The American Library Association annually dedicates a week to banned books… a celebration of the freedom to read! It’s taken place this year but I have banned books on the brain because of Accomack County Public School’s decision to suspend “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.”
The books were pulled from the shelves after a parent filed a complaint about the use of racial slurs. A date to reissue the books has not been set, according to the Superintendent of Schools. The complainant probed, “…So what are we teaching our children? We’re validating that these words are acceptable and they are not acceptable by any means.”
While certain verbiage is not acceptable, reading “To Kill a Mockingbird” or “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” doesn’t validate these words. These books teach understanding, acceptance, and compassion. How else do we learn what life was like during these time periods?
These books are part of our history. Not the same history lessons that taught us about the Vietnam War or the Bay of Pigs but rather our literary history. These books challenge our senses, and guide us back in time. In suspending these books, the Accomack County Public Schools is sending a message – not just to their students but to society – that if we don’t talk about something than it doesn’t exist.
The idea we need to rewrite history so it’s palatable and soft is dangerous. History cannot be rewritten, and certainly if it could, would we spend the time rewriting Huckleberry Fin, or the events that evolved into world wars?
History is how we gauge our growth as a society. It also tells us how far we still need to go. Life is not without strife. We should be focusing on how far we’ve come since these books were written. Is there room for more growth? Hell yes; there is always room for growth and change. Society is a work in progress. We grow and learn from our past if we don’t get stuck there. And that’s a real possibility when books are censored and banned.
We should be concerned about the acceptance of these words but we need to stop looking back. If we want these words to remain in the past, society needs to address the forums where these words are most prevalent, i.e.: Hip Hop Music. I don’t envy the Accomack County Public School district’s position but students should not be denied the freedom and experience of classic literature.