'To Kill a Mockingbird' removed from school reading list because it 'makes people uncomfortable'
A book that was written to make Americans uncomfortable about race relations is being removed from the reading list of a school in Biloxi, MS because "it makes people uncomfortable."
And I thought I had heard it all.
A Mississippi School Board's decision to strike the classic novel "To Kill a Mockingbird" from the eighth-grade curriculum has reignited questions over when, if at all, a book should be banned from a classroom.
After receiving complaints that some of the language in the book made some uncomfortable, the Biloxi School District pulled the book from Language Arts classes, the Clarion-Ledger reported.
Harper Lee's tale of a racial inequality in a Southern town, was originally published in 1960. The book, which won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, is set in the 1930s, when Lee was a child, and uses language common for the time, including a derogatory term for African-Americans.
Local author Barbara Shoup has some firsthand experience with books being banned. Her adolescent coming of age novel "Wish You Were Here" made the 1995 list of top 100 banned books.
"I am appalled," Shoup wrote in an email, saying Lee's tale offers a realistic depiction of life in the South before Civil Rights.
"If we are going to solve the racial problems we have in our country now, we must confront the truth of how we got to where we are. Good fiction, like "Mockingbird," brings history alive," she said. "If it is uncomfortable to read and discuss, so be it. Most things that matter deeply are."
A couple of choice reactions on Twitter.
Hmmm, doesn't the Bible make many people uncomfortable? Lord have mercy. https://t.co/FdCPuQwdTK— Matthew Dowd (@matthewjdowd) October 14, 2017
If To Kill a Mockingbird makes you uncomfortable, you are the target audience.— Stan Lehr (@WIBC_StanLehr) October 14, 2017
Of all the crazy news over the past year plus, this may be the craziest. And exemplifies the dangers of 1Amend. assaults quite succinctly. https://t.co/0u6aQ24txA— Mack Overton (@snowmanmack) October 14, 2017
"Banned in Boston" used to be a badge of honor for publishers, who used the condemnation of a controversial book as a salacious selling point.
But "Banned in Biloxi"?
Most kids today have a hard time imagining an America where blacks couldn't sit at the same lunch counter with whites or were forced to cross the street if a white woman approached them on the sidewalk. They have no conception of the "separate but equal" standard where blacks had their own drinking fountains, their own restrooms, their own place to sit in a movie theater. Even relating some of these stories to southern kids is like describing what happened on an alien planet.
"To Kill a Mockingbird" is classic literature not only because it is beautifully written and tells a terribly interesting and important story. It is a classic because it captures a moment in time perfectly - how people really lived, how they loved, and what they really thought about an issue that still roils the country today.
Are there other books that deal with the same themes, the same issues? No doubt yes. But none captures the essence of what it was to be a southerner in a time of momentus change. That kind of value is incredibly rare and should be nurtured, not banned.