Approximately six weeks after holding a hearing to investigate the recent surge of book bannings in public school libraries and classrooms around the country, the U.S. House Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties held a second hearing in Washington, D.C., on Thursday morning. This hearing addressed, in Maryland Congressman and subcommittee chair Jamie Raskin’s words, “the closely related nationwide assaults on the rights of teachers and students to engage in free speech in in the classroom,” especially in discussions relating to race, racism, and LGBTQ issues.

After introducing into the record a letter condemning book bannings and censorship in public schools signed by 1,300 children’s and YA authors and illustrators, including Judy Blume, Rick Riordan, Mo Willems, and Jacqueline Woodson, Raskin pointed out that the term often invoked by those supporting restrictions upon classroom discussions of race and racism—”critical race theory”—used to be taught in law schools to explain “the stubborn hold of white supremacy and racism” in the U.S., even after 1954 and the Supreme Court’s decision in Brown vs. Board of Education.

Critical race theory was never taught in public schools, Raskin noted; right wing zealots co-opted the term to “make it the name of everything they wanted to purge from public schools in America—specifically the actual history of race and racism in our country, as well as teachings about gender, sexual orientation and gender identity.” …