In 2016, Scholastic’s cancellation of “A Birthday Cake for George Washington” marked a disturbing precedent. The book, featuring smiling enslaved people, was axed due to a social media uproar. This decision ignored the fact that both the illustrator and editor were esteemed black professionals in the children’s literature arena.
This event was a symptom of a broader issue in the literary world, emphasized in PEN America’s 2023 report “Booklash.” Progressive activists, empowered by social media, began a ruthless campaign against books they found offensive. Publishers, paralyzed by fear of backlash, started enforcing a strict criterion that an author’s identity should align with their book’s subject matter.
This trend of censorship is not new. Historically, books like “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” by Mark Twain faced bans due to its language and portrayal of race, reflecting societal discomfort with confronting uncomfortable truths. J.D. Salinger’s “Catcher in the Rye” faced similar fates in various school districts, targeted for its themes and language deemed inappropriate.
Fast forward to recent times, and the issue has evolved, but the essence remains. A 2017 book about the atom bomb, initially celebrated, faced backlash for allegedly excluding American Indians, leading to its demise. Attempts to defend the work only fueled further attacks, culminating in unjust accusations of racism by the blog Reading While White.
This censorship battle transcends political divides. While right-wing activists have historically sought book removals from schools, the new wave of left-wing activism seeks total annihilation of opposing narratives. This has resulted in a literary landscape where only a narrow, pre-approved spectrum of views is allowed.
Many leaders of these book-banning campaigns are ironically white and privileged, often using these movements for personal advancement. Their targets frequently include minority authors who feel pressured into self-censorship.
This is not progress; it’s the opposite. It’s a return to an era where diversity of thought is suppressed under the guise of protecting sensibilities. The irony is stark – an industry that championed diversity now imposes a stringent orthodoxy that contradicts the very essence of diverse expression. The fight against censorship must champion every narrative, every voice, regardless of its alignment with the prevailing views of a few vocal activists.
Austin Petersen is a former Libertarian presidential candidate turned Republican and the host of the Wake Up America show every Monday-Friday from 7-9am central which you can stream live on Rumble, or listen to on Spotify or iTunes. He resides in Jefferson City, Missouri with his wife Stephanie and their two presidential French Bulldogs, Calvin and George.