Democrats and advocates gathered on Wednesday on Capitol Hill to continue the national condemnation of Republican leaders behind a wave of banned books across the country.
U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., partnered with Interfaith Alliance to discuss the attack on books launched by the GOP and the danger it poses to communities.
The Democratic lawmaker told theGrio, “There is a rising tide of authoritarianism and book banning taking place across the country.”
“I have a resolution I introduced in the House to observe Banned Books Week and I was excited that there was this interfaith coalition, which is standing up for people’s right to write books and people’s right to read books,” said Congressman Raskin.
On Wednesday at the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center, the Maryland lawmaker joined Cameron Samuels, co-founder of Students Engaged in Advancing Texas, Anisha Singh, executive director of The Sikh Coalition, and Tracie D. Hall, former executive director for the American Library Association, to discuss the importance of protecting public schools and libraries.
Singh told theGrio, “The Sikh Coalition is no stranger to what can happen when ignorance thrives. We have seen an uptick since 9/11 of hate violence, employment discrimination, and bullying towards our community.”
“It’s incredibly important that we’re talking about book bans and the dangers…when they’re not allowing our children and society to access books and different perspectives…especially [viewpoints] from minority communities,” she said.
Samuels told theGrio that “censorship is undemocratic.”
“Censorship is not about the books. Books are just a medium [that] has made headway to silence the most vulnerable students,” they said. “Students deserve to have the freedom to read. To pick up a book and find ourselves in our school libraries…and when we can’t, that’s not conducive to our well-being.”
Samuels told theGrio that book banning is “similar to [the book] ‘1984’ by George Orwell, where if you can dictate the past, you are controlling the future.”
Wednesday’s event came on the heels of conservative leaders like Florida Governor and Republican presidential candidate Ron DeSantis’ war on books.
According to the Miami Herald, since July 2022, Florida has added more than 1,300 books to its book ban list, making it the state with the highest number of banned books. Texas came in second with 625, followed by Missouri with more than 330 and Utah with nearly 300.
Raskin told theGrio, “Governor DeSantis’ push is clearly to change people’s understanding of history.
“They are attacking what they are calling critical race theory, which is really just essential race facts about the history of slavery and white supremacy and Jim Crow in the country,” he said.
The congressman continued, “Governor DeSantis wants people to think that slavery was some kind of skills-based apprenticeship program, and so the banning of books has just got to be seen in that context of trying to rewrite the history of the country.”
Rep. Jasmine Crockett, D-Texas, told theGrio, “We are rolling back the hands of time in so many ways.”
“They want Black folk to hate themselves. They want Latinos to question themselves. They don’t want people to have the pride that you get when you read a beautiful poem by Amanda [Gorman],” she said. “They don’t want that because when she writes, she writes with power. She writes with pride.”
Crockett added, “The fact that DeSantis decided that he was going to ban her poem that she read to the entire world at the president’s inauguration tells you how threatened they are – especially by an educated person of color.”
Singh told theGrio, “It’s a dangerous slippery slope when we’re banning books,” adding, “The best way to combat hate is through education [and] knowledge.”
“When you are banning books, you’re taking away perspectives, you’re taking away first-hand experiences and accounts from individuals who have lived life in different ways,” she said.
“Whether we’re talking about critical race theory or we’re talking about banning books because of censorship issues, it all comes down to the ability of taking away someone’s right to choose what they learn.”
Samuels said that they are hopeful the practice of banning books will one day end.
“Texas is turning the tide on censorship,” they said. “We’ve seen less banned books in the last year than we have seen in the previous year.”
Samuels added, “Maybe we are going to see censorship slow down…but, we do need more students and others on the front lines where these decisions are being made.”
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