Washington, D.C. – Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) today spoke on the Senate floor regarding the recent Orwellian trend by far-right extremists to ban hundreds of book titles from schools and public libraries. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks, which can also be viewed here:
Over the past year, a truly Orwellian trend has spread across our schools, libraries, and state legislatures. With an intensity not seen in decades, far-right extremists at the local and state level are engaging in efforts to ban hundreds of book titles from the shelves of schools and public libraries.
These efforts are framed as an attempt to regulate obscene or inappropriate content. But if you take even a passing glance at the books under scrutiny, it’s clear the goal here is to censor and suppress materials that deal with matters of race, sexual and gender orientation, and more broadly speaking, social injustice.
In Texas, for instance, state legislators have been demanding schools send lists of titles to be scrutinized, and in some instances have already pulled hundreds of titles from their shelves, from mere fear of repercussions.
In Mississippi, one Mayor withheld funding from local public libraries and reportedly said he would only relent when all books exploring LGBTQ themes were removed. That is patently disgusting.
And in Tennessee, one school board even banned a Pulitzer-prize winning graphic novel depicting the Holocaust, because some mice weren’t wearing clothes.
These new and unprecedented efforts by the far right to ban books that explore matters of injustice and racism are deeply disturbing and downright Orwellian.
Many of the titles under attack have been well-known for decades. Some are Pulitzer-prize winning works. Others are—get this—children’s picture books. The list is broad—dizzyingly broad. Many of these works are vital to our society because they can accomplish only what literature can do: explore timely social issues and expand people’s understanding of the world around us.
We don’t need to look that far into history to see what happens when we go down the dangerous road of censorship and suppression: when free expression is weakened, the mob is empowered. The groundwork is laid for further discrimination, intimidation, and God forbid, increased violence.
It is one thing for families and local communities to have good faith discussions about the best way to help our students learn and grow.
But what we’re seeing today isn’t that—these modern day efforts from the far right to ban hundreds of books from the top down are dangerous, patently un-American, and this right-wing cancel culture should be resoundingly condemned.