'Anything that is showing us different facets of life, of human experience, is always helpful for students, especially in rural counties like this,' Haywood County NAACP President Dorothea Stewart told C&P.  'If we read about one another we are able to understand one another. It creates empathy.' (Image by pupunkkop/Canva) Books Expand Rural Kids' Frame of Reference
'Anything that is showing us different facets of life, of human experience, is always helpful for students, especially in rural counties like this,' Haywood County NAACP President Dorothea Stewart told C&P. 'If we read about one another we are able to understand one another. It creates empathy.' (Image by pupunkkop/Canva)

A push to ban books dealing with discrimination has been spreading across North Carolina, mostly in smaller and more rural school districts. This is hurting children’s educations and futures, opponents say.

Small-town North Carolina schoolchildren are bearing the brunt of the GOP-led assault against books with historically accurate depictions of oppression. But parents and educators are organizing and pushing back.

In Haywood County, School Superintendent Bill Nolte, despite not having read the book,  pulled the critically acclaimed “Dear Martin” from a high school  class curriculum. 

The young adult novel centers around Justyce, a Black teen who tries to emulate Dr. Martin Luther King even as Justyce becomes a victim of racial profiling.

It’s necessary for children to learn about different points of view, as well as become aware of injustices, said Dorothea Stewart, president of the Haywood County NAACP. 

“Anything that is showing us different facets of life, of human experience, is always helpful for students, especially in rural counties like this,” Stewart told C&P.  “If we read about one another we are able to understand one another. It creates empathy.”

A Statewide Push 

The rush to ban books isn’t isolated to the mountains. 

Pitt County school board members in January voted to remove “All American Boys,” a Coretta Scott King Author Honor book and recipient of the Walter Dean Myers Award for Outstanding Children’s Literature, from Ayden Middle School. The book follows the fallout of a racially divisive incident between Black and white students. 

The board also instituted a policy of informing parents of the books children would be reading in class.

And Chatham, Wake and Union County are all under pressure to remove “George,” “Genderqueer,” and “Lawnboy” – books that speak to LGBTQ+ youth experiences – from their shelves. 

It’s part of a national push to make “Critical Race Theory” the boogeyman, but really targets lessons centering the experiences of minorities, said Janice Robinson, North Carolina program director for Red, Wine & Blue, a group that organizes suburban moms against book bans.

“When you look at the books being banned, they’re books on African American history, about race or LGBTQ issues,” Robinson told NC Policy Watch.

Last fall, North Carolina’s GOP-led legislature passed a bill barring schools from teaching about concepts such as white privilege. Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed the bill in September, but the push from conservative quarters to remove teachings about the effects of racism in this country continue.