Speed Reads

missing the point

Virginia schools ban To Kill a Mockingbird over 'offensive wording'

Accomack County Public Schools on Virginia's eastern shore have decided to at least temporarily pull Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird and Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn from campus shelves after a parent of a biracial child complained about the novels' racial language.

"I keep hearing, 'This is a classic, this is a classic,'" the parent, Victoria Coombs, said at a school board meeting. "I understand this is a literature classic... But there [are so many] racial slurs in there and offensive wording that you can't get past that." Coombs argued it is "not right to put that in a book" or teach such a book to a child because to do so would be "validating that these words are acceptable."

While it is certainly true that both books include racial slurs, they do so to accurately represent the historical racism each work condemns. In Mockingbird, the main characters defend a black man falsely accused of raping a white woman in the pre-Civil Rights South; and Huck Finn decides he'd rather risk hellfire than abandon his runaway slave friend.

Still, this is hardly the first time either work has been banned over accusations of racism. The Accomack school district will soon convene a meeting with a librarian to determine whether the ban should be permanent.