If you grew up in the U.S., there’s a big chance you had to read To Kill A Mockingbird in class at some point or another. It’s a true American classic, and for a reason — it covers some pretty controversial topics, specifically those related to race. So it’s not a huge surprise that some schools have tried to ban the book completely — and Biloxi School District in Mississippi has succeeded to.
The novel revolves around a white family in the ’30s as the patriarch, the famed Atticus Finch, takes on a law case about a man who was accused of raping a woman. The catch? The woman is white, the man is black, and Atticus must stand up for his right to a fair trial when racial tensions are reaching its peak. The vice president of the Biloxi School Board, Kenny Holloway, told the SunHerald that the book made students too “uncomfortable.”
“There is some language in the book that makes people uncomfortable, and we can teach the same lesson with other books,” Holloway said. “It’s still in our library. But they’re going to use another book in the eighth-grade course.”
To which many have to say: isn’t it supposed to make you uncomfortable?
Racism should make people uncomfortable, and teaching about it in any other way just softens the blow. We don’t want to teach our children that yes, racism was rampant back then, but it wasn’t so terrible. Stripping it down to anything less is irresponsible.
The fact of the matter is this: though To Kill A Mockingbird is a work of fiction, it still manages to chronicle a time in America when things weren’t so great. Guess what? People of Color were called the “n-word.” They were treated with blatant disrespect, dehumanized, made to pay for other peoples’ crimes. Erasing that from history would be a crime within itself. It isn’t the same thing as revering Christopher Columbus or memorializing Robert E. Lee in statue form, because the book doesn’t glamorize the wrongs of the past — it just reminds us that it happened. We cannot forget the way we mistreated our own citizens in the past for fear that we may do it again in the future.
What makes this book so important is that it doesn’t only chronicle the way racism has marred America’s past, it also empathizes with those who were the victims of racism. Atticus is painted as a man who believes in justice, no matter what skin color is attached. We’re able to look into their world through the eyes of a child who hasn’t yet been completely jaded by prejudice. It gives readers an insight into what the world was like back then while softly chiding them that it was wrong.
I don’t care whether it was the “Liberals” or the “Conservatives” who managed to ban the book — in the long run, that doesn’t really matter. What does matter is that we cannot let future generations grow soft to the wrongs of the past, or they could become our own future.