Recently in Biloxi, Mississippi, a school board decided to ban Harper Lee’s 1960 novel To Kill A Mockingbird. Vice president Kenny Holloway said, “There is some language in the book that makes people uncomfortable …”
Holloway was not clear in his explanation as to what language made the book “uncomfortable.” However, it is safe to suppose that he was speaking of the word that, according to American Library Association, three prominent schools objected to in the past thirty years.
The n-word is a racially slurring expletive, explained to the book’s young protagonist, Scout, by her lawyer father. “What exactly is a (n-word) lover?” asked Scout, a young girl growing up in 1930s Alabama, to Atticus, her lawyer father, who spends the book trying to prove the innocence of a black man accused of raping a white female.
“It’s hard to explain,” Atticus replied, “Ignorant, trashy people use it when they think somebody’s favoring Negroes over and above themselves … it’s slipped into usage with some people like ourselves when they want a common, ugly term to label somebody.”
To Kill a Mockingbird is a Pulitzer Prize-winning book and story about racism in the United States, not set to encourage bigotry but rather the opposite. The book is typically read by 9th graders to teach the lesson of equality, kindness, honor and a code of conduct that all people should show to one another.
So why are we depriving the youth in this country of learning those lessons? Because Americans are too uncomfortable and insecure to deal with the past and learn the lesson taught by it.
This country’s narrative, despite its faults and sins, has a story to tell, a lesson to be learned from and something to add to the hearts and minds of youth. Our future is much brighter than the headlights of our past. Let us move past the sins that have beset this country and determine to face them rather than ignore them.
By Savannah Palmer