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NAACP Being Ignorant About Play

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Recently a school in Columbus tried to put on the play, To Kill A Mockingbird. The drama teacher at the high school was concerned about the racial epithets used in the play. The play/book is set in the south during the dperession. In it Atticus Finch, a white lawyer, defends a black man who has been accused of raping a white woman. The story portrays much of the backlash from the racist community, which is where the racial epithets come in.

Concerned that the strong language may upset some people in the community, the teacher asked the local chapter of the NAACP what they’re opinion of the play was. Surprisingly, the NAACP asked that the world not be used in the play. The word in question is, of course, “nigger.” The school, however, could not obtain permission from the publisher of the play to change the word.

The NAACP is not reacting to this in the correct way at all. The person who the teacher contacted was a local president of the NAACP, or something along those lines. She stated that she gave her personal opinion, as opposed to an official statement. That may be true, but her personal sentiments can’t be that far from the organization’s.

It seems that they are so wrapped in blocking the use of a single word that they completely forget the bigger picture. To Kill A Mockingbird is a story about equality and what it means to stand up for one another. Atticus Finch is an equal rights hero. While the story does contain some hate, it is cast in a bad light as an object lesson. This story has been read by english cases and performed by drama clubs throughout this nation and is probably responsible for a lot of people’s racial enlightenment.

For the NAACP to block its production because of a single word is nothing more than short-sightedness and ignorance. If they were truly interested in easing racial tensions then they would embrace this story and encourage the performance.

Most black rap artists use the term “nigger” repeatedly throughout their albums, where is the NAACP’s outrage in that situation? I know the organization has discouraged the rappers from using the term, but the level of outrage in that situation compared to other times the epithet is used just doesn’t seem consistent. Why is the artistic use of “nigger” reasonable for a rap album, but not ok in a play about equality set in the south during the depression?

It seems NAACP is holding a double standard.

School theater walking fine line
‘Mockingbird’ will be heard in Columbus

Also posted on Say Anything.

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About Rob

  • http://www.temptationwaits.com visualsimplicity

    Wasn’t this book also banned from the public school system because of PC concerns? It’s sad if it was.

    Oh and rappers use the term, “nigga.” There’s a distinct difference between the two, or so rappers claim.

  • Taloran

    “The school… could not obtain permission from the publisher of the play to change the word” and so they’re not going to perform it? And they’re not putting on the play because the NAACP object?

    I seem to recall that some organization produced a list recently of Most Favored Hollywood Characters, and Atticus Finch was at or near the top. In my opinion, that particular literary work would be much less profound and powerful if it was “politicalcorrecticized.” Let the school put the damn play on, and let the audience learn the negative power of that particular racial epithet. It might be a very good lesson for the people in the theatre.

  • Taloran

    From the Indy Star article linked above –
    “Chris Sergel III, vice president of Dramatic Publishing, the Woodstock, Ill.-based company that owns the rights to the rendition…” said “‘I had not heard a request to switch out that word in 15 years of leasing’… He said his denial protects authenticity and fights censorship.”

    Good for Sergel!

  • http://www.morethings.com/log Al Barger

    I can appreciate the publisher’s sentiment. How perfectly stupidly lame would it be to have the evil, violent, incestuous white trash father making threats against the African-American who supposedly raped his daughter?

  • Taloran

    Ms. Lee wrote a challenging, thought-provoking novel filled with the electricity of racial tension. For the NAACP to not see the novel (and the play) as a triumph of spirit and justice shows them as a bunch of overly sensitive, ignorant louts.

  • http://www.waking-vision.com Michelle

    Sometimes, political correctness can be really counterproductive…

  • http://macaronies.blogspot.com Mac Diva

    (Sigh.) The comments present when I began writing this are even more ludicrous than the barely literate blog entry they are based on.

    As the blogger mentions but does not apparently grasp, an individual said she was personally opposed to the use of the N-word, not the NAACP. So, this attack on the NAACP is gratuitous. However, considering the NAACP is the favorite bogeyman of Right Wingers, I am not surprised to see it occur.

    The blogger’s utter ignorance about the setting of Mockingbird would be laughable, if it were not pathetic, revealing a lack of understanding of even relatively recent American history.

    The story portrays much of the backlash from the racist community, which is where the racial epithets come in.

    The book is set in the pre-civil rights movement South. The town is Monroeville, Alabama, circa 1930s — ’50s. Like in the entire region, segregation and discrimination, including lynching, were the norms of the times, and protected by the legal system. Indeed, thousands of African-American were hanged between Reconstruction and the 1960s, usually in festivities considered fun by Southern whites.

    The issue in the book is what happens to insiders who are seen as subverting the values of the culture they are part of. It wasn’t a matter of a ‘racist community,’ it was a matter of white supremacy as a way of life.

    For someone to take a work like Mockingbird and turn it into an attack on the NAACP boggles the mind of anyone not equally bigoted. The NAACP and other civil rights organizations were the heroes who ended the racist reign of terror Harper Lee is describing in her book.

    Here, the misrepresentation of one member of the NAACP as representing the viewpoint of it (an outright lie) is being used to bash the organization with no legitimate reason for doing so.

    Shame on the person who wrote this entry.

  • Taloran

    Shame on the principal who pulled the play because of the occurrence of racial epithets. Shame on the NAACP spokeswoman for suggesting they pull it in the first place.

    This literary work should be hailed, not reviled or hidden away in the closet.

  • http://macaronies.blogspot.com Mac Diva

    Read the newspaper stories, Tal. What that Right Winger said here is not true. The woman, speaking as an individual, not for the NAACP, supported the play at first, and then had second thoughts. Meanwhile, there had been an incident at the same school involving use of racial epithets. The principal decided not to go forward with the play partly because of the time, place and manner concerns, which is rational. Another issue, to him, is that he did not want to do what I suspect most schools do, drop the N-word without consulting the copyright holder. He believes that sends a message it is okay to break the law. So, what we have here is a complex situation misrepresented by a reactionary blogger.

    Being a fair person, I perused Port’s site before posting my criticism. Most of the material there is picked up directly from Michael Savage. This an example of poor, biased thinking is as original as he gets. ‘Nuff said.

  • Taloran

    I read both of the linked stories. And I believe that removing the N-word from Mockingbird would remove some impact from Ms. Lee’s work. And when one speaks one’s own mind from behind one’s desk, the opinion of the individual is easily mistaken for that of the organization.

    I think the principal made a mistake pulling the play due to recent use of racial epithets. What better time to put on Mockingbird than when the spectre of racial hatred rears its head?

  • http://macaronies.blogspot.com Mac Diva

    Fine. I just wanted you to know the other issues involved. One cannot get the full context from reading this guy’s blog entry.

  • http://sayanything.typepad.com Rob

    Most of the stuff I post is not from Michael Savage. Probably two or three of my latest posts referenced a news story I picked up from Savage, but was also reported elsewhere (I.E. from Worldnet via Michael Savage).

    I did reference in my post the fact that the woman from the NAACP was voicing an opinion. To whit:

    “She stated that she gave her personal opinion, as opposed to an official statement. That may be true, but her personal sentiments can’t be that far from the organization’s.”

    I don’t see how any person who is a ranking member of the NAACP can be against To Kill A Mockingbird.

    I am also very aware of the novel, and play’s, setting.

    The NAACP may have been a champion of civil rights 30 years ago, but today they do nothing more but increase racial tensions by being so picky about issues like the one I’ve written about.

  • http://macaronies.blogspot.com Mac Diva

    “The NAACP may have been a champion of civil rights 30 years ago, but today they do nothing more but increase racial tensions by being so picky about issues like the one I’ve written about.”

    That is possibly one of the most stupid statements I’ve ever read, even at Blogcritics.

  • http://sayanything.typepad.com Rob

    Sorry you feel that way.

  • http://w6daily.winn.com/ Phillip Winn

    MD, you’re darned lucky this site doesn’t boot people who leave trollish comments. You’ve been polluting a lot of threads lately with personal attacks and put-downs, and many people are growing weary. Please consider only posting constructive things to Blogcritics and keeping the site something everybody might enjoy reading without personal rancor.

  • http://www.morethings.com/log Al Barger

    Phil, Mac Diva does play a little rough, but I mostly don’t mind that. I would FAR rather see her frontal attacks coming straight at me than hearing somebody guiltying us with some whining crap about their itty bitty hurt feelings.

  • http://sayanything.typepad.com Rob

    I hope you’re not talking about me complaining about my hurt feelings. They’re certainly not hurt in the least, though I’m certainly for a discussion more civilized then Mac Diva has provided.

  • http://www.morethings.com/log Al Barger

    No, not at all. I was not thinking of anything in this particular thread. It was a more general comment. It’s usually left wingers who protest about insensitivity toward their feelings. I could come up with specific examples from Blogcritics, but my point here was to make nice with the Diva- not to pick a fight.

  • Eric Olsen

    Rob, you have survived trial by fire with nary a singe. A lot of people are chased off by this kind of thing. Good for you!

  • http://sayanything.typepad.com Rob

    Hey, I’m all for diplomacy.

    Sorry I misunderstood your comment Al.

    I’m not going to be chased off. I’m a conservative living in a democratic state, so I’m used to abuse. I’m more than willing to debate with anybody but when it descends into attacks and attempts at retribution I’ll probably just bow out.

  • http://www.morethings.com/log Al Barger

    Well, you have to have a bit of thick skin where the Diva is concerned. She can be a bit harsh, but she’s smart and does sometimes make good points.

    Plus, I am her official White Devil- and I’ll fight you for the title. :)

  • http://sayanything.typepad.com Rob

    I shall gladly forswear the title unto you. Good luck with that.

  • http://macaronies.blogspot.com Mac Diva

    Port obviously doesn’t grasp things too well. However, it is not my job to think for him, so I shall not. I stand by my point on this thread: He has attacked the NAACP without any real grounds for doing so and without understanding the topic he is commenting on.

    I am going to continue writing about blogging and standards. It is something I’ve been doing since before I became a blogger. In fact, it is one of the reasons Atrios bugged me to found a blog of my own instead of remaining everyone’s favorite guest blogger. Several other bloggers have already decided blogging, like any form of journalism, should have standards. Rebecca Blood has written a book to help establish some sense of what is appropriate in the genre. (I’m too busy in the coming year, by might write one about blogging down the road.) Venomous Kate and Dean also write regularly about the topic. I was under the impression most bloggers knew this, but I guess some don’t.

    My contribution usually comes in the form of my recurrent Blogospherics column. I will be writing about the topic so apparent with Port, lack of basic research, in an upcoming entry. Another Blogcritic has reminded me that some in the blogosphere don’t have any idea they have a legal duty to attribute material they use. A third fails to grasp the difference between fact and opinion, another topic I intend to revisit. In summary, Blogcritics is proving to be fertile ground for fine-tuning my thoughts about good and bad blogging.

  • http://sayanything.typepd.com Rob

    Mac,

    The point of my post was this:

    A school drama teacher contacted a chapter president of the NAACP to give her opinion, as an OFFICIAL of the NAACP, on To Kill A Mockingbird. That official told her not to put on the play based on the use of a single word. Granted, she did add the caveat that it was her “personal opinion.” That’s a cop-out in my mind. She was asked for her professional opinion. She should know that if she is asked, in her professional capactiy, this sort of question she should give the opinion of the organization, not of her person.

    Based on that information I’m saying that the chapter president, in her capacity within the NAACP, was being ignorant. Her actions, of course, are a reflection on the entire organization as is typically the case in these situations.

    I don’t see what facts I’m not grasping. If you want to continue putting comments on my posts about what an ignoramus I am, go ahead. You call me reactionary yet the first thing you did when you saw someone posting something you didn’t agree with was to look up all of his posts and trash every one of them. I doubt you’re even reading my posts anymore, if you even did. You simply see titles you don’t agree with….”NAACP…Ignorant…must flame…”