By Del. Jon S. Cardin
America is currently in the midst of a nearly silent but quite concerning social revolution. I say silent, not because it is insignificant, but because the supposedly diminutive nature of this action is its calling card. Keeping this revolution quiet and playing down the implications of it are the central tactics for those pushing its agendas.
I am speaking of the growing objective in this country of banning books.
As reported by The New York Times, book-banning is becoming increasingly common in the United States. While this practice is not unprecedented in America, it is coming from higher places of power than ever before. As the Times article explains, this strategy has far exceeded its origins in school boards made up of conservative suburban parents. Book bans are now being suggested in legislation from statehouses across the country. Once, these bans were localized events that existed in tiny clusters. Now, they are statewide, legally enforceable doctrines of censorship.
This phenomenon was easily predictable. It can be clearly traced back to the bans passed in legislatures against the teaching of Critical Race Theory, an academic school of thought that bears hardly any similarities to the actual bans that were being enforced in America starting this past summer. Though those laws often masqueraded as being committed to fighting one specific item, in reality they were designed to allow school boards to silence the teaching of any mildly progressive analysis of facts. The state of Oklahoma legislated against the teaching of anything related to the concept of “institutional racism” — it’s not hard to see how that irony goes well above and beyond banning one particular theory of race from being taught.
And so, it should come as no surprise that legislatures and school boards have moved on from banning ideas to localizing these policies in particular books. Parents in Texas are seeking to ban books like Toni Morrison’s iconic novel “The Bluest Eye” because a character in it is sexually assaulted, while another school board heard a suggestion that copies of Ibram X. Kendi’s nonfiction work “How to be Antiracist” be replaced with copies of the Bible instead.
These efforts go even further as was highlighted in the recent case of the McMinn County Board of Education in Tennessee banning the Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel “Maus” by Art Spiegelmann.
All of this fundamentally amounts to an attempt to legalize the teaching of hateful ignorance and intolerance. I called it a revolution before because that’s what it is. It is a revolt against the fact that contemporary society is finally starting to value a greater understanding of the historic harms committed by oppressors, both in and out of America.
These people would much prefer to think that everything in life is perfect and that those injustices are all things of the distant past because then they will not have to do anything to help make the world a better place. Instead, these legislators and school board members are interested in the banning of books and ideologies that might force them to reckon with the realities of history.
That’s why this revolution prides itself upon its purportedly quiet stature. Any recognition of the true scope of these efforts would be an open acknowledgment of its true goal: a nationwide attempt to rewrite history. The people pushing these pro-hate, racist and anti-education agendas will only ever frame their actions as being in regard to one book and one idea at a time because such minimization protects them from the proper backlash they deserve.
These actions are putting our future and our children at risk. Furthermore, our freedoms, our First Amendment and our intellectual craving for truth and honesty must be protected. We cannot tolerate hate, intolerance or the banning of ideas simply because they don’t reflect our hopes and wishes. Action needs to be taken on the local and federal level to stop this revolution. It is no exaggeration to suggest that the America that we love depends on exposing and extinguishing this quiet revolution.
Jon S. Cardin represents District 11 in the Maryland House of Delegates.