Racism Essay Assignment
English / American Authors –Mr. Dawursk
Assignment: Read the following three sections.
The first is the definition and history of racism. The next two sections
are actual news articles about the use of Huck Finn at a school in
1) What is your definition of racism? Have you experienced racism? Explain. Compare your experience to the book Huck Finn.
2) Do you feel that Huck Finn is a racist
book or a book which
exposes racism? Why? Give examples.
3) Do you feel that the book should be censored? Why or why not? React to the articles below about censorship.
One unfortunate result of biased
and unscientific studies on racial and ethnic differences has been racism--the
notion that some ethnic groups or races are naturally superior to others.
Racism has probably existed ever since separate races came into being. One of
the most influential modern racists was the 19th-century writer Joseph-Arthur Gobineau. In the
Situations stemming from racist feelings and conflicts between ethnic groups remain a serious problem. Apartheid in South Africa, social inequality and unrest in the United States and other parts of the world, resentment in Great Britain directed against immigrants from former colonies, reluctance on the part of many nations in many areas to accept Southeast Asian refugees, and the ongoing strife in the Middle East--all of these are based at least in part on conflict between racial and ethnic groups.
A school group in east San Jose is to decide tomorrow night whether ``The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn'' should be removed from required reading lists in 11 area high schools in response to objections raised by African American parents.
The parents cite the classic Mark Twain novel's liberal use of racial stereotypes and racial epithets -- it uses the ``n'' word more than 200 times -- which they say is damaging to their children. In one four-page passage, the word appears 15 times, the parents say.
supporters of the novel defend it as an indictment of racism in the 19th
``The word `nigger' has meaning for African American people that no one else can really get inside of,'' said Chester Stevens, a founder of the coalition, noting the word's association with lynchings, segregation and slavery.
wants the book removed from required reading lists in the 11 high schools or
replaced with an alternate version that deletes racially offensive language. A
12-member committee of teachers, parents, students and administrators will meet
tomorrow to make a recommendation to the superintendent of the
``We're not saying ban the book or take it out of the library, but we need some other books that reflect other images of African Americans,'' Stevens said.
Others argue against any restrictions on the novel.
``Restricting access to any material through the classroom is censorship,'' said Jean Hessberg, California director for People for the American Way, which has been tracking attempts to ban books since 1982. ``What people forget is that we can't take away parts of history as if they didn't happen.''
Charleen Silva Delfino, who coordinates the English curriculum for the school district, pointed out that teachers already can choose not to teach ``Huckleberry Finn,'' and parents can ask that their children read another book. The novel is one of five on a list from which two are selected. Delfino said she is withholding judgment about the book's fate until the committee makes a decision.
``I can tell
you why I was in favor of putting it on the list in the first place,'' she
said, describing Twain as a ``master of satire'' whose work has been used as a
model by other American authors. The novel chronicles the adventures of Huck
and the runaway slave Jim as they travel south on the
since it was published in 1885, ``Huckleberry Finn'' has been among the most
frequently challenged books, according to People for the
People for the
``Huckleberry Finn'' is the second textbook challenged by the African-American Parent Coalition. They persuaded school officials to move Theodore Taylor's novel ``The Cay'' from required to optional reading lists in middle schools in San Jose's Oak Grove School District.
More than 80 people packed an East San Jose school board meeting for a long-awaited vote on whether the classic American novel ``The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn'' will remain on required reading lists.
After nearly three hours of often emotional public testimony, the board of trustees of the East San Jose High School District was still debating late last night whether to grant a request from a group of African American parents who want the Mark Twain novel either removed from a reading list in 11 high schools or replaced with an version that omits offensive language.
Much of the testimony consisted of passionate declarations from African American parents and others on how the word ``nigger,'' which appears more than 200 times in the novel, affects them.
``For me, each sound of the word `nigger' rings out like the sound of rifle fire, as the bullet tears through the face of Dr. (Martin Luther) King,'' said Chester Stevens, a founder of the African-American Parent Coalition.
The coalition argues that the book erodes their children's self-esteem and affects their school performance, because it includes racial epithets and negative stereotypes.
But others, including several students, said the book serves a valuable purpose.
shelter everybody from everything. We have to realize how cruel people really
are,'' said Christine Cortinas, a junior at
School officials have said they chose ``Huckleberry Finn'' for the list because it is considered by many critics to be the beginning of an American literary tradition. In addition, they cited Mark Twain's masterful use of satire and the novel's potential as a starting point for discussing racism.
The book is one of seven on a list from which two are selected, usually by teachers. The required list and an optional reading list encompass a diverse group of authors and novels, including Amy Tan's ``The Joy Luck Club,'' Richard Wright's ``Black Boy,'' Isabel Allende's ``House of the Spirits,'' and Harper Lee's ``To Kill a Mockingbird.''
A panel of parents, teachers, students and administrators urged trustees last week to keep ``Huckleberry Finn'' on the reading list. Acknowledging that ``some students may be adversely affected'' by the book, the committee said teachers should be trained to teach the novel sensitively.
``Huckleberry Finn'' is the second textbook challenge by the African-American Parent Coalition. Earlier, the group persuaded school officials to move the novel ``The Cay'' from required to optional reading lists in middle schools in San Jose's Oak Grove School District.
The American Civil Liberties Union called any proposal to limit access to ``Huckleberry Finn'' or other novels on the reading list ``fundamentally misguided.'' In a letter to school board President Manuel Herrera, the ACLU said that allowing outside groups to intervene in school curricula encourages ``a tug-of-war among ideological opponents.''
Finn,'' which tells of the adventures of young Huck and the runaway slave Jim
as they make their way down the Mississippi River, has been controversial since
it was published in 1885. It is among the most frequently challenged books in
schools, according to People for the