By Rayiah Ross
To Kill A Mockingbird, the award winning novel by Harper Lee, is being removed from a junior high reading list in a Mississippi school district. Published in 1960, the Pulitzer Prize winning novel deals with racial inequality in a small Alabama town, and in the justice system at large. Biloxi County school board Vice President Kenny Holloway told the Alabama Local News, the district received complaints that some of the book’s language “makes people uncomfortable.”
To Kill A Mockingbird is an educational book that teaches students that compassion and empathy does not depend upon race or education. While at first blemish it may seem like a story filled with racially insensitive language, the true essence is quite to the contrary. In fact, Atticus Finch–one of the many main characters–says, “Don’t say n–ger Scout. That’s common.” To Kill A Mockingbird describes racial and rape inequality, and is evidently something people are afraid to talk about. Dark subjects like this are oftentimes masked by the frivolous drama in the world; hence why football players are kneeling during the National Anthem and rapists are walking free in the street.
This book has been the source of controversy in American schools since the 1970’s and as PBS has noted, there have been numerous challenges and bans of the book in U.S. schools since then. A school district in Virginia removed the novel from its curriculum in 2016 after complaints about “racist language.” The American Library Association even ranks To Kill A Mockingbird as the 21st most-banned or challenged book of the past decade.
James LaRue, head of the Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom, told The Washington Post, “To Kill a Mockingbird has been challenged pretty much from the beginning. I think because it does such a deft job of capturing a moment in history.” He went on to say, “ a classic is something that makes us uncomfortable because it talks about things that matter.”
To Kill A Mockingbird talks about things that will indeed make you uncomfortable–it will also make you think. The point of the book is to talk about controversial topics and spark conversation in all age ranges. If this book makes you so uncomfortable that you cannot bear to read it, then ironically you are probably the type of person that could gain the most by doing so. As Atticus Finch says, “you never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view…until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”