Banning Books or Banning BIPOC?

Shearer, Marisa | July 5, 2022

Following the murder of George Floyd in May 2020, social justice movements renewed calls for the country to confront the pervasive reality of systemic racism in the United States. In response to these publicized social justice movements, however, calls for book bans relating to critical race theory began rising at an unprecedented rate. Although book ban censorship is not novel, the recent shift in focus to remove critical race theory from public school libraries marks a new era of content-based censorship.

This Essay examines why current book bans targeting critical race theory are content-based restrictions that necessarily violate the First Amendment. It explores the social and legal history of book bans in the United States and discusses recent trends in book ban censorship. This Essay then identifies First Amendment “areas of nonprotection” through which book ban proponents seek to exclude race-related content and analyzes why all are pretextual fallacies that undermine freedom of speech principles and mandate diversity in the judiciary.


Associate, Wheeler Trigg O’Donnell LLP. J.D., University of Denver Sturm College of Law, 2021; B.S. Exercise & Wellness, Brigham Young University, 2014. I would like to thank Professor Nancy Leong for her insight and guidance during the drafting of this Essay. I would also like to thank my husband for his support and inspiration.

Copyright 2022 by Marisa Shearer

Cite as: Marisa Shearer, Banning Books or Banning BIPOC?, 117 Nw. U. L. Rev. Online 24 (2022),