It came to my attention tonight that To Kill a Mockingbird and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn have been temporarily removed from Accomack County school bookshelves after a parent complained about the use of racial slurs in both. Here’s one of the articles I read, if you’re particular like me and you’d like to verify the facts for yourself: Virginian-Pilot Article.
Yes, folks, censorship right here in my beloved Old Dominion. We’re starting the holiday season off right with some good old-fashioned book banning.
I don’t mean to be cruel or dismissive. I understand a parent’s concern for the welfare and safety of a child – I’m not heartless. Both of these books address painful topics, even for adults, and it’s important to be sensitive to how children might feel when they read such ugly, hateful words. But read them they must, because erasing the history of racism in the United States doesn’t change the fact that it happened. Glossing over our nation’s past in the classroom, or worse removing it from the shelves altogether, doesn’t help our children.
Books aren’t, and were never meant to be, safe. Literature helps us confront the darkest parts of ourselves. Stories should challenge us, inspire us, and arm us with knowledge and perspective as we live every day in this world. To be uncomfortable, to be sad, to be happy, to be angry, to be frustrated while reading is to learn, and learning is a beautiful, difficult, maddening, absolutely and vitally important thing.
Nasty words in books don’t hurt us. The world hurts us, and books help us process that pain. We shouldn’t, must not, deny children that opportunity.