Debate over Black author's book in Texas highlights concerns over critical race theory claims nationwide

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The critical race theory debate over Jerry Craft's book highlighted some parents' fears that this was going to play out over and over again across the country.
When Omerly Sanchez's son heard his Texas school district was removing an award-winning children's book from its shelves and scrapping the virtual appearance by its author, Jerry Craft, pending a review, he was shocked. The 10-year-old just couldn't understand.

Reading "New Kid" was "the most exciting thing of my life," the fourth grader told NBC News. "It was the best book I've ever read."

He said he could relate to Craft's graphic novel because he was bullied in school last year because of his race.

So its removal last week amid claims from parents that it espouses critical race theory was puzzling.

Although the book has since returned to the shelves of the Katy Independent School District's libraries, the debate over a book Sanchez, her son and others believe should never have been so divisive in the first place highlighted fears that similar scenes are going to play out over and over again this year.

"This is going to be a constant battle," said Sanchez, who asked that her son's name not be used for fear of reprisal given the sensitive nature of the issue. "This is not the first, and it won't be the last. I think any other topic like this, they're going to continue to raise it as critical race theory."

Critical race theory is a legal framework to examine how racism is embedded in laws and institutions, but conservative activists have co-opted the term to describe discussions of race and gender they believe are too progressive.

Books and curricula in school districts nationwide have been falsely branded as teaching critical race theory as part of a broader movement led by parents opposed to lessons on racism, history and LGBTQ issues.

Craft's books tell stories about Black children struggling to fit in to unfamiliar settings.

"New Kid," a Newbery Medal-winning graphic novel, is about a seventh grader at a prestigious private school where he is one of the few students of color. Sanchez's son, who is biracial — half Latino and half Black — said parents…
Daniella Silva
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