Jerry Craft's Graphic Novels Back In Texas Schools After Petition War

Jerry Craft, creator of the middle-grade graphic novels New Kid – the first graphic novel to win the Newbery Awards and Class Act has seen a speaking engagement withdrawn and his comic books pulled from a number of libraries after outrage was expressed by a group of parents part of the Katy Independent School District, based in Katy, Texas, which covers around 90,000 children.

Jerry Craft's Graphic Novels Back In Texas Schools After Petition War

Jerry Craft was lined up for a virtual event at a Katy ISD event last week, but the event was cancelled and his books withdrawn from the district's public libraries after 444 parents signed a petition demanding it, claiming that Craft's work promotes critical race theory and that they promote racism against white children. The petition, now removed was launched by former Katy ISD board of trustees candidate Bonnie Anderson who recently sued the Katy district for $100,000 for having compulsory mask-wearing in schools. The petition read thus;

Author Jerry Craft is scheduled to have a zoom call with elementary aged students at over 30 Katy ISD schools on October 4, 2021. This petition is to ask KISD administration and superintendent to cancel the zoom call and stop promotion of these books which are wrought with critical race theory in the form of teaching children that their white privilege inherently comes with microaggressions which must be kept in check.

Craft's writings, "New Kid" and "Class Act" are being promoted to the students and their parents without any notice of the overt Critical Race Theory teachings throughout both books. Craft himself discusses the teaching of microaggressions in these graphic novels. He laughs about how he had to make the stories funny in order to make sure the point about the inherent racism in schools and society are made.

In "New Kid" there are 6 depictions of a white person calling the police on a person of color for no reason and In the first chapter, the author introduces to children the idea of calling someone an "oreo." In case your child fails to understand this, the author goes all in on explaining that this means "black on the outside" and "white on the inside." The main character, Jordan, is depicted as being incapable of finding any comfort or happiness in the new schools until he finds people who are his same color. And of course, the story wouldn't be complete without depicting the white families as privileged, unaware of their inherent racism and with moms who don't work and spend their days playing tennis and doing yoga.

Jerry Craft's Graphic Novels Back In Texas Schools After Petition War

"Class Act" continues the tale of woeful microaggressions as the children of color continue to struggle with the privilege and lack of understanding from the white students and teachers. Diversity and Inclusion training is included in this second book as a means to help the white teachers understand and be more accepting of the students of color, which they were clearly incapable of prior to this.

In response, Jerry Craft wrote the following;

Many aspects of my life have changed drastically since my book New Kid became the first graphic novel to win the Newbery Medal. But through it all, what has not changed are my goals for my books: helping kids become the kind of readers that I never was; letting kids see themselves on my pages; and showing kids of color as just regular kids.

As an African American boy who grew up in Washington Heights in New York City, I almost never saw kids like me in any of the books assigned to me in school. Books aimed at kids like me seemed to deal only with history or misery. That's why it has always been important to me to show kids of color as just regular kids, and to create iconic African American characters like Jordan Banks from New Kid. I hope that readers of all ages will see the kindness and understanding that my characters exhibit and emulate those feelings in their day-to-day lives.

When I first set out to write and illustrate New Kid, I knew there would be giant hurdles to overcome. But I was confident that I was the right person to create this book, for the simple reason that I had experienced many of the same things my protagonist Jordan Banks had. I wanted to illustrate the things that kids like me had to face on a daily basis–like teachers confusing you with another kid of color, or classmates being afraid to come to your house because they assume you live in a bad neighborhood. These things are a lot for a kid to deal with. Oh, and you still have to get good grades! To counteract these stressful moments, I added elements such as strong values, loving families, very supportive friends, and plenty of humor.

I would like to offer a special thank you to the many teachers, librarians, students, and parents who love and champion my books. You have changed my life, in the same way that I hope to have changed yours. And to my readers and fans around the world who tell me how much they relate to my characters, I can't put into words how much your support means to me.

And in response to the original petition, other Texan parents created a counter-petition with 2,113 signatures calling the book to be reinstated and available in libraries.

It has come to my attention that a few uninformed folks in our community seek to block the upcoming visit of Jerry Craft to our schools.  We wholeheartedly support their right to have their own children opt out of Jerry's visit, but we do not wish to have our own children excluded by the tyranny of the loud minority.  Having no political clout individually, we wish to combine our voices as we communicate with the leaders of our school district and our community in begging them to resist the urge to bow to the uninformed.  We believe that it would be a blight on our community if our leaders do not listen.  If they do not, we will be content in letting the rest of the world know that ignorance and hatefulness do not reign over the entire Katy community.

We welcome those outside the Katy community who love Jerry Craft.  We want everyone to know that we are an extremely diverse community and we do not take lightly the hatefulness of those who see Jerry Craft or his writings as a threat.  I will not give their cause a platform by posting their concerns here.  Please join with us as we say yes to Jerry Craft.

Mr. Craft simply illustrates the perspective and perceptions of a black kid in an environment where almost everyone else is white.  Much of his writings are based on his personal experience as a kid.  His writings seem to be pretty tame compared to what some of the people I know experienced.  Most of Mr. Craft's writings seem to be about misunderstandings and stereotypes.  Those who object to Mr. Craft either don't understand what they are reading or are superimposing CRT as an issue.  It is not.

Laura Davis, media relations officer for Katy ISD stated that Craft's books were under review rather than being officially banned but they are no longer on the shelves. In a statement, the Katy ISD stated "Pending the outcome of a review committee, school day activities associated with the selection under review are temporarily placed on hold. School activities pertaining to selections under review and hosted outside of the instructional day, however, may continue as a formal review process takes place."

And now that review has been concluded, with a statement that says  "Earlier this week, the review committee met and determined the appropriateness of the book, 'New Kid', The reading material is already back on District library shelves and the virtual author visit is scheduled to take place on October 25 as part of the instructional day."

As a result of the controversy, a GoFundMe appeal has been set up to send copies of the graphic novels to Texan schoolchildren. Critical Race Theory movement of US civil-rights scholars and activists to examine the intersection of race and US law and to challenge mainstream American liberal approaches to racial justice., stating that racism and disparate racial outcomes are the result of complex, changing, and often subtle social and institutional dynamics, rather than explicit and intentional prejudices of individuals. And this is what the graphic novels are about instead;

Jerry Craft's Graphic Novels Back In Texas Schools After Petition War

New Kid Seventh grader Jordan Banks loves nothing more than drawing cartoons about his life. But instead of sending him to the art school of his dreams, his parents enroll him in a prestigious private school known for its academics, where Jordan is one of the few kids of color in his entire grade. As he makes the daily trip from his Washington Heights apartment to the upscale Riverdale Academy Day School, Jordan soon finds himself torn between two worlds—and not really fitting into either one. Can Jordan learn to navigate his new school culture while keeping his neighborhood friends and staying true to himself

Jerry Craft's Graphic Novels Back In Texas Schools After Petition War

Class Act Eighth grader Drew Ellis is no stranger to the saying "You have to work twice as hard to be just as good." His grandmother has reminded him his entire life. But what if he works ten times as hard and still isn't afforded the same opportunities that his privileged classmates at the Riverdale Academy Day School take for granted? To make matters worse, Drew begins to feel as if his good friend Liam might be one of those privileged kids. He wants to pretend like everything is fine, but it's hard not to withdraw, and even their mutual friend Jordan doesn't know how to keep the group together. As the pressures mount, will Drew find a way to bridge the divide so he and his friends can truly accept each other? And most important, will he finally be able to accept himself?

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About Rich Johnston

Founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world, since 1992. Author of The Flying Friar, Holed Up, The Avengefuls, Doctor Who: Room With A Deja Vu, The Many Murders Of Miss Cranbourne, Chase Variant. Lives in South-West London, works from Blacks on Dean Street, shops at Piranha Comics. Father of two. Political cartoonist.
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