Concerned parents in Spring Branch ISD, located in west Houston, have succeeded in removing “The Black Friend: On Being a Better White Person” from middle school libraries after pushback over the book’s racist content. The condemned book was available in four middle schools and at least two high schools.
The parents’ victory comes after sweeping conservative victories in 2022, where conservatives took over three school board positions by a margin of at least 4,000 votes.
When Texas Scorecard reached out to concerned parents, a parent who wished to remain anonymous explained the arduous nine-month process of removing the CRT-inspired book, remarking that “[the system] is stacked against parents from the beginning” and that there are three grievance levels to challenge a book.
The first level of grievance involves filling out a form that is sent to the school’s principal. While the school district promises a decision within 10 days of the complaint being filed, the parent explained that the promise is “not honored” and can take weeks.
The way SBISD addressed this Level 1 grievance was by assembling a committee composed of “one middle school librarian, one middle school teacher, one high school teacher, one secondary campus administrator, one [random] parent, and one district administrator.” However, the parent expressed concern about SBISD’s lack of transparency in the parent selection process, especially since the concerned parent is not included in the Level 1 grievance meeting.
The first level of grievance filed regarding the CRT book occurred April 21, 2022. On May 19, 2022, 28 days after the complaint was filed, SBISD’s committee decided to keep the books on the grounds that it “could further enhance student empathy and promote unity and understanding.” The district also stated that “The Black Friend: On Being a Better White Person” does not promote critical race theory, which was ostensibly banned from classroom teaching by the state Legislature in 2021.
The parent appealed the decision just before June, and the Level 2 grievance hearing was scheduled for July 11, 2022. On July 27, 2022, the district notified the concerned parent that they would keep the book.
The concerned parent then appealed again on August 1, 2022, bringing it to a Level 3 grievance, which would be heard by the conservative-majority school board. The school board initially was going to hear the Level 3 grievance on October 24, 2022, but was rescheduled to January 24, 2023, due to staffing issues.
Of the book’s racist anti-white remarks, some include:
- “We have a white people problem.”
- “We just all assume that white men are racist.”
- “I spent most of that time protesting, refusing to speak to most white people in public…”
- “It’s white women who get Black men killed all the time.”
When referencing the Christopher Columbus’ discovery of the Americas, the book reads:
To put it plainly, we have to learn a lot of white crap, including white history, much of which is not even true. Meanwhile, white people never have to learn about us, because doing so would force white people to be held accountable for the many ways they’ve mistreated – and continue to mistreat – people of color.
The author also writes about his disdain for white people:
You’ll notice I don’t capitalize the W in white when referring to white people, though I capitalize the B when referring to Black people, this is a personal preference because white people are simply defined by the color of their skin, while black people are a cultural and ethnic group.
The concerned parent explained that Frederick Joseph, the author of the inflammatory book, “encourages activism based on faulty and misleading premises. This is, in fact, the goal Mr. Joseph has for those reading the book.”
After deliberation, the school board voted 4-3 to remove the book from middle school libraries entirely and to place the book on restricted access in high schools.