‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ Is Making People Too “Uncomfortable”

James Vaughn (Flickr)

A Mississippi school district has faced widespread backlash after deciding to pull To Kill a Mockingbird from its 8th-grade curriculum. Their main argument of reasoning was that it made people feel “uncomfortable.” Wasn’t that Harper Lee’s intention? To thrust bigotry in the reader’s face and show the prominent racial divide that still segregates America?

The Biloxi School District made the decision after “several people” had complained about the concepts and themes discussed in the book. The school board vice president Kenny Holloway added: “There is some language in the book that makes people uncomfortable, and we can teach the same lesson with other books.” Published in 1960, Lee depicts life racial inequality in a small Alabama town, a concept that seems to hit too close to home for Mississippi. This is not surprising as the American Library Association had ranked To Kill a Mockingbird as the tenth most challenged book in 2011, and it still remains in the top 30. The reasons were “offensive language, racism, [and] unsuited to age group.”

The Twitter-sphere has blown up on the matter, unable to understand why the internationally recognized, awarded, and praised book should be removed from any school’s curriculum, arguing that its “uncomfortable” themes are just another reason why it should remain in schools.

This, sadly, is not uncommon news. In 2014 a school in Dallas banned seven “obscene” books, including Sherman Alexie’s The Absolute True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. “The real reason my True Diary gets banned? It’s about the triumph of a liberal Native American rebel,” says Alexie. A parent of the school told Dallas News “This is not about banning books. No one is advocating that. We want the kids to have access to the books in the library. The problem is having obscene literature mandatory in the classroom and for discussion.”

Banning works of literature meant to stimulate a response is a common practice that should end. It is these works of art, these works of fiction, that are so effective in opening the minds of those that are too afraid to understand.

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