annanotbob2's Diaryland Diary


And another thing...

I've been asked to expand my views on Mockingbird by my friend K, who is a white woman born and raised and living in the deep South of America. My views as an outsider, that is. So here goes.

I am coming at this as the white mother of two children whose skin is brown rather than white. They define themselves as black, because having brown skin gives them a different experience of life in a mainly white society; defining themselves as black is a political act, and one that I join them in. I am the mother of black children - when black people of any shade are treated with violence and disrespect I know that could be my children.

Obviously, we live in the UK and they have 'only' had verbal shit from ignorant fucks, a few kids not wanting to sit next to them at school, that kind of thing, nothing like the systemic racism that black Americans endure, but I can't claim to be unemotional about this, because I'm not.

I hadn't read Mockingbird until I became a teacher, by which time my kids were teenagers, being called Paki etc. I'd heard of it, it's one of those novels you know you should read, but I hadn't got around to it. (I'd liked the song by the Boo Radleys). A book called 'Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry" by Mildred Taylor was one of the exam texts when I started teaching - she is a black American who grew up surrounded by strong, resilient, resourceful friends and family, telling tales of things they'd experienced over the years, but this was not remotely represented in any of the books about the black experience she encountered at school, so she wrote them herself and this is one of a series, about the Logan family.

In the workbook we had to use in teaching Roll of Thunder there was a big double-page spread, with a section of text from this on one page and from Mockingbird on the other, both describing court scenes in which a white lawyer defends an innocent black man (or youth in RoT) accused of a serious crime (it's not rape in RoT, can't remember what it is). The difference is shocking, appalling. The black characters in TKAM are nothing, it's all about wonderful Atticus fucking Finch - it's been referred to by an angry black person as akin to saving some wildlife species that everyone thinks is dangerous, but is quite harmless really.

I got that metaphor from one of the comments on this article which I really recommend if you are interested in understanding how many black people have felt when having to study this book at school - especially the second half of the article, where she spells out why TAKM is a racist text, and the thoughtful comments. I don't think the book should be banned, as some suggest, at all - I think it makes a great example of how insidious feelings of innate superiority can be, even when you're trying to do the decent thing, and it works beautifully in tandem with RoT. In the comments several people said that such study would be beyond the scope of schoolkids, but that's bollocks. When RoT was taken off the exam syllabus we used it with younger kids, 13-14, and most of them can analyse texts in this way if you've been teaching them to.

Mockingbird to me is a book that lets white America feel better about itself, despite the fact that any change towards equality since then is merely scratching the surface, as evidenced by such things as Katrina, prison stats, police shootings, the way crimes are reported (oh, there's a good article on that, I'll see if I can find it and put it in the comments tomorrow). It seems like they (you?) only want to know about black experience if it's a white person telling. See also 1. The Help - I read a black account of being a domestic servant years ago, I can't remember the name of either the book or the author, a small publisher, a small print run, read when I was doing women's lit at Uni and we studied Alice Walker, Zora Neale Hurston etc and this was on the shelf in the library, sunk without trace - no white saviour 2. Driving Miss Daisy v The Colour Purple at the Oscars - I* mean, purleese, for fuck's sake. 3. Eminem blah blah blah

However, I am intrigued by this new book having Finch turn out to be a racist! Is it correct that this is the original novel, rejected at the time by the publisher who asked Lee to expand the sections where the adult Scout remembers her childhood? As if she knew how the world really was, and also the world of publishing?

OK, bedtime now. Please feel free to chip in and state your views, point out where I may be mistaken, etc. I know we are all good people here, struggling to make sense of this fucked up world we've been spat into.


I'm writing my gratitudes in a 'positivity book' by the way, but I'll tell you about that another day.

sleep tight xxx

11:16 p.m. - 12.07.15


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