April 18, 2024

Obama Slams ‘Misguided’ Effort to Ban Books

  • Obama criticized efforts to ban books in a message to the nation’s librarians.
  • The former president is also taking his advocacy to TikTok where he will appear in a series of videos.
  • Obama said that banning books is antithetical “to what made this country great.”

Former President Barack Obama issued a call to action on Monday for Americans to be wary of attempts to ban books as new studies show there is an increase in challenges due to a wave against mainly LGBTQ+ books.

“It is also important to understand that the world is watching,” Obama wrote in a public letter to the nation’s librarians. “If America – a nation built on freedom of speech – allows certain voices and ideas to be silenced, why should other countries go out of their way to protect them?”

Obama did not specifically name any specific state or leader for the increase in bans, a nod to his general view that former presidents should mostly stay out of the day-to-day political debate.

“I believe that such an approach is very misguided, and contrary to what this country has achieved,” he wrote.

The former president pointed out that research has shown that many of these challenges are directed at books about LGBTQ+, people of color, or other historically underrepresented communities.

“It’s no coincidence that these ‘banned books’ are often written by people of color, indigenous people, and members of the LGBTQ+ community – although there have also been unfortunate cases of books by conservative authors or books containing ‘motivational’ words. or scenes are goals to be achieved,” he wrote.

Analysis of the Washington Post of the book challenges submitted to 153 school districts from 2021-2022 found that nearly half of the targeted titles (43%) were related to LBGTQ+ themes. Another 36% of the challenges involved “characters of color or dealing with issues of race and racism.” The Post and PEN America, both a free-lance group, found that it was picture books are the main focus of the proposed bans.

According to The Post, Obama also filmed a series of TikToks with local libraries across the country to push his message. The former president said that the librarians are on the “front lines” of what will happen next.

“In reality, you are on the front line – fighting every day to make the widest range of views, opinions and ideas available to everyone,” he wrote. “Your dedication and professional expertise allow us to easily read and consider information and ideas, and decide for ourselves which ones we agree with.”

Although Obama has not made overt political hay out of book bans, Democrats see great opportunities to highlight the popularity of such efforts. May IPSOS/NPR poll found that 65% of Americans are against individual school boards banning certain books and removing them from classroom libraries. Another 69% opposed state legislators writing laws that sought to ban certain books.

President Joe Biden’s re-election campaign is paying close attention to the issue, Politico previously reported. In announcing his re-election, Biden pointed directly to those prohibitions. The president argued that such efforts were part of a larger Republican-led push to curtail basic liberties.

“MAGA extremists are lining up to take those bedrock freedoms,” Biden saidticking off efforts to reduce Social Security, restrict abortion rights, and efforts to ban books.

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