In recent years across the nation, we've seen a resurgence of systematic attempts to ban books from libraries, classrooms, and curriculums with the aim to undermine experiences across all races, genders, and sexualities. Even though New Jersey has been a national leader in protecting and expanding civil rights and liberties, there have been censorship attempts across the state this year.
Censorship is the suppression of content or ideas – and it happens when one group imposes their beliefs on another. Banning books is a type of censorship, but the act can take many forms. Removing a book from the shelf isn’t the only method that amounts to censorship – requiring parental permission to read it or moving it to a less accessible section are both examples of soft censorship.
The ACLU has defeated censorship attempts throughout the nation for over 100 years. Take us at our word: the first step to dismantling any effort to limit access to books – and protecting the themes and experiences they feature – is being able to identify it.
Restricting access to under-represented voices is intended to invalidate marginalized identities and has no place in a healthy democracy. The opportunity to learn about experiences different than our own is a fundamental part of what allows our state, and our country, to achieve inclusive progress.
Banning books means more than taking them off the shelf: it threatens the very foundation of our democracy. We have a responsibility to learn from our nation’s history, reject discriminatory attacks by prioritizing inclusive policy change, and protect New Jerseyans’ fundamental rights to freely speak, think, read, and write — especially for those who are most vulnerable.
As the right to access information is under attack, New Jersey has an obligation to lead by example in defending it.
The ACLU-NJ is interested in learning more about how censorship attempts are showing up in your communities. We have been partnering with advocates who are fighting back against book bans, and we are keeping track of all censorship attempts across the state. If you know of censorship attempts in your local public library or school district, we want to hear from you – tell us where censorship is happening in New Jersey.