Book bans: Anti-racist books

Since the awakening of anti-racist protests following the death of George Floyd in 2020, more attention is being paid to the Black Lives Matter movement and how people of color are treated differently. All over the U.S., places have sparked with concern and protest. This movement gave more attention to anti-racist books and the message they portrayed to society. Recently, these books have been labeled challenged books. Challenged books are pieces of literature that get the backlash of the content it contains in school environments or the literature community. A book being labeled as a challenged book can be determined by parents, teachers, counselors, the government, and politicians. 


Different opinions have been voiced regarding what schools are teaching and what content they want and don’t want to share. The U.S. watched the information contained in books that go in and out of schools. This leads to books being banned, for either distinct or vague reasons. These actions depend on what communities and the government want to keep young minds away from hurtful or inappropriate content in schools or libraries. These can be topics deemed inappropriate, sensitive, or controversial. Some have argued that this limits information about discrimination to young minds, blocking the importance of these problems. The top ten most banned books in 2020 have included three popular anti-racist books: “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas, “Stamped” by Jason Reynolds, and, “All American Boys” by Reynolds. These novels have been shared around the U.S., teaching young minds and mature minds examples of racism in the world. All of the three novels have their own story and give great meaning and the dangers of discrimination to what is happening today.


“The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas is told from the perspective of Starr Carter, a 16-year-old African American girl. She attends a predominantly white private school, Williamson Prep, and lives in Garden Heights, a poor neighborhood. When she gets dragged out to a spring break party, Starr runs into a childhood friend, Khalil Harris. At the party, a shot rings out and Starr ends up getting in a car with Kahlil, fleeing the scene. They get pulled over for having a broken tail light when the police officer got out his gun and shoots Khalil— who was cooperative and unarmed. This made her start developing trauma. This unjustified action was spread all around the town getting the attention of everyone. Starr, later on, turned her grief and trauma into a hunger for justice for someone she cared about. She becomes an activist and starts protests. This book circles around issues such as racism, police brutality, injustice, anti-racism, and activism. 


“All American Boys by Jason Reynolds is told from two perspectives, Rashad Butler and Quinn Collins. The novel takes place in Springfield, Illinois. One day, Rashad, a Black teenager, goes to the store to buy some things when a police officer accuses him of robbery. The officer that accused him started beating him violently and arrested him shortly after, breaking his ribs and nose. His story was getting attention, making people think he was the one to blame so, protests and riots started to bring justice for Rashad. Quinn, the second boy in the story was raised as a kid by the officer that beat Rashad up in an unjustified manner. Quinn saw the whole situation from afar and his perspective changed when he slowly loses trust in the officer who he had a great bond with. This novel shows topics of racism, injustice, oppression, police brutality, and activism.


Stamped  by Jason Reynolds tells early stories about slavery and compares them to the modern-day. It circles around three types of groups that want to control black lives: segregationists (people against the freedom of black people); assimilationists (people who tolerate black people but depend on their actions); antiracists (people that believe that everyone should be treated the same). These three groups had different perspectives which lead to conflict. This novel is a starting point of important information on the ideas of racism and the history behind it. The story behind the book shows elements of racism which include police brutality, racism, anti-racism, injustice, prejudice ideas, oppression, and activism. 


These books are linked in a variety of ways that make it clear that they are intended to educate people about racism. Reading anti-racist books can help to give a voice to the issues that arise as a result of discrimination. Combining literature with current societal issues helps captivate people by allowing them to use more than just their voice to give meaning to inequality and injustice. Literature is a more meaningful way of expressing emotions and words that society does not listen to.