rock, 20 miles outside of Austin, Texas, complaints about a book on the history of racism in the U.S. led to threats to remove it from the school’s reading list.
But as the local school district debated whether Stamped: Racism, Anti Racism, and You, should remain part of the lesson plan, thousands of parents, teachers and community members organized to fight against the possible ban.
The Round Rock Black Parents Association was a crucial part of the mobilization against the attempt to ban “Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You," which is by the Black authors Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi, https://t.co/lePxqOAAPz— Tony (Pharaoh Don) Morris (@TA_Morris) January 28, 2022
“If you value excellent works of fiction and nonfiction, believe that banning books is against our First Amendment rights of free speech, know that parents should be able to choose what their children read, and appreciate the professionalism, dedication, and knowledge of your children's teachers, then please sign,” wrote Aidan Larson in a petition that received over 3,000 signatures.
The book is by Black authors Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi, and is a young adult adaptation of Kendi’s Stamped From the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America, which won the national book award for nonfiction in 2016.
The Round Rock Black Parents Association was a vital part of the mobilization efforts against the attempt to take the book off the shelves. One way they did this was through collaborating with groups like Anti-Racists Coming Together (ACT) to speak out in support of diverse literature at a local school board meeting.
“Taking away that book would have completely whitewashed history, and that’s not what we are for,” said 33-year-old Ashley Walker, one of more than 400 members of the parents association.
The district’s trustees ultimately decided to keep Stamped, which the American Library Association said was one of the most challenged books of 2020, on school shelves.
Last June, Gov. Greg Abbott signed a bill that regulates how U.S. history and certain ideas about race can be taught in schools. Before the bill was signed, Walker and her six-year-old daughter tried convincing senators to vote against it.
“We went to speak to them and ask them not to support this bill because it was going to hinder kids from learning the truth. My daughter was able to speak about how she wanted to see herself in school books and curriculum,” Walker told NBC News.
Walker said that her first-grader has a personal library of books that feature Black characters, but it hasn’t stopped her from asking her mom for long blonde hair.
“At school, she’s getting the message that her Black skin isn’t pretty, and so we’ve had to have that conversation, and it’s heartbreaking. If my six-year-old, who lives in a house with someone who is very active in the Black community, is going through this, what about those kids who don’t get the same opportunity?” Walker said.
Before the Round Rock Texas Board of Trustees struck down the challenge to Stamped, Walker said parents bought the book so their kids could read it on their own, as they were anxious about the board’s decision.
“In case the book did get banned, we still had people who were going out supporting this book, and showing that we are truly about learning the full story,” Walker told NBC.