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McWilliams: Banning books erases an educational history

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by the Collegian or its editorial board. 

Pulitzer Prize winner, “To Kill a Mockingbird,” by Harper Lee has been pulled from the curriculum of a school district in Mississippi due to the discomfort created from its racial accuracy. Kenny Holloway, the school board vice president, claimed, “there is some language in the book that makes people uncomfortable,” so, they banned the book.

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Censoring books because of racial slurs and accurate representation of America’s racist past is the worst thing we can do. As students, we need to learn about our past and how offensive it was in order to move as far away from former prejudices as we can.

“To Kill a Mockingbird” isn’t the first book to be banned because of its racial accuracy, and it won’t be the last. Mark Twain’s novel “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” has been a common target for years. Both novels have been praised for their ability to accurately represent America’s past. Banning and censorship have threatened that accuracy. People even went so far as to republish “Huckleberry Finn,” and replace the N-word with the word “slave,” destroying one of the key components of the novel.

Many people are uncomfortable by the topic of racism, but we should be uncomfortable. America’s past was undeniably racist, and people are trying to cover up that past because they are ashamed when learning about it. The discomfort it creates to the point of banning the book shows that these school districts do not understand why they need to learn about racism, no matter how uncomfortable it is. They are contributing to the racism that thrives in our county in present time.

The school district in question has a majority of white students, making the choice to ban the book that much more frightening. These kids have never felt what it’s like to be discriminated against based on race, and books like “To Kill a Mockingbird” would allow them to learn about those horrors through empathy. Without books to make them uncomfortable, these kids will miss out on essential life lessons, and this will make them dangerous as adults because of their potential ignorance.

Making students uncomfortable in order to understand a glimpse of the horrors that people of color faced in the past, and are still facing today, seems like a minimal sacrifice.

To say these students shouldn’t be reading “To Kill a Mockingbird” because it makes them uncomfortable threatens our future. Hiding from our past only allows for it to repeat itself.

As students of Colorado State University, we need to recognize that banning books is wrong for the sake of education. Ultimately, the point of getting an education is to broaden our perspective on the world and to gain an understanding of what is happening around us. If reading about racism makes us uncomfortable, it should enlighten us that this is still a problem, and there needs to be more focus on dismantling said issue.

“To Kill a Mockingbird” should never be banned, and should be always be required reading for students. Students should always learn about the horrors of racism, even if America finally dismantles its stigma towards people of color.

Leta McWilliams can be reached at letters@collegian and online at @LetaMcWilliams

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