March 1, 2017 - mh9868a
Commonplace 6: Somewhere in America
“Somewhere in America there is a child sitting at his mother’s computer reading the homepage of the KKK’s website that’s open to the public but that child will have never read To Kill a Mockingbird because the school has banned it for its use of the ‘N’ word. Maya Angelou is prohibited because we are not allowed to talk about rape in school. We were taught just because something happens doesn’t mean you have to talk about it”
From “Somewhere in America” – by Belissa Escobedo, Rhiannon McGavin, and Zariya Allen
As a lifelong avid reader, I could never understand why books would be banned in schools. Books enhance learning, and school was all about learning. Why inhibit my education? How am I supposed to truly learn about racism, truly learn about growing up and losing my innocence, if I had no context for those lessons? If these banned books are literary masterpieces, why are we not analyzing them? Perhaps one reason I am so bothered about this issue is that my favorite book in the world is technically a banned book. My school in particular encouraged the reading of nationally banned books. Therefore, To Kill a Mockingbird was on the tenth grade curriculum. I remember reading that book and wondering why anyone would ban such a masterpiece. Sure, there were bad words and sensitive topics, but those topics are the same ones society sweeps under the rug. Nobody wants to talk about racism or rape. Nobody wants to talk about things that make them uncomfortable. For example my father, a father of two daughters, has never, and vows to never, read To Kill a Mockingbird. No matter how many times I beg him, he refuses to acknowledge the topics that make him uncomfortable. However, if sensitive issues like racism and rape are not talked about, we will never learn about them. If we enver learn about them, we will stay ignorant and silent. Silence solves nothing. Silence changes nothing.
We read Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings at my Catholic middle school because Maya Angelou is one of the most prolific writers of her time. My school focused on good writing. On true literature. My teacher never addressed what happened to Angelou. We also read Speak at my Catholic school, and my teacher only hinted at what happened. There was never a discussion on rape. We were never told that horrors like that happen. Just because something happens doesn’t mean you have to talk about it. I remember being horrified at what Angelou and the main character in Speak went through. I was horrified and confused, but we never talked about it.
As a society, we should talk about it. Perhaps not in the middle school level, but high school should at least acknowledge things like rape and racism and the N word. Young people should learn what these things are, and how to handle them. That way, there is less ignorance. Less ignorance means less silence. The more vocal we are, the more change can come.