• Polymath Weekly

Book banning and why it's a problem

Book banning is not new to humanity. With the recent developments in the United States, it is important to take a closer look at the concept and how it affects the modern society.


book banning, censorship, united states media, media
The issue of book banning appears to swell up in the modern media, based on the recent developments in the United States. [Image Credit: Mar Hernández]

Brief history of book banning


Governmental restrictions on access to books used to be just one feature of book banning. For example, "burning books and burying of scholars" was a harsh but common practice in ancient China. Other examples in history include the burning of Mayan texts (1560s) during the Spanish colonization of Americas and public burning of books in Nazi Germany, where works of liberal Jewish authors were destroyed as they were considered "anti-German" (1930s).


As shown in these examples, religion, morality, and politics, or some mix of the three, are always the three major factors that put books (and sometimes the writers) at risk of being banned.


Book banning today (US)


The number of books challenged or banned in the United States was exceptionally high this year. This can partly be linked to the rise of several human rights movements across the US in the past years, including those supporting the rights of black Americans (the Black Lives Matter movement), Asian Americans (Stop Asian Hate) and gender minorities. As the movements developed, so did opposition to them.


In response to these movements, conservative politicians, educational centers, and religious groups have tried to lower representation of racial, ethnic, and gender diversity in books, bookstores, and libraries, putting works of black, Asian, and queer authors in danger.


The dangers of book banning


I believe that book banning sets us back. While for individuals or organizations book banning is a way to strengthen their existing power, it comes at a great expense to voices that are barely being heard to begin with.


When we talk about limiting children's access to books that openly discuss the experiences of discriminated groups, there are two main risks that have to be addressed. First, it would ignore the children that belong to these groups and the fact that they need that representation, even if in fiction books. Second, it would also limit children's imagination and awareness, which is not in harmony with a society that is constantly progressing, and a society in which they are growing up.

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