Sunday, September 03, 2023

News From Trump-Era School Boards: The Wilmington Censorship Case


So this is happening in Wilmington. Friday morning the New Hanover School Board convened for a hearing on whether Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You, written by Jason Reynolds, adapted from the work of Ibram X. Kendi, should be permanently banned from any school reading list.

WHQR, public media in Wilmington, reported:

Since January, a parent, Katie Gates, has been pushing to ban the book and now, after her request was denied in two different appeals, the school board is deciding its fate. When Gates first complained, her daughter had been assigned Stamped as part of an Advanced Placement course. Since then, her daughter accepted an alternative assignment and has since completed the course, but Gates has continued to pursue getting the book removed....

...the board will determine whether the challenge to the book has “merit” and whether that book should be “retained, removed from the New Hanover County Schools entirely, whether it should be removed to another school level, or whether its availability should be restricted.”

I haven't read Stamped. I rely on an honest broker like Wiley Cash to school me: 

The book is a “remix” of Ibram X. Kendi’s National Book Award-winning Stamped from the Beginning created for readers ages 12 and up.

While the book reveals the genesis of racist ideology in America and suggests ways to combat it, Gates characterized it as “embracing dangerous ideologies.” In her complaint, Gates challenged the book through a number of inaccurate “facts,” contending that Thomas Jefferson freed his enslaved people and that the Bible was not used to justify slavery.

In the piece that Cash wrote for The Assembly, he concludes that "the fix" may already be in since two of the board members, including the chair, colluded with Katie Gates: "Much of the board’s public wrestling with this decision appears to be theatrical. Gates and two conservative members of the school board seemingly laid the groundwork for the decision—to be made sometime this fall—months ago. Emails WHQR obtained reveal close coordination between Gates and school board member Josie Barnhart and Chair Pat Bradford."

Cash's interest comes from a personal place:

"I’m a parent of two young children who attend New Hanover County schools, and I’m deeply invested in ensuring that they learn the true complexity of American history. As a North Carolina native who was educated in the state’s public schools, I did not."

For example, Cash writes, he didn't know about the Wilmington Massacre of 1898, a brutal white supremacist coup, until he was in graduate school taking a class on North Carolina literature at UNC-Greensboro. (Many of the rest of us didn't learn about Wilmington until 2020, when Wilmington's Lie came out and won the Pulitzer.) It would be well worth paying the measly subscription price to get Wiley Cash's full essay, for his discussion of Charles W. Chestnutt is well worth the effort.

The board voted Friday 4-3 to temporarily ban the book from the high school curriculum but retain it in high school libraries until the board can update its policy to allow a “balanced” book to be added to the AP course.

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