Where they have burned books,
they will end in burning human beings.
Recently the white mother of a biracial child took the Accomack County Public Schools (Va.) to task for assigning classic novels “To Kill a Mockingbird” (Harper Lee) and “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” (Mark Twain).
Unfortunately, district administrators cowered before the “Request for Reconsideration of Learning Resources” and temporarily suspended the use of the classic texts.
The request to no longer assign the books flowed from one individual being severely disturbed that Harper Lee and Mark Twain repeatedly used the word “Nigger” in their work. Apparently, “Nigger” remains the equivalent of nitroglycerine in the English language; it appears over two-hundred times in “Huckleberry Finn” and nearly fifty in Harper Lee’s “To Kill A Mockingbird.”
The frequent use of the word “Nigger” is the primary reason that “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” have earned the dubious ‘honor’ of being two of the most banned books in this nation’s schools and libraries. The fact that the two texts being discussed stand as public statements against racism highlight the general ‘lack of understanding’ that serves as the foundation for such foolishness.
In this latest attack against freedom of speech, the complainant has stated, “I keep hearing ‘This is a classic, this is a classic.’ I understand that…but there are so much racial slurs in there and offensive wording that you can’t get past that. Right now, our nation is divided as it is. I teach my son he is the best of both worlds, and I do not want him to feel otherwise.”
What this misguided parent fails to realize is that the scrubbing and sanitizing of this nation’s racial past does significant harm to its present and compromises its future.
In every way, when school administrators honor requests such as this, American history is destroyed. Put simply, such a criminal action clouds this nation’s storied past. Frederick Douglass warned the American citizenry against such attempts in his speech “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?” when he stated that such actions made “America false to the past, false to the present, and solemnly binds herself to be false to the future.”
It is shameful that so many Americans do not understand that the initial step in solving this nation’s racial problems is an honest view of its sordid racial past. The ridiculous attacks upon classic literature will never have a positive effect upon contemporary race relations.
In fact, it could worsen this nation’s tenuous race relations. Absent an understanding of America’s racial past; one could believe that the current ‘have-not’ socioeconomic position that so many African-Americans have found themselves ensnared within is attributable to personal flaws such as laziness, stupidity, and absence of focus, not discrimination and institutional racism.
As with most things, a complete review of the past is the only explanation of the present. And trust me when I say, the alteration of classic literature that illuminates this nation’s racial history guarantees that the racial inequality, discord, and hatred that has cloaked America for over two centuries will continue to be its most indispensable accessory. When you think about it, what would ‘Lady Liberty’ look like without it?
Dr. James Thomas Jones III
© Manhood, Race, and Culture, 2016