The two books concerned are John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, published in 1937 and Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1961.
Specifically, the letter signed by Chairperson Catherine Joseph, refers to the use of the “n word,” but also to the claim that the books, presumably To Kill a Mockingbird, “promotes the outdated and inappropriate view that black people need to be saved by white people.”
This might be considered somewhat ironic given that the entire migrant and racism business in Ireland is both almost completely funded by, and indeed largely staffed by “white people.”
Joseph is the local Green Party representative in Longford.
She claims that having the books read in class is hurtful to children, and doubts that it can be guaranteed that teachers are able to use the books with “the sensitivity and understanding necessary to ensure that children realise that these books are historical and outdated.”
A lot to “unpack” there as they say. When I was at school, teachers of English, Irish and German seemed to be quite able to use texts that dealt with sensitive issues without any of us ever feeling the need to head off to the South Circular Road to cut pounds of flesh off the nearest Jewish person after reading The Merchant of Venice, or compelled to beat to death Dean, whose family had just moved to Dublin from Manchester, in vengeance for Donncha Rua Mac Conamara.
That anyone could read either of the books which Joseph wants to stop 14 and 15 year-olds reading, and not understand that it is ignorance and prejudice which lead some of the characters to being treated as less than fully human persons, is difficult to believe. That they would read or hear the offensive term for black people and be turned into racists as appears to be implied in the letter is frankly risible – as is the claim that the black characters are portrayed as “slaves, weaklings, incompetent..”
And even if they are shown to have frailties, and even if some of the other characters in the books are portrayed as weak and even brutal and murderous, that has less to do with their being black or white or men or women or belonging to any particular profession or class, than to their being human beings. Those considerations have been the subject of serious literature since it was first put into written words from the oral traditions from which it sprung.
That is probably beside the point, as it is difficult to avoid the impression that the call to ban these books, and To Kill a Mockingbird in particular, is no more than the sort of inane adoption in Ireland of tactics that have been found to be successful on the part of racial activists in the United States where the campaign to have the book banned has largely been successful.
Ironically, the initial campaign against Harper Lee’s novel in the 1960s was led by conservative Protestant parents who objected to rape being a central theme, and to the use of language such as “whore lady.” You can be pretty damn certain that when this was taking place that the same sort of white bourgeois liberals who now support a ban were arguing the exact opposite.
Gript contacted the Green Party spokesperson on Education Senator Pauline O’Reilly to ask her if the removal of the books in question is part of Green Party policy or is something that she would personally support. We had received no response by the time of publication.
Update: Catherine Joseph replied to say “Ethnic Minority Hub is a nonprofit organisation and we rely on fundings from government and local Authority for our integration.”