In a fiery speech delivered on the House floor on Thursday, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez criticized Republican efforts to censor and ban books in public schools. The congresswoman's remarks came in response to reports that a group of GOP lawmakers had labeled a children's book about civil rights icon Rosa Parks as "too woke" for young readers.
"This is not just about one book or one school district," Ocasio-Cortez said. "This is an attack on our ability to learn, think critically and engage with the world around us."
The book in question, titled "Rosa Parks: My Story," was written by the late civil rights activist herself and aimed at young audiences. It chronicles Parks' life and activism during the Civil Rights Movement, including her refusal to give up her seat on a Montgomery bus in 1955.
But some conservative lawmakers have taken issue with what they see as overly progressive themes in the book. In particular, they object to passages that discuss systemic racism and advocate for social justice causes.
Ocasio-Cortez slammed these objections as attempts to whitewash history and stifle free thought.
"To say that this book is 'too woke' is nothing more than an attempt to erase the lived experiences of millions of Americans who have faced discrimination and oppression," she said. "It's an attempt to silence voices that challenge entrenched power structures."
The congresswoman went on to call for greater support for teachers who are trying educate students about issues such as race relations, gender equality and climate change – topics she says are crucial for preparing them for a rapidly changing world.
"We can't afford to keep our kids ignorant or unprepared," she said. "We need more resources, more funding, more training – so that our educators can do their jobs without fear of censorship or retribution."
Ocasio-Cortez's speech comes amid a broader debate over critical race theory and its role in American education. Some conservatives have argued that the academic framework – which examines how racism is embedded in social structures and institutions – promotes division and undermines traditional American values.
But progressives like Ocasio-Cortez say that understanding these issues is essential for building a more just and equitable society.
"We can't afford to bury our heads in the sand," she said. "We need to confront these challenges head on, with open minds, open hearts, and a commitment to justice for all."