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NAACP misrepresented

Observer Viewpoint | Thursday, November 6, 2003

While I agree with his general assessment that “To Kill a Mockingbird” is a fantastic book, I would like to take issue with three things in Joe Licandro’s Nov. 6 column “A Book Worth Reading.”

First, Licandro is plainly wrong when he says, “The NAACP is guilty of censorship not constitutionally permitted in this country.” The constitution limits the actions of the government, not of private organizations like the NAACP. Imagine that a high school announced that it was going to perform a play that portrayed Joseph Stalin as a hero and benevolent champion of the common man. A citizens’ group – conservative, liberal, whatever- might protest that choice, and the school might change its mind. This would certainly not be the sort of censorship prohibited by the constitution, and neither is what the NAACP did here.

Second, Licandro says that “the NAACP and its tag-team partner the American Civil Liberties Union need to read “To Kill a Mockingbird” because they – more than anyone else – need a lesson in tolerance these days.” What does the ACLU possibly have to do with this story? Throughout its history the ACLU has consistently been a voice for free expression above all else. In the late 1970s, for example, the ACLU offended many liberals by defending the right of American Nazi’s to stage a march in the largely Jewish suburb of Skokie, Illinois. While one can certainly debate the wisdom of some of the ACLU’s positions, nothing in their history indicates that they would support the NAACP in this situation.

Finally, I object to the use of the term “white trash” to describe anyone. Historically, the term arose in a racially segregated society where whites were considered superior and blacks were all considered to be trash. The term “white trash” was used to indicate that poor whites, while not as inferior as blacks, certainly were not as valuable as human beings as whites with money. Bob Ewell’s character is disgusting, but insulting him with a term meant to demean all poor whites is insulting to other poor whites.

Jason Brostfirst year law studentNov. 5