To Kill a Mockingbird may be one of the most controversial books in American history. Many people across the globe revere it as a historical relic that clearly illustrates the racial injustice of 20th century America. On the other hand, some believe that the book is praised too highly and may hide a secret racist message. Ryu Saeth, the head editor of the New Republic, wrote an article titled Is to Kill a Mockingbird Racist? In his article, he states that the book is completely “[irrelevant]… to the black experience, even as it remains absolutely essential to the white understanding of America’s racist past.” His evidence is that “Atticus, ringed by these black worshippers, takes on the aspect of a Christ-like savior” and the black people in the novel were “helpless, passive actors.” The novel portrays Atticus as the leader of a small civil rights movement in Maycomb while the black people stood by helplessly. He also claims that Atticus is too nonchalant about the racism that his neighbors show and that he tends to “put personal ties first”. The example given in the article is about Walter Cunningham. Even though Mr. Cunningham had led a lynching mob at the Maycomb County jail, Atticus still saw him as a good man because he “refuses a WPA handout and scrupulously repays Finch for legal work with a load of stovewood, a sack of hickory nuts, and a crate of smilax and holly.” For these reasons, Spaeth considers the book too racist to continue to be read in American schools.
Although Spaeth’s arguments are completely valid, the book should continue to be read in American schools. The book takes away any delicate, faux ideas of american racism and tells it how it is. Harper Lee wrote the book without any intention of sugar coating life in the South a few decades ago. The novel shows students the many consequences of racial prejudice. It takes racism out of the textbooks and displays the severity of racial mistreatment and reactions from white people with all different perspectives. Lee wrote the novel as truthfully as possible, without many unrealistic insertions. To Kill a Mockingbird is also a part of American history. When the book was published, it caused Americans to reflect on their past actions and see their wrongdoings. The novel played a critical role in the civil rights movement, which is why the book should continue to be read in schools. We shouldn’t shield children from their country’s past no matter how painful it may be.