State known for racism bans anti-racist novel

By Alex Kerravala, Staff Writer

As some of you may or may not have heard, the public school district in Biloxi, Mississippi recently banned To Kill a Mockingbird, which is Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel that confronts racism and prejudice.

According to the school district’s Vice President Kenny Holloway this is because there is “[s]ome language in the book that makes people uncomfortable.”

Now, I am not an expert on running a school district, nor do I know how scared the state of Mississippi is of words, but I am a proud American citizen opposed to censorship, especially censorship of one of the most morally sound and life-changing messages in a modern novel.

To be uncomfortable with a novel that is designed to make one uncomfortable does not call for censorship, but rather self realization and improvement. If the racism in To Kill a Mockingbird makes you feel like cramming your fingers in your ears while screaming “I can’t hear you!” Perhaps you yourself need to wake up and make some changes.

This is not the first time Harper Lee’s inspiring novel was banned in a school district; Hanover County, Virginia, attempted to ban this book back in 1963, stating the book was “immoral” due to the novel dealing with rape. In 1977, Eden Valley, Minnesota, attempted to ban the novel for vulgar language.

I mean, the novel has been banned, or attempted to be banned in 15 different schools across America from 1980-2013 for vulgar language. As it turns out, people are not comfortable with the terrible language that once plagued our country, and we need to get rid of it, provide a “safe space” from these dangerous words that hurt the feelings of old white men who are hiding their guilt.

It is my own firm belief that To Kill a Mockingbird should be a mandatory reading for any and all grade-schoolers. The message of racism it presents, along with the story of one man’s courage to stand alone against it, was a pivotal part of my sophomore year in high school. I’m not saying the book doesn’t make you uncomfortable — rather the opposite.

The book is far from a “fun” read, but that is the point of the novel. As hard as it is, it is important to understand the power words can have and the difference one’s upbringing makes in his/her adult life.

In fact, by banning To Kill a Mockingbird based on its language, aren’t you just emphasizing its need to exist? Words are uncomfortable, yes, but not just for you, Kenny Holloway of Mississippi. The words within this novel make people unbearably uncomfortable, perhaps because they made others unbearably uncomfortable when it was written, and when it takes place. Perhaps words have power, and children need to read To Kill a Mockingbird to see that firsthand.

As I said, this isn’t the first time To Kill a Mockingbird was shelved in public schools, and I doubt it will be the last time. Harper Lee’s novel will continue to be banned, whether it be for language that is intentionally unsavory or for sexual themes. What we need to remember, above all else, is that this language is designed specifically to be uncomfortable, that this novel is not meant to be easy to stomach.

This novel is meant to be a reminder of what is wrong in this world, so that we may strive to do what is right. This novel is a message in morality, and a necessary one at that.


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