Book ban isn’t about kids. It’s about their culture-warrior parents

For years now, conservative activists have decried “cancel culture,” the phenomenon of suppressing any speech or writing that offends liberal sensibilities. And it is, in fact, an alarming and annoying trend from the left. But in Wentzville today, conservatives have provided a disturbing example of what might be called the original cancel culture: book banning.

The Wentzville School Board last week banned from its high school libraries a bona fide literary classic, the 1970 novel “The Bluest Eye,” by the late Nobel laureate Toni Morrison. The book tells the story of a young Black girl in post-Great Depression America whose self-esteem has been so diminished by racism that she wishes for blue eyes — a fittingly poignant narrative in exploring America’s painful racial history.


Inevitably, the book-banning parents and school board members claim they’re protecting high schoolers from the book’s scenes of sex and violence. These are the same teens who have unlimited access to plenty of both on their cellphones and streaming services.

This isn’t about the kids at all. It’s about their parents, who are part of the growing national campaign on the right to purge schools of virtually any serious discussion regarding race, gender or other issues that make conservatives uncomfortable. This is clear from the long list of targeted books from the activist group “No Left Turn in Education,” which promotes such bans and has a Missouri chapter. As the Post-Dispatch’s Blythe Bernhard reports, its list includes dozens of titles addressing race, as well as gender and LGBTQ issues.

School boards and other entities that ban books don’t generally end up looking very good in the hindsight of history. Almost any important literature is going to challenge the worldview of some readers; that’s part of what literature does. That explains why the list of most-frequently banned American books includes such important works as “The Catcher in The Rye,” “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “The Great Gatsby.”

Many of those bans genuinely were about squeamishness over sexual content. Today, that issue is mainly a fig leaf, hiding the more prominent campaign to silence issues of race and gender from America’s dialogue. Once these parents take away their kids’ internet access, then they might have a better argument for protecting children from literary prurience and violence. Until then, the truth should be obvious: This is nothing more than the cancel culture of the right.

— St. Louis Post-Dispatch

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