A California school district decided to remind everyone why the Golden State has descended into an abyss of stupid. Schools in Burbank have reportedly decided that they will no longer teach certain classic novels, including Harper Lee’s “To Kill A Mockingbird” due to concerns over racism.
According to Newsweek, “until further notice, teachers in the area will not be able to include on their curriculum Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, Theodore Taylor’s The Cay and Mildred D. Taylor’s Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry.”
Middle and high school English teachers in the Burbank Unified School District got the news during a September virtual meeting. The district made the decision after four parents complained about the content of the book, claiming that it causes harm to black students.
Carmenita Helligar stated that her daughter was taunted by a white student in her math class who used the N-word. Apparently, he learned the word from reading “Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry.”
Another boy also made racist remarks to Helligar’s daughter. “My family used to own your family and now I want a dollar from each of you for the week,” he said.
Helligar, who filed a complaint for her daughter’s treatment, stated that the boy’s excuse was that he had read it in one of the books assigned in class. She said the principal was dismissive of the incident. “My daughter was literally traumatized,” she said. “These books are problematic … you feel helpless because you can’t even protect your child from the hurt that she’s going through.”
As a black man with black children who used to be a black boy, I can empathize with the parents of children who are bullied because of their race. When I was a kid, white kids at my school made the same type of remarks to me on a fairly regular basis. Of course, I doubt any of them would use books like “The Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn,” as an excuse to make racist comments. But the point remains the same: Banning books is not the solution to this problem.
The notion that these novels promote racism is absurd given the fact that they were clearly written to combat racism by showing how ugly it can be. Moreover, these novels are a part of American history as they document the attitudes that were prevalent in the past.
Hiding these books will not stop racism any more than painting Black Lives Matter murals will stop police brutality. It would be akin to telling schools to stop teaching about slavery because kids might use it to make racist jokes.
Many black kids like myself have received these types of comments and it did not traumatize us. Why? Because we were raised to not allow people who make these stupid remarks to get under our skin. Moreover, if kids are making racist comments because they read a Harper Lee book, that sounds more like a problem of upbringing than reading about Atticus Finch, doesn’t it?
It seems likely that the four parents who pushed for the banning of these books will get a rude awakening when these kids are still making racist remarks after the fact. What will they blame it on in that case? Perhaps these parents should do like other black parents did in the past: Discuss these issues with their kids. Let them know that some folks are racist, but emphasize the fact that their words do not define them.
After all, parents don’t have control over how other parents raise their kids. They can’t control whether or not other kids will make racial remarks to their children. But they can control what they teach their own kids. They can determine whether or not they will infuse their kids with the strength to blow off these insults instead of teaching them to be soft.
Unfortunately for some, it’s easier to just blame it on Mark Twain, isn’t it?
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