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Texas Republiconazis are stupid and the state is growing dumber

This essay is dedicated to my dearest friend

Sami Swan Thompson

A Texas school district pre-emptively pulled more than 400 books from its libraries for review following an inquiry from a Republican state lawmaker. North East Independent School District in San Antonio said it determined its libraries contained 414 books on a list of roughly 800 targeted by neo-Nazi state Rep. Matt Krause (Republican) allegedly “representing” House District 93 in Tarrant County (Fort Worth, Texas).

Matt Krause (R-Tarrant County) in state legislature (2017)

An opportunist, Krause (born August 19, 1980) dropped out of the race for his district to run for District Attorney, claiming to be a faithful white christian evangelical fighter for christian values and eager to deny women the right to determine the destiny of their bodies, and following Taliban thesis of mind control banning books that he personally disagrees with. Krause originally targeted 850 books that he said could make students (sic: evangelical parents) “uncomfortable.”1 Appreciating the Nazi laws in the 1940s, Krause asked schools statewide to tell him whether they currently hold any of around 850 books on a list2 he has compiled, explaining that he is targeting materials that “might make students feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress because of their race or sex.” Krause’s “request”, a Republican, quickly set off alarm among the books’ authors and the state teachers association. The unusual request, which was first reported by the Texas Tribune, also triggered confusion in school districts over how to comply with such a wide-ranging query focusing on sex (LGBTQ+) and race.3 Imitating Adolf Hitler, Krause sent a letter4 to the Texas Education Agency and superintendents of school districts around the state, asking each official to confirm whether their schools possess any books on his list, along with a detailed accounting of where they are and how much money was spent on them. His letter read identical to the pontifications of the Grand Inquisitor in the Middle Ages: “I am writing to you as the Chairman of the Texas House Committee on General Investigating. Pursuant to Government Code Section 301.020(a)(4), the committee may initiate inquiries concerning any “matter the committee considers necessary for the information of the legislature or for the welfare and protection of state citizens.” Krause did not explain what the next steps might be, but his request mentioned several recent pushes to remove books from libraries and classrooms if they center on issues from transgender identity to critical race theory. He gave the officials until Nov. 12 (2021) to reply. Books Krause found objectionable include: The Great American Whatever, a young adult novel by Tim Federle,5  and “Pink is a Girl Color” … and other silly things people say, a children’s picture book by Stacy and Erik Drageset. Nonfiction books are also on the list, from How Prevalent Is Racism in Society?, by Peggy J. Parks, to the Amnesty International title, We Are All Born Free: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Pictures. Fortunately, Krause was defeated in his race for District Attorney by Phil Sorrells in a runoff election.6

The worst school districts that are joining the neo-Nazi movement in Texas are the North East Independent School District in San Antonio,7 Carroll ISD,8 and 100 school districts in the Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, and Austin regions, where parents and “other concerned citizens” without children in the schools targeted books dealing with racism or sexuality, the majority of them featuring LGBTQ characters and explicit descriptions of sex. Many, nearly all, are white conservative christian evangelicals and Southern Baptists advocate a book burning, similar to what was common in Nazi Germany, The majority of complaints targeted books dealing with racism or sexuality, the majority of them featuring LGBTQ characters and explicit descriptions of sex. Many of the books under fire are newer titles, purchased by school librarians in recent years as part of a nationwide movement to diversify the content available to public school children.9

Moms of Color in Round Rock, Texas spearheaded the Round Rock Black Parents Association members’ drive to protect their children’s First Amendment right of the freedom to read. Ms. Walker is the third person from the left.

Into the furor came “Moms of Color” standing up to the christian conservation evangelical white nationalists that long for a Talibangelic theocracy instead of a democracy. One way the parents association did this was by organizing groups such as ACT Anti-racists Coming Together10 to speak out in support of diverse literature at a local school board meeting. Ashely Walker, 33, declared: “Taking away that book would have completely whitewashed history, and that’s not what we are for.” Ms. Walker was one of more than 400 members of the Round Rock Black Parents Association. The white conservative christian evangelical theocrats found especially objectionable these titles:11

  • Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews
  • The Breakaways by Cathy Johnson
  • Jack of Hearts by L.C. Rosen
  • Forever for a Year by B.T.
  • All Boys Aren’t Blue by George Johnson
  • Nerdy & the Dirty by B.T. Cottfred

The white conservative christian evangelicals said nothing about banning their bible that is full of murder (Cain, etc.), genocide, incest (Lot and Noah), slavery, misogyny, and “naughty references.” Katy ISD has gone full-Nazi, immediately pulling nine books after deeming these books “not appropriate for any grade level”:

  • Out of Darkness by Ashley Hope Perez (set in East Texas in the 1930s)
  • Lawn Boy by Jonathan Evison (treats the mental journey of a mixed-race Mexican American)
  • Losing the Girl by MariNaomi
  • Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews
  • Jack of Heart by L.C. Rosen
  • Forever for a Year by B. T. Gottfred
  • The Handsome Girl & Her Beautiful Boy by B.T. Gottfred

Gov. Greg Abbot (R-TX) has called for criminal charges12 against any school staff member who provides children with access to young adult novels that some conservatives have labeled as “pornography.” Abbot, without having read any book on Krause’s list, wrote: “The presence of pornography in schools is not only inappropriate, but it is also against the law. In Texas, it is illegal to provide pornography to anyone under the age of 18 according to Section 43.24 of the Texas Penal Code.”

He continued: “The fact that pornographic material that serves no educational purpose has been made available to students in Texas public schools is a clear violation of the law.”13 The Texas law matches the law of Nazi Germany.

Stamped (for Kids): Racism, Antiracism, and You By Jason Reynolds

Last year, Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas, a Republican, signed a bill that regulates how U.S. history and certain ideas about race can be taught in schools. At least nine states in mostly Republican areas have passed similar “anti-critical race theory” bills.14 In San Diego, Texas, Rai Wilson, an educator, and parent of two school-age children said it’s frustrating to see the ongoing fight to limit diverse books.  “My sixth-grader read ‘Stamped,’” Wilson said. “When they see themselves in a curriculum, it makes their history more understandable to them. He wouldn’t put it down.”

Five of the librarians said they were thinking about leaving the profession, and one already has. Sarah Chase, a longtime librarian at Carroll Senior High School in Southlake15

Sarah Chase, Librarian

(a Fort Worth suburb), said the acrimony over books contributed to her decision to retire in December, months earlier than she’d planned. “I’m no saint,” said Chase, 55. “I got out because I was afraid to stand up to the attacks. I didn’t want to get caught in somebody’s snare. Who wants to be called a pornographer? Who wants to be accused of being a pedophile or reported to the police for putting a book in a kid’s hand?”

In the early 2000s, a conservative backlash to the Harry Potter book series, which some Christian leaders condemned as a satanic depiction of witchcraft, fueled a surge of book banning attempts in Texas, according to ACLU data.16 But even at the peak of that wave, the Texas ACLU never documented more than 151 school library book challenges in one year. About half that many were documented in just the first four months of the 2021 school year at only a small sampling of Texas school districts, according to the records obtained by NBC News.

Deborah Caldwell-Stone of the American Library Association

Deborah Caldwell-Stone, director of the Office for Intellectual Freedom at the American Library Association, said the number of Texas book challenges documented in the records obtained by NBC News likely represents a vast undercount because it doesn’t account for books that are being removed from shelves based on verbal complaints at board meetings or parent emails, often in violation of school district policies.

Deborah served as interim director of OIF since November 2018. In her new role, she also will serve as executive director for the Freedom to Read Foundation (FTRF), an allied 501(c)(3) organization, which participates in freedom of speech and freedom of the press litigation.

Caldwell-Stone previously served as interim director of OIF. In this role she served as OIF’s chief legal and policy analyst, advising member leaders about emerging intellectual freedom issues, recommending needed changes to ALA policies, and serving as a media spokesperson for press inquiries related to intellectual freedom.  She has advised on a variety of topics including the USA PATRIOT Act, the constitutionality of internet filtering, and the value of Banned Books Week. Throughout her tenure, Caldwell-Stone has worked closely with librarians, teachers, and library trustees on a wide range of intellectual freedom issues, including censorship of library resources, book challenges, internet filtering, meeting room policies, and the impact of new technologies, regulations, and government surveillance on library users’ privacy and confidentiality. 17

I am fortunate that I own every book ever censored, including pornography’s most graphic book: the Bible (all editions, all languages). No human, no government, no religion has any right to dictate what anyone reads or sees.

End Notes

 

  1. https://www.npr.org/2021/10/28/1050013664/texas-lawmaker-matt-krause-launches-inquiry-into-850-books.
  2. https://static.texastribune.org/media/files/94fee7ff93eff9609f141433e41f8ae1/krausebooklist.pdf.
  3. https://www.texastribune.org/2021/10/26/texas-school-books-race-sexuality/.
  4. https://static.texastribune.org/media/files/965725d7f01b8a25ca44b6fde2f5519b/krauseletter.pdf?_ga=2.167958177.1655224844.1635425114-1180900626.1635425114.
  5. https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5446689.Tim_Federle.
  6. https://fortworthreport.org/2022/05/24/phil-sorrells-wins-chance-to-represent-gop-in-tarrant-county-da-race/.
  7. https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2021/12/08/texas-school-district-reviewing-more-than-400-books-pushes-back-against-notion-that-it-is-pulling-them-off-library-shelves/. Cf. https://bookriot.com/north-east-isd-library-books/. Cp. https://www.usnews.com/news/us/articles/2021-12-08/texas-school-district-reviewing-over-400-books-pulls-them-from-library-shelves. Ref. https://www.usnews.com/news/us/articles/2021-12-08/texas-school-district-reviewing-over-400-books-pulls-them-from-library-shelves.
  8. https://communityimpact.com/dallas-fort-worth/grapevine-colleyville-southlake/education/2022/07/29/carroll-isd-adopts-new-book-policy-for-classrooms-libraries/.
  9. https://www.nbcnews.com/news/nbcblk/meet-moms-color-texas-fighting-book-bans-kids-schools-rcna13701 ; https://www.click2houston.com/news/local/2021/11/17/katy-isd-parents-demand-answers-from-the-district-after-finding-books-in-campus-libraries-that-contain-vulgar-and-explicit-material/.
  10. https://www.facebook.com/actwilco/?ref=page_internal.
  11. https://www.click2houston.com/news/local/2021/11/17/katy-isd-parents-demand-answers-from-the-district-after-finding-books-in-campus-libraries-that-contain-vulgar-and-explicit-material/.
  12. https://gov.texas.gov/uploads/files/press/O-MorathMike202111090719.pdf.
  13. Ibid.
  14. https://www.texastribune.org/2021/06/15/abbott-critical-race-theory-law/.
  15. https://mysouthlakenews.com/tag/sarah-chase.
  16. https://www.aclutx.org/sites/default/files/field_documents/bb2k2.pdf.
  17. https://www.ala.org/news/press-releases/2019/10/deborah-caldwell-stone-appointed-director-ala-office-intellectual-freedom-and…

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