Republicans Misreading “Banned Books Week” across Upstate South Carolina

The Travelers Rest (SC) branch of the public library had a visit from the local police recently:

Image courtesy Brandon Inabinet
Image courtesy Brandon Inabinet

As reported by Grace Runkle:

Police have now been pulled into the debate over what should and shouldn’t be in a library.

Travelers Rest police chief Ben Ford said his department received an email saying the Travelers Rest library branch was spreading obscene material.

The email named LGBTQ books that were being promoted as part of a Banned Books Week display, saying they contained sexually explicit material.

Ford said they investigated the claim, like they would with any other, but said it was unfounded.

Police called to library to investigate ‘obscene material’

This follows Pickens County schools banning Stamped, Racism, Anti-Racism, and You (for 5 years) and Perks of Being a Wallflower (for 3 years). As well, Runkle also reported, the Greenville County Republican Party targeted LGBTQ+ books included in children’s sections of the library.

Unreported, however, are numerous “quiet” bans and censorship occurring weekly if not daily in schools all across the Upstate of SC and the US broadly.

For Republicans, Banned Books Week is a time for them to actively ban books—another misreading of what academic freedom and individual rights mean in the US.

Again, the new normal in US schools—classrooms and libraries—and now increasingly including public libraries is allowing individuals to ban access to books for everyone else.

This is not about parental rights, as one often-banned author asserts:

“They act like they’re concerned for the kids, but they’re not,” said Ellen Hopkins, the author of CrankTricksPeople Kill People, and many other challenged books. “By saying, ‘Books on LGBTQ content can’t be there,’ they’re not only saying these kids don’t count. They’re saying they shouldn’t exist.”

…According to the PEN list, Hopkins is the author most frequently banned, with 43 bans. Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe, the second most banned author, is the most banned book. The memoir has been pulled from 41 districts, according to the report. Next comes All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson and Pérez’s Out of Darkness.

Most-Banned Author in America Calls BS on Parents’ ‘Concern’

If the bans were about parental rights, we would be acknowledging that when one parent has books removed from libraries and classrooms, that parent is denying the rights of all other parents who want their children to have access to those books.

But even more important is that access to books is about children’s and students’ rights, as author George M. Johnson explains:

My book, “All Boys Aren’t Blue,” is a young adult memoir about my experience growing up Black and queer in America. In my story, I discuss growing up in a Black family who loved and affirmed me; the good, bad and ugly truths about what teens really deal with; and my journey through gender and social identity. My life was and still is full of joy, but also include some painful moments involving nonconsensual sex, as well as my experience with losing my virginity. Unfortunately, my sexual experiences have been deemed “an issue” — pornographic by some. To be clear, this book is for ages 14-18 and it contains truths that many of us have experienced and are healing from. People’s backlash, in all forms, is being used to disguise the real issue.

George M. Johnson: What Getting My Book Banned Taught Me About Telling Your Truth

Access to books is access to ideas and coming to know ourselves, regardless of whether or not anyone meets societal standards of “normal,” which can be very harmful for those who discover they exist outside those expectations. Suicide and self-harm are disproportionate among LGBTQ+ young people, and book banning as well as curriculum censorship contribute to hostile environments for these young people.

Maia Kobabe details that personal journey:

I came out as queer to my mom as a senior in high school. It took almost a decade to also come out to her as nonbinary, even though I had been questioning my gender identity since I started puberty at age 11. A major reason for this long delay between my first coming out and my second was the lack of visibility of trans and nonbinary identities when I was young. By high school, I had met multiple out gay, lesbian and bisexual people, but I didn’t meet an out trans or nonbinary person until I was in grad school. The only place I had access to information and stories about transgender people was in media — mainly, in books.

Schools are banning my book. But queer kids need queer stories.

Ultimately, book banning and censorship can never be justified. If parents want to shelter or indoctrinate their own children (homeschooling that teaches flat-earth misinformation)—as disturbing as that is—that is substantially different than any parent seeking to control how everyone else navigates books, ideas, and learning.

Republicans are misreading Banned Books Week as a call for bans and censorship, the most UnAmerican ways to destroy our libraries and schools.

Armed police officers walking into a public library to evaluate the books available to a free people is proof that we are in fact not a free people.

Take action here: Stop Discriminating Against LGBTQ People