The “N” word

Looking over the ALA’s list of banned and challenged classics, I see a lot of my favorite books there.  In some cases I can understand the reasons for people wanting to ban them, but not for this one.  To Kill A Mockingbird – repeatedly challenged for language and content – is nevertheless a book I think every American should read.

Recent challenges have included a resident of New Jersey who “objected to the novel’s depiction of how blacks are treated by members of a racist white community in an Alabama town during the Depression” – well, duh! That’s what the book’s about!  And a middle school in North Carolina challenged the book “because the 1961 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel uses the word ‘nigger.'”

Yes, it does. It’s a story about an ugly time, and ugly attitudes.  And that’s why it should remain available.  All the more so because these attitudes still persist.

America’s greatness has always been about freedom.  Our main lessons, from the Revolution to the Civil War to the Civil Rights Movement, are a progression of battles fought and won for the cause of freedom in various guises.  We are still struggling with this.  We may be fated to struggle with it forever.

Harper Lee’s masterpiece is an eloquent expression of this quintessential American problem.  Those who object to its ugly details are missing the point.  The very existence of those things was the core of Lee’s protest.

I’m proud to say I first read this book as a class assignment in grade school.  I think every student should read it, and I applaud those schools who overruled foolish objections to keep it in their curriculum.




The “N” word — 4 Comments

  1. In grade school? That’s definitely young. Not that I think it’s too young, mind you, but it’s young for some of the subject matter.