Our mission is to fight against censorship in Texas public school libraries by providing access to “banned books” and promoting diversity and inclusion in all our endeavors.
How We Started
Hi, I’m Shloka Mehta, the founder of Books Beyond Bias and a currently a student at Bridgeland High School. I first heard about censorship of books in public school libraries on a radio show. I decided to research this further to learn more about what types of books, who was responsible and if anything was being done about this. This is where I discovered the #FReadom movement which was started by a group of librarians who shared my sentiment.
#FReadom is a movement started by a group of librarians who strongly disagree with the censor ship of books. On November 4, 2021 , #FReadom fighters organized a twitter takeover of the #Txlege. They highlighted positive books and invited families, authors, librarians, teens, and parents to join. #FReadom fighters are committed to highlighting the positive work of librarians, to speak up in support of authors and students, and to provide professional resources for librarians, teachers or authors facing book challenges.
With inaction on the part of leaders, I knew it was up to ordinary people like me to help halt this alarming situation, an erosion to our first-amendment rights. Banning knowledge in any form sets a dangerous precedent and as quoted by 18th century poet Heinrich Heine “It is there, where they burn books, that eventually they burn people”.
It is every parent’s right to choose what content is right or wrong for their children, especially elementary or middle school children who are still growing up. However, nobody should have the right to universally choose for an entire school district. I want to make a difference in preventing this.
On October 25th, 2021 Representative Mark Krause sent a letter to the Texas Education Agency demanding that they send him information on certain books including the number of books each district possessed and how much money they had spent on them. Then he began a systematic effort to ban these books from Texas public school libraries under the pretense they contained “pornographic” or “inappropriate” material. In reality, when looking at the makeup of the books being banned, I noticed they all had a few similarities. These books were either written by or about people of color or LGBTQ people. As an avid reader myself, I know that I could name many books in my own school library that contain the same material naysayers label as “pornographic” or “inappropriate” but center around white heterosexual people. These books are not being attacked. No, the only books that are being so violently removed from our public learning spaces are the ones that promote diversity. As a woman of color, the stories these books told were encouraging and necessary to the acceptance of my own identity. People, especially children and teenagers whom most of these books are marketed towards, need to be heard. In an often cold and unaccepting world, many people find solace in books that showcase those others are going through the same struggle as they are. Showing minority groups that they are not alone, that they matter, and that they are important, is essential to the continuation of the American ‘melting pot’ as we know it now. If we create an environment in which only one narrative is seen, in which only one type of person deserves to have their story told, we are failing the future generations of this country. The banning of books is both Unamerican and Unconstitutional and Books Beyond Bias will not stand for it.
As passionate as we may be, we cannot directly combat Mark Krause and his caucus. However, along with FReadom, Voters of Tomorrow, and many other incredible organizations, we can ensure that everyone who desires to read these books has the opportunity to do so. In order to achieve this goal, we are setting up book distributions for these banned books in our community of CFISD and possibly other school districts. These distributions will take place periodically both within school campuses and offsite, and we will be giving away banned books, free of charge. We will also be attending events such as school district board meetings or book conferences in order to speak out against the banning of these books. We hope that reading these books allows teens and children to feel seen and endeavor to promote diversity and inclusion in any way we can.
In the future, we hope to increase the frequency of book distributions and create awareness against those who aim to ban these books. We hope that eventually we will raise enough awareness to catch our policy-maker’s attention and when that day comes, we will try our absolute hardest to get these policies repealed. Nothing is more important than our youth feeling heard, and nothing is more Unamerican than this imprisonment of knowledge.