WTF? ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ Makes MS Snowflakes ‘Uncomfortable’ (TWEETS)

Atticus Finch and Tom Robinson in the 1962 film version of
Atticus Finch and Tom Robinson in the 1962 film version of "To Kill A Mockingbird" (screenshot courtesy Universal Pictures, part of public domain)



For more than half a century, Harper Lee’s “To Kill A Mockingbird” has been a staple of eighth and ninth-grade English classes around the country. It’s also been a fixture on lists of banned and challenged books due to its brutally honest depictions of racism and rape. According to the American Library Association, it was the 21st most-challenged book in the first decade of the new millennium.


Well, add another challenge to the list. Late last week, school officials in Biloxi, Mississippi removed “To Kill A Mockingbird” from the eighth grade language arts reading list. According to school board vice president Kenny Holloway, school officials had fielded a number of complaints that “there was some language in the book that makes people uncomfortable.” Ultimately, administration and English department officials concluded that they could “teach the same lesson with other books.”

While Holloway didn’t elaborate, the (Biloxi) Sun Herald received an email from one parent at Biloxi Junior High School that may have provided something of an explanation. According to the parent, eighth graders were still reading “To Kill A Mockingbird” when the decision was made to yank it from the curriculum. Now, according to this parent, they won’t be allowed to finish it “due to the use of the N-word.” This parent called the move “one of the most disturbing examples of censorship I have ever heard.”

“Disturbing” is being kind to it. This book teaches a number of important lessons–such as the need to have compassion and empathy for everyone, regardless of race or economic background. It also lays threadbare the outrageous reality of racism and prejudice in the Depression-era Deep South, and does so through the eyes of children. For those who don’t recall, Scout Finch, her brother Jem, and their friend Dill are forced to mature and quickly after seeing absolute evil first hand. If that makes people “uncomfortable,” it actually proves why kids in Biloxi need to be exposed to this classic.

A lot of people are of the same mind. The reaction in the Twitterverse has been unsparing.

These aren’t just the objections of “outside agitators,” though. The decision doesn’t seem to be playing very well on the Mississippi Gulf Coast either.

The Sun Herald editorial board blasted the decision, saying that the school board had denied eighth graders a chance to understand why, in the words of Atticus Finch, “reasonable people go stark raving mad” whenever race is even discussed. The Facebook comments sections for both the original article and the editorial are, with virtually no exceptions, filled with people blasting this decision.

Considering this area’s history, this is very refreshing. The Gulf Coast was one of the first areas of the South where the old-line Democrats started turning their backs on the national party after it became more receptive to civil rights. It has since become one of the most Republican areas of the South. Harrison County, home to Biloxi, has not supported a Democrat for president since 1960.

If the reaction to this decision is any indication, though, it does appear that the people in this area do have some standards. While the book is still available at the Biloxi Junior High library, district officials should be ashamed at their apparent decision to cave in to a few snowflakes.


Hopefully someone at either Biloxi Junior High or Biloxi High has the guts to allow their kids to continue reading this book, or at the very least allow them to watch the Oscar-winning film version that came out in 1962 and stars Gregory Peck as Atticus. Of course, though, the only real way to right this wrong is for the Biloxi school board to grow a pair and put this book back in the curriculum. Let them have it on the Web, on Facebook, and on Twitter.

(featured image: screenshot courtesy Universal Pictures, part of public domain)

Darrell is a 30-something graduate of the University of North Carolina who considers himself a journalist of the old school. An attempt to turn him into a member of the religious right in college only succeeded in turning him into the religious right's worst nightmare--a charismatic Christian who is an unapologetic liberal. His desire to stand up for those who have been scared into silence only increased when he survived an abusive three-year marriage. You may know him on Daily Kos as Christian Dem in NC. Follow him on Twitter @DarrellLucus or connect with him on Facebook. Click here to buy Darrell a Mello Yello.