The Hate They Censor: Burying Lessons of HistoryBreaking News
tags: censorship, culture war, teaching history, Banned Books
More than 700 miles from where I sit in Mississippi’s capital city, once the power center of U.S. white-supremacist strategy, white people in Kansas don’t want young adults to learn about the origins of the Ku Klux Klan. In Goddard, Kan., a 90%-plus white western suburb of Wichita, leaders just decided that the award-winning nonfiction book “They Called Themselves the K.K.K.: The Birth of an American Terrorist Group” must be pulled from library shelves in the Goddard School District.
Young adults reading a book that explains the origins of the Klan in Pulaski, Tenn., and how it became a white-terrorist “Invisible Empire” under Nathan Bedford Forrest, is unacceptable in white suburbs in Kansas, we learn. They don’t think teenagers can handle the truth about past white terrorist and vigilante groups burning schools and killing and beating teachers here in Mississippi and beyond to stop Black advancement, as I wrote about recently.
And I’m quite sure they don’t want students today to understand the purposeful roots of current inequities, division and (re)segregated schools in a nation where so many educational institutions are overwhelmingly one race or another, with the majority-white ones typically drawing the most resources.
Goddard’s White Purge
Goddard is also censoring books by Margaret Atwood, Toni Morrison and Mississippi’s very own Angie Thomas (who is on our advisory board), and even plays by August Wilson. Like the well-funded and -planned censorship wave sweeping the nation, the Goddard white purge is yet another supposed anti-“CRT” salvo to stop Americans from learning about and from our own race history, warts and all.
It’s yet another campaign to rewrite our history and censor the difficult parts out of classrooms, just as first Mississippi State University President Stephen D. Lee helped lead more than a century ago. Lee’s censorship efforts targeted books and educators to solidify widespread mythology about the Confederacy and the “lost cause” into place, as well as supported Jim Crow discrimination laws to limit Black education, voting and advancement for decades.
These 21st-century book-banners seem to think minors, even those in their teens, aren’t old enough to handle historic truth about the systemic racism, homophobia, xenophobia and misogyny that have kept power centered largely in a small percentage of wealthy, white male hands of various political persuasions.
They ignore that young people have experienced the effects of these bigotries and adult power plays from very early ages. Think of men and women spitting on 6-year-old Ruby Bridges and calling her and her mother the n-word after she enrolled in a public elementary school 61 years ago yesterday in New Orleans.
When exactly is too young to start thinking about ways to change these deplorable old habits and beliefs in our society?