7th Grade Editorial
Social Issue: Racism
by Jamiyah Patterson
On June 6, 2018, a school district in Minnesota recently removed some famous books from its reading list. These books included Mark Twain’s “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” and Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Both books have included racist words, and some words became hurtful to many students. This was an important step.The problem is bigger than harmful words. Many white authors are creating books that damage to students of color. The hurtful words are just the beginning.
Both books use an idea called the “white savior.” This is where characters of color in a book only exist to help white characters to develop. The characters in both books are flat and stereotypical, they do not make decisions for themselves, and they do not human. This is considered the white savior plot. The more helpless these characters are, the greater the white character seems when they rescue the character of color.In these books, people of color exist only to serve the needs and goals of white people. Reading these could be harmful to students of color. It could make it harder for them to see themselves as strong people who can change the world.
In the book “To Kill a Mockingbird,” a white lawyer named Atticus Finch defends Tom Robinson, a black male, in court. Tom, as a character, exists only to be saved by Atticus, and to teach the white community about racism. In a creative writing class, a teacher asked students to share words that describe Atticus Finch. They came up with many different words. When the teacher asked them to do the same for Tom Robinson, they had a hard time. That is because the book does not show readers who he is. He is a victim to serve the white savior plot. The book never shows what kind of father he is. It never tells the reader about his interests. Students do not learn as much from flat characters like Tom. They should read more authors of color and experience the richly drawn characters they create.
Native, black and brown characters should not only teach lessons for white people to learn from. They should play central roles in their own stories, with a full range of emotions. They should not be subjected to what author Toni Morrison has called the “white gaze.” This is when people of color’s lives are viewed only within white people’s imagination or understanding of them. Reading authors of color will show students more challenging, realistic and layered books about the black community. They will also understand racism at a deeper level. Students should get to read books about people of color that celebrate joy and love, health and success. Native, black and brown stories do not always need to be about suffering. The conversation about racism in school texts must go far beyond a conversation about hurtful words. Students of color deserve to have the same benefits in education that white students have always had. They must be able to see their full lives reflected in literature. If people can change to become more accepting of others, shouldn’t reading lists change, too?
Racism is a social issue that affects the world today. It affects the black males and females to be inspirational. It affects black children in today’s world te become successful adults in the future. To become the future Beyonce, or the future Lebron James. The next black African American firefighter, or female police. The can’t succeed with the effects in the world. Kids like me want to live their lives, and go to college, and get married, and have children. To live in a mansion, drive their dream car. All kids have a little hope in themselves to become a star. But racism, and bullying, and domestic violence are in the picture. People decide to bring people’s lives down and effect their futures. But it can’t happen. It won’t happen. It shouldn’t happen. It needs to stop.Once in for all. Now.