Conservatives balk at Liberals’ recommendation to “decolonize” bookshelves, say it is tantamount to “book burning”

Sunday, June 28, 2020
By Paul Martin

by: Michael Alexander
Sunday, June 28, 2020

onservative pundits and commentators have aired concerns over attempts at “decolonizing” people’s bookshelves – a trend where readers, libraries and educational institutions purge their collections of books deemed to be allegedly problematic.

The term, which first gained traction among academic and literary circles in 2018, refers to the act of removing books that allegedly promote “racist,” “problematic” and “colonialist” perspectives in their texts from one’s bookshelves.

Latino author Juan Vidal, in a recent essay for National Public Radio, defined the term as the act of “actively resisting” and casting aside what he deemed to be problematic aspects of literature that have purportedly pervaded the American psyche.

Vidal, in his essay, emphasized the importance of injecting diversity into one’s selection of reading materials, noting that the current White-centric literary landscape has a two-fold effect on readers. For example, Vidal said, White people who only actively read “White-centric texts” are essentially listening to an extension of their own voices “on repeat,” while readers who identify as People of Color (POC) have to process stories and historical events – even those concerning them – through a White author’s perspective.

“White voices have dominated what has been considered canon for eons,” Vidal said.

Attempts by book retailers, libraries and other institutions to “diversify” and “decolonize” their literary offerings and collections, however, have been met with criticism.

Conservative British politician and broadcaster Nigel Farage, for instance, took offense at the Royal Holloway University of London Library after it announced its decision to purge several titles from its extensive collection of books as part of its effort to combat “structural racism.”

“We’ve taken time to reflect on our role in this and recognize that we must do more to combat systemic racism and support our BME (Black and Minority Ethnic) community,” the Royal Holloway, which counts over 450,000 books in its collection, said.

In addition to purging titles from its collection, the Royal Holloway also noted that they will make their services as a library more inclusive, as well as actively tackle racism and discrimination.

“Now is the time for real and lasting change,” the library added.

According to Farage, however, the library’s decision to “diversify” its collection is a “dangerous” act of “fanaticism” akin to the book burning first started by the Nazi Party.

Farage is not alone.

According to conservative author and columnist Mark Steyn, the current call to purge countless statues, books, movies, television programs and other cultural artifacts that have been deemed “offensive” and politically incorrect stem from what he calls “the ignorance of a generation.”

Steyn, in an interview with fellow conservative pundit Tucker Carlson, described the current situation surrounding the purges “dystopian.”

“We may be at the beginning of one of those dystopian tales where, in a few years’ time, somebody stumbles across the last videocassette recorder in the woods and that happens to be a tape of ‘Gone With the Wind’,” Steyn said, referring to the recent pulling out of the Oscar-winning period drama from streaming service HBO Max allegedly due to its outdated, racist depictions of Black characters.

“This generation is a hyper-present-tense generation and unfortunately, it’s determined to destroy everything it doesn’t understand, which is quite a lot,” Steyn said.

In his interview with Carlson, Steyn also lamented the apparent silence from fellow conservatives, noting their minimal pushback to recent events such as the beheading of a Christopher Columbus statue in Boston, the renaming of military outposts and the removal of statues and monuments celebrating Confederate historical personalities, among others.

“Where are the people who will defend this? You can’t have a culture war if one side refuses to turn up.”

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