“Your bookshelf may be part of the problem,” NPR warned on Saturday. The article chided white Americans for purportedly ignoring literature written by racial minorities, and therefore failing to understand “issues of racism and prejudice toward the disenfranchised.”
The solution to these dangerous reading habits is for Americans to “decolonize” their bookshelves, the outlet argued, explaining that this means resisting and rejecting “the colonialist ideas of narrative, storytelling, and literature that have pervaded the American psyche for so long.”
The advice comes as many Americans seek to show solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, following the death of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis police. For some, however, the directive crossed a red line.
A staffer for Texas Republican Congressman Dan Crenshaw argued that the concept was a euphemism for book burning.
“Decolonize” your bookshelf is some Orwellian, post-modern nonsense for burn the book. Enough of these Marxists.
Columnist Amy Alkon called the whole idea “racist,” and wondered why skin color should play any role in deciding what to read – or what is true.
What a bunch of racist crap. (Call to “decolonize” your bookshelf.) https://t.co/4CHvSR3DBL
I “identify” as a human being, thus stories written by other human beings, from Tolstoy to Ralph Ellison to F. Scott Fitzgerald to Paul Beatty resonate with me. (via @CraigColgan) pic.twitter.com/wxeUmTgUbO
— Amy Alkon (@amyalkon) June 7, 2020
Others agreed, noting that they had never picked a book to read based on the author’s race or sex.
The controversy seems to highlight growing polarization in the United States over anti-racism protests. The trend of “taking a knee” to show solidarity with Black Lives Matters has also been criticized as needlessly divisive and contrary to the goals of equality.