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Saturday, June 22
The Indiana Daily Student

opinion oped editorial

EDITORIAL: Attack of the Books?

Education took a huge blow in November as Accomack County Public Schools in Virginia decided to pull “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” from their high school curriculum.

The books have been suspended following the request of the parent of a biracial child. The mother, who has remained anonymous, claims the racial slurs in the two books are too much for high schoolers to handle. She believes teaching books with these slurs is “validating that these words are acceptable.”

This one boils our blood on Editorial Board. To begin with, these two books are among the least racist pieces of literature ever written. Anyone who has ever read these books cover to cover understands that Mark Twain and Harper Lee are, indisputably, fighting for equality.

“The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” is a story of a boy learning his racist upbringing is wrong. Jim, Huckleberry’s black companion, is the wisest, most compassionate character in the novel. As people use slurs against him, we are shown the disparity between vapid racism and true character, which Jim absolutely has.

In Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird,” we see that communities are quick to turn on those they deem different. All evidence points to Tom Robinson’s innocence, but he’s still convicted of rape. Readers understand that the trial was an absolute disgrace, and Lee is obviously mocking the blatant racism of much of rural America at the time. It’s a plea for change.

These two books are testaments of anti-racist philosophy. Yes, they use harsh language that we no longer deem acceptable under any circumstances. Yes, they can be difficult to trudge through, especially if you’re someone who’s experienced the damage of these slurs.

The difficult truth is that these words used to be acceptable, and people of color used to be treated extremely poorly.

To deny or obfuscate this truth is to discredit its importance, and we owe it to ourselves to understand the past to shape a better future for us all.

Additionally, we don’t learn difficult lessons from within our comfort zones. If we ban every book that offends our gentle sensibilities, we won’t ever progress as a society. Art isn’t meant to make us feel safe. It’s meant to force us to challenge our beliefs and our assumptions. These books accomplish that task beautifully.

Obviously we shouldn’t be teaching this literature to students who aren’t ready to face its grim realities.

No one believes that third graders should be forced to deal with themes of wrongful conviction, racism, rape or discrimination. But there comes a time when students need to be pushed out of their predefined comfort zones in order to become more culturally and educationally aware.

Banning books is wrong. “Huck Finn” and “To Kill a Mockingbird” are two iconic pieces of literature that denounce racism and mock those who practice it. Editorial Board is sorry that Accomack County school children will be deprived of an important and impactful part of growing up. We hope this decision will not stand.

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