The school district of Biloxi, Mississippi, will no longer feature “To Kill a Mockingbird” in its junior high reading list out of fear of how “uncomfortable” the book makes people feel.
The novel revolves around racial inequality in an Alabama town, and exposing how common, small-town folks in the recent past acted is a central part of the book.
Due to the author’s blatantly honest portrayal of 1950s America, The Washington Post’s Michael Gerson once wrote that the book “made the values of the civil rights movement — particularly a feeling for the god-awful unfairness of segregation — real for millions.”
School administrators are using racism as a justification for removing the book from the district’s reading list, and they may be doing more harm than good. After all, if students don't learn about this aspect of America's past, history is destined to repeat itself.
It’s almost as if Harper Lee’s classic novel and its message of sympathy for individuals, no matter who they are or where they come from, should be completely forgotten due to the racial slurs featured in the book. Instead of condemning the racism that we see regularly, Mississippi educators now seem to say, we must instead turn our backs to the ground-breaking pieces of art that helped us walk away from hate in the past.
On Twitter, many users caught on to this hypocrisy, reminding school district officials in Mississippi that banning a novel that discusses racism is not going to do anything to tackle the problems we are facing now. After all, if they were so serious about condemning racism, would they continue to let the state flag carry Confederate symbols?
A Mississippi HS is removing To Kill a Mockingbird because it makes people uncomfortable, yet this is the flag they fly out front daily. pic.twitter.com/8cQ5lwxDzT— Hugh Jass (@CelticWombat) October 14, 2017
So let's be clear, they are uncomfortable with having to discuss racism, but quite comfortable perpetuating it. https://t.co/L7kvx2MPdK— Dr. Mansa Keita (@rasmansa) October 14, 2017
One of the best books ever written, but it makes southern white folks uncomfortable, so out it goes. This is Trump’s America.— Janie Goss (@cardsfann) October 15, 2017
The lie is more comfortable bruh ??? pic.twitter.com/YtkxQ81C7x— Corey Rockafeler (@nbaraw) October 15, 2017
But according to the Biloxi school district’s vice president, Kenny Holloway, administrators have heard enough complaints about the book alone to stop using it in the eighth-grade course.
“There is some language in the book that makes people uncomfortable, and we can teach the same lesson with other books,” he told reporters.
Still, the school’s website claims “To Kill a Mockingbird” teaches students about compassion and empathy, regardless of race or education, showing that despite the racist content, the book’s lesson is everything but.
While eighth-grade students will no longer be required to read Lee’s novel, Holloway added, the book will remain available in Biloxi school libraries. But without offering students a venue to discuss the book’s contents, many young children without proper guidance may actually get the wrong impression from the novel. Could this move have made matters worse by keeping students from having access to the full understanding of what the story represents?
One can only assume that won't be the case. Hopefully, school district officials realize the hypocrisy in using Confederate symbols while keeping students from discussing a book that helped millions to see the destructive and immoral face of racism.
Banner and thumbnail image credit: Flickr user Denise P.S