Two American literature classics found across thousands of library shelves in the U.S. have been shelved, potentially for good in the Accomack County Public Schools in Virginia. “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” have been removed after a parent – ONE PARENT – filed a complaint for the books’ use of racial slurs, according to multiple media outlets. She said her biracial high school son was troubled by the racial slurs.
These books teach us to not hate based on race and protecting nearly-adult children from them is part and parcel of the helicopter parenting generation. It doesn’t prepare students for life. Using books like these are great opportunities to teach about the injustices and absurdities of racial discrimination. In fact, that is the message of both books.
Banning books, burning books are dangerous practices followed by fascists and totalitarians around the world.
Accomack County Superintendent Chris Holland says the use of both novels in the classroom and libraries has been suspended per guidelines in the county public school’s policy manual, according to the Associated Press. A committee of a district principal, librarian, teacher, parent and others will review the complaint and make a recommendation of the books’ availability in the future.
A racial slur appears 219 times in “The Adventure Of Huckleberry Finn” and 48 times in “To Kill a Mockingbird.”Dealing with the era of American slavery, Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn places the word “n*” in the mouths of both white and black characters, while Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird recounts a lawyer’s defense of a black man accused of raping a white woman in Alabama.
The mother in question said, “I keep hearing, ‘This is a classic, This is a classic.’ … I understand this is a literature classic. But at some point, I feel that children will not—or do not—truly get the classic part, the literature part, which I’m not disputing,” she argued at a school board meeting. “This is great literature. But there (are so many) racial slurs in there and offensive wording that you can’t get past that.”
“So what are we teaching our children?” the mother asked. “We’re validating that these words are acceptable, and they are not acceptable by (any) means,” she said, while noting psychological effects that language has on children.
“There is other literature they can use,” she argued.
The wording was representative of the times and no other literature captures that as well as these two books.
The mother proposed assembling a committee of parents and teachers of different ethnic backgrounds to compile a list of books that would be “inclusive” for all students.
One can only imagine what that list would look like.
The message of both books is virulently anti-racist.
It’s happened before.