“Reading and writing are in themselves subversive acts,” Kurt Vonnegut once wrote. “What they subvert is the notion that things have to be the way they are, that you are alone, and that no one has ever felt the way you have.”
Subversion must have been on the mind of State Rep. Matt Krause, a Republican from Fort Worth, when he recently inquired into the availability of 849 books in Texas public schools. Krause is on the hunt for books that describe abortion, Black Lives Matter, sexuality, and LGBTQ+ rights — ya know, the stuff that keeps white-wing, er, right-wing nuts like Krause up at night.
Krause, in his letter to the Texas Education Agency (TEA), which governs Texas public schools, says that the books may cause “discomfort” to or “anguish” for children and teen readers.
For anyone who follows local state politics, the request is a natural and expected consequence of legislation that Republicans recently passed to push back on racial equity progress in public schools. Rather than being honest about the intention of the bill, which bans certain discussions about systemic racism and race-related topics in public school classrooms to protect the precious feelings of white baby snowflakes, Republicans targeted Critical Race Theory (CRT).
CRT is a complex theoretical framework for understanding how racism shapes life in the United States. Texas lawmakers falsely stated that CRT promotes white guilt and that the academic theory is being taught in public schools. Neither is true. So how did CRT paranoia become a major driving force behind conservative legislation?
Christopher Rufo, the Republican activist who is widely credited with creating the CRT misinformation campaign, recently told two NBC reporters that his goal was to turn CRT into a “national brand that gave American conservatives a new frame for understanding what is happening around them.”
CRT misinformation, Rufo continued, allows conservatives to push back on anti-racism programs that could help all students, not just Black and not just white. For those of you who haven’t been paying attention or don’t care to, creating boogeymen for the politically blinded masses to gnash their teeth over is the GOP’s M.O. If Republicans’ mostly uneducated, mostly blue-collar, mostly white base ever changed the channel, they would see that Republicans are merely using boogeymen — CRT, bathroom wars, abortion — to hide the GOP’s one and only concern: cutting taxes for the wealthiest 1%. There’s only one reason family men making $50,000 a year or less root for billionaires, and it’s as plain to see as night and day. Or should we say “black and white”?
Southlake is a hotbed for the type of paranoia over “woke” schoolbooks that Krause is now peddling. On Twitter, one former Southlake elected official recently singled out Southlake parents as the driving force behind Krause’s new witch hunt.
Krause’s letter to the TEA mentions Southlake’s Carroll school district in the first sentence, a not-so-subtle nod to the network of political donors who launched a slew of investigative stories by our paper (“Right-Wing Extremists Taking Over Carroll School District?” Sep 15).
“Recently, a number of Texas school districts around the state including Carroll ISD […] have removed books from libraries and/or classrooms after receiving objections from students, parents, and taxpayers,” Krause wrote.
Krause was likely referring to an October incident in which the Carroll school board voted 3-2 to reprimand a fourth-grade teacher for keeping a copy of This Book Is Anti-Racist in her classroom library after several Southlake parents whined about The New York Times bestseller to the board.
Southlake’s conservative parents are a case study of what happens when you mix white fragility and wealth within a largely minority-free suburb. We recently reviewed one string of emails from area parents to Carroll school leadership that describes a school environment where mask mandates are seen as “muzzling children.” Carroll’s book ban is just the most recent step taken by uber-wealthy whites who seek to push back on anti-racism policies in classrooms.
Not one to play second fiddle to a lowly state rep, Gov. Greg Abbott recently ripped into so-called inappropriate material being foisted on innocent young minds.
Parents are rightfully angry, Abbott wrote in an open letter to state public school leadership. Without providing any examples, he singled out books that portrayed “clearly pornographic images” and “substances that have no place in the Texas public school system.”
The vagueness of Abbott’s assertion will likely serve as fodder for the machinations of racist politicians and parents who would rather project their backwater views on sound academic theories like CRT than address the longstanding issues that are keeping this country from realizing its founding principle that all men are created equal. The Carroll high school students who drew national attention, and condemnation, for making racist chants were never held accountable, and similar actions today are unlikely to be disciplined in Southlake because conspiracy theories over CRT and student “muzzles” have drowned out any reasonable attempts to pass policies that could protect Black and LGBTQ+ students from racist attacks.
In their attempt to thwart some kind of leftist ideological takeover of Texas public schools, Republican lawmakers and rich, white parents are creating the very Orwellian reality they fear. It would be laughable if it wasn’t so potentially damaging to our children.
Books and writing are subversive, as Krause probably knows, and thought-provoking works like This Book Is Anti-Racist only underline the small-minded and bigoted worldviews of Krause and his base of inadequate conspiracy-loving crackpots.
This column reflects the opinions of the editorial board and not necessarily the Fort Worth Weekly. To submit a column, please email Editor Anthony Mariani at Anthony@FWWeekly.com. Submissions will be edited for factuality and clarity.