School officials in Accomac, Virginia, have pulled two of the most important works of literature from their shelves. The action comes after a parent complained about racial slurs in the classic novels To Kill a Mockingbird and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
A Nation Divided
The unnamed parent of a high school student spoke out about her concerns at a recent school board meeting:
“Right now, we are a nation divided as it is.
“So what are we teaching our children? We’re validating that these words are acceptable, and they are not acceptable by any means.”
The complainant explained that her son, who is biracial, was disturbed by the frequent use of racial slurs in To Kill a Mockingbird.
She makes two valid points. The language is disturbing, and we are no doubt a nation divided. And it’s because we are a nation divided that we need to keep these books in circulation. We need to show our children what things were like before people stood up and said those words weren’t okay.
To Kill a Mockingbird and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn remind us of a time when it was commonplace to hear African-American people referred to as “n*****s.” They remind us that once upon a time, folks wouldn’t recoil like you just did, reading that ugly word.
Teaching these novels doesn’t validate that racial slurs are acceptable. It shows what the world was like when they were, and it’s not a pretty picture.
Whether or not the Accomac County School Board agrees remains to be seen. The complaint will be heard before a committee comprised of a librarian, a principal, a teacher, a parent, and possibly others, and then a final decision will be made. For now, the books have been removed from the school’s curriculum.
If Twitter is any indication, the general public is opposed to the possible ban.
On the bright side, nothing motivates kids to read a book like telling them it's banned. To Kill a Mockingbird
— Nick Douglas (@prolepac) December 1, 2016
Banning To Kill A Mockingbird is one of the saddest things I've ever heard. It is a canon of American literature and a necessary read.
— LisetteInBlue? (@bookgirl8) December 1, 2016
Welcome to communist Russia in the US. VIRGINIA school bans Huck Finn and To Kill a Mockingbird. https://t.co/Rrepgdoaec
— Todd Griffith (@c5hardtop1999) December 1, 2016
A History Of Controversy
This isn’t the first time that these books have been challenged. To Kill a Mockingbird is one of the most challenged books in schools and libraries, and those challenges have often resulted in the book being banned from schools and libraries. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was first challenged in 1885, under the assertion that it was:
“…Trash and suitable only for the slums.”
The book remains one of the most challenged of all time.
Here, author Harper Lee talks about To Kill a Mockingbird: