Wednesday, July 17, 2024

NAACP slams NHC school board for ‘Stamped’ book hearing

The North Carolina and New Hanover County chapters of the NAACP criticized the New Hanover County school board’s decision to review “Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You.” (Port City Daily/file photo)

NEW HANOVER COUNTY — The North Carolina and New Hanover County chapters of the NAACP are calling on the New Hanover County board of education to stop trying to ban books in the school system.

READ MORE: NHCS to offer 30-minute public hearing to discuss book removal

More specifically, the civil rights organization is asking the board to “immediately halt” an upcoming appeal hearing to remove Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi’s book “Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You” from AP English curriculum and school libraries.

“Holding a hearing on a historically and culturally relevant text is censorship based on racism and politics,” the NAACP wrote in a press release.

The book is part of the A.P. Language and Composition course at Ashley High School. Parent Katie Gates petitioned the school to remove the book on Dec. 13, even after her child was given an alternative assignment.

At a school board meeting in January, Gates claimed the book “contains Marxist ideology, inaccurate reframing of history, untruths, and disrespect for our nation and the Bible.” 

The book outs itself as “not a history book” but rather analyzes the root of and presents understanding of racist ideas. One of those ideas, often referred to as the curse of Ham theory, was dispensed by Christian slaveholders to justify owning slaves; the discussion of the theory in the book was disparaged by Gates at the January meeting. 

The book argues that the U.S. Constitution endorses slavery, explores some of the myths spread about the causes of the Civil War, and outlines the practice of redlining segregated cities across the country.  

Both the school’s media review committee and the district found the book to be suitable for students. Gates again appealed, and the final decision will now be made by the school board after it voted 4-3 to take up the issue earlier this month.

Of those who voted in favor, board members Pat Bradford, Josie Barnhart and Melissa Mason have expressed concerns over perceived inappropriate material in school libraries.

The NAACP argues the board is politicizing the book by responding to Gates’ complaint, whose problems were solved when her daughter was given another book to read.

“A true education is realistically informing students of the past, present and future,” said Deborah Dicks Maxwell, president of the North Carolina NAACP. “Eliminating parts of education is not acceptable. It does not produce a clear view.”

The NAACP’s press release states attacking the book is an effort to strike Black history for all students.

“Erasing part of our history by banning books is not a fair education for anybody,” LeRon Montgomery, president of the New Hanover County NAACP, added in the release.

The North Carolina NAACP attributed elected officials’ efforts to remove books from schools and public libraries around the country to the influence of radical groups. It claims the groups are targeting books about race, culture, women’s issues, disability and LGBTQ issues for political gain. 

For more than a year, a small group of community members have submitted dozens of books for review, calling them “obscene” and “pornographic.” These members have included Mike Korn, Patricia Koluch, and others, most associated with far-right groups like Moms for Liberty and Pavement Education Project.

Earlier this year, Korn led an effort to remove books like Kurt Vonnegut’s “Slaughterhouse Five” and Toni Morrison’s “The Bluest Eye” in Pender County. The district removed eight books from library shelves as a result. 

No books have been banned in New Hanover County Schools.

“The nation’s oldest Civil Rights organization will not standby when the rights of historically marginalized people to be represented and protected are threatened,” the NAACP stated in the release.

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