Patterico's Pontifications

10/20/2003

TO KILL THE MESSAGE OF

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 6:49 am

TO KILL THE MESSAGE OF “MOCKINGBIRD”: The Indianapolis Star editorializes here in support of the decision of an Indianapolis High School to cancel a production of a stage version of To Kill a Mockingbird. (Via Volokh.) Why the cancellation? I think you can guess. Yup, black parents and the NAACP protested due to the use of the “N” word.

Eugene Volokh has the best comment I have seen on this:

Say, doesn’t the “C” in NAACP stand for “colored”? Outrageous! Everyone knows that “colored” is a pejorative term nowadays; people would be very offended if you called them “colored.” High schools should stop using texts that contain the organization’s name.

Heh.

(By the way, if this organization is going to be renamed to conform to the terms used nowadays, I suppose the new name would have to be the “National Association for the Advancement of African-American People,” or “NAAAAP.” Hmmm. Maybe that’s why they’re sticking with “Colored.”)

Prof. Volokh also says: “When an NAACP chapter objects to To Kill a Mockingbird, and a high school agrees, we’ve come to a strange, strange place, folks.” I agree with this, but I would add that we’ve always been in that strange place.

For example, for as long as I can remember, there have been black activists somewhere trying to ban Adventures of Huckleberry Finn — certainly among the top anti-slavery books ever written in this country. As explained in this essay, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn has been banned and challenged ever since it was first published in 1885. The initial objections came from the literary establishment, which saw the book as too lowbrow. But beginning in the 1950s and lasting to the present day, the objections to the book have come from black activist groups — apparently composed of people who had never read it.

I’m afraid that, as long as there are people who don’t bother to read the great books, there will be people who will be offended by what (they think) is in them. The To Kill a Mockingbird controversy is, alas, nothing new, and you can expect this sort of nonsense to crop up again.

Accepting the inevitability of such controversies, I still agree with Prof. Volokh: it’s bad enough that the parents are doing this; even worse that the NAAAAP folks are participating; worse still that the school is caving to the pressure; but worst of all is the fact that the local newspaper supports the school’s decision. But here again I am less surprised than Prof. Volokh. The political leanings of newspaper editors (even in the relatively smaller urban areas, as this shows) often cause them to embrace absurd “pro-minority” policies and viewpoints — even when they know that these policies and viewpoints are wrong and/or harmful. This is another regrettable aspect of American society that I don’t see changing anytime soon.

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