A Place I Call Home and am ashamed of...

By
Services for Real Estate Pros with ha media group

a fotnote: On the fifthieth anniversary of Harper Lee's classic.  The story that inspired this blog belongs to Pierre Tristam of FlaglerLive.com - and can be found here.

 

“Fear picks out objects in the dark

And guides a moonbeam to an axe...”

-  Anna Akmatova wrote this long before her only son was locked up in prison, long before the dual occupation of Leningrad, long before any oppression of the intellectuals, writers, composers and others to later become simply known as dissidents was widely felt or known.  It was still a premonition then, a feeling before anything or anyone in her circles was censored, and certainly long before anyone got exiled, locked up or simply executed for their words, notes, thoughts – in that order.

But fear, even in that nightmarish daydream was the tyrant, which brings me almost a hundred years later to a whole new country and a small place I call home for now – Flagler County.  Perched rather conveniently between the Intracoastal and the Atlantic but on the less traveled side of both, this place was left to its own devices for decades after its more progressive neighbors to either side accepted urbanism, desegregation, industry and every fault and favor that followed.  Flagler stayed rather as it was until the last.

As such, rumor has it that until the year I was born, there was a sign on the only bridge to the shore from the mainland stating that ‘no niggers were allowed over the bridge after dusk, unless in the employ of a white person”.  It may have said Negroes, although I don’t see it making much of a difference at the time to the ones so referenced, whether then or now.  The sign came down in 73.  Not surprisingly, Flagler was also the last county in the country to finally desegregate their schools, and that came by a way of a court order.

This little bit of history into the place where I now live may not mean much on its own, but I really wanted to give the uninitiated some context for the most recent bout of shameful censorship that took place here.

trial scene - to kill a mockingbird

Our local high school, FPC, the one my oldest just graduated from last year, was in the midst of rehearsing for a performance of “To Kill a Mockingbird”.  The choice of play made sense, given our above referenced history for one, and the anniversary of the publication of this book for another.   At the promptings or complaints of a few members of the community, the school principal and district superintended chose to pull the play, citing concerns over language, specifically the use of the word “nigger” in the play.  That same word is also in the book multiple times, in the same unmistakably unambiguous context, of course, as anyone who’s ever read it or even watched the film would know and expect.  The book is and has been required reading for every 9th grade student in that same school for over two decades.

The elected members of the school board had the last word on the subject and chose to support the principal's decision and cancel the play, even after rather vocal dissent and outrage from the community at large, and more importantly, kids who spent the last few weeks inhabiting the characters of that work.

The school board is now citing protocol as the root of their decision, and not cowardice, of course.  The protocol calls for any controversial materials to be approved by the administration of the school first.  The teacher did not seek such approval, given that these same kids have all had to read the book already, rather uncensored.  The kids from FPC drama club have also previously performed scenes from the play for the general public.  The issue of controversy of any kind simply never came up, except for now.  One of the folks who objected is a black Palm Coast City Councilman.  He seems to have never read the book or seen the movie.  Being black, and an elected official, his objections carried some weight with the school board, or so I can now speculate. 

Whatever the reasons or objections, the community that might have merited that specific play the most will most likely go without.  Flagler County’s elected and powerful will stand by their asinine decision, because anything else requires a minor bit of courage.  Courage to do the right thing and let the kids perform the play, as they have in the past, as it has been performed elsewhere on stages and in the classrooms.  Mostly – let them perform it in the one county that is still so damn backwards that its representatives are more afraid of someone hearing the “N” word uttered by a student from the stage of the Auditorium in the context that can’t possibly confuse even the slowest and least passionate among us, than they are of giving validity to the very distinction between the black and white members of the community that they had just done, albeit inadvertently.  When fear guides the decisions of those who are in a position to dictate the path of education of our kids – and not a single person on the five-person board has the gonads to see that not-so-elusive line between right and wrong, we are indeed the most regressive place on earth, no matter our patria.

For the first time, I am actively ashamed of living here.  For the first time since we moved here am I feeling that this is maybe the worst sort of place to raise my kids.  For no amount of natural beauty in the world can recompense a kid if an injustice has been done.  No amount of sunshine can fix certain scars. 

Only people with power and courage can, and in this county – that combination is apparently an improbable if not an impossible one.

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Ambassador
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Jon Zolsky, Daytona Beach, FL
Daytona Condo Realty, 386-405-4408 - Daytona Beach, FL
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Inna, this is what happens when censorship becomes political correctness. And it does not matter whether this is the word "nigger" or the word "Christmas", it is still the same cowardice

Nov 01, 2010 04:23 PM #6
Rainmaker
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Gabe Sanders
Real Estate of Florida specializing in Martin County Residential Homes, Condos and Land Sales - Stuart, FL
Stuart Florida Real Estate
Inna, there are some very scary political forces at work in this country. It's why we must vote today!
Nov 02, 2010 12:19 AM #7
Rainmaker
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Mike Saunders
Lanier Partners - Athens, GA

Inna - political correctness gone amuck, To Kill a Mockingbird is not Little Black Sambo and to surrender to the over-sensitivity of someone that puts them in the same class is cowardice. Do not be ashamed of where you live, but of those officials who do not have the courage to stand up for this. And then get rid of them next time you have the chance.

Nov 02, 2010 03:10 AM #8
Rainmaker
564,104
Chris Olsen
Olsen Ziegler Realty - Cleveland, OH
Broker Owner Cleveland Ohio Real Estate

The Peter Principle at work: Rise to the level of one's incompetence.  Sadly, I think that defines many elected officials, sadly, and I dont' think it's confined to your area.  Courage rarely wins out.  In my own school district, Obama's video for education/school children was not shown, as it was deemed too political.  Regardless of one's political bent, to now show that video was appalling based on politics, let alone the video had nothing to do with politics.  Save a few...the best and brightest rarely seek public office, let alone at more local levels.

You write so incredibly well, I hope you submit this as a letter to the editor for your local paper.  We have a local website here that reports on school district board meetings, etc., called: School Board Watchdog and it has a feature "Who's in the Doghouse" -- with your tech savvyness, perhaps you could start a local version of that?

You read stories now and then that 20% of Americans can't find the USA on a map, and watch this video where many young Americans don't even know the name of the Vice President, etc., Funny, sad, and tragic at the same time.

Nov 02, 2010 09:23 AM #9
Rainmaker
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Susan Mangigian
RE/MAX Preferred, West Chester, PA, RS152252A - West Chester, PA
Chester & Delaware County Homes, Delaware and Ches

I have to admit I flinched when I got to the N word.  There are very few instances when I would smack my children across the face and hearing that word uttered at someone from their mouths is one of them.  I can't think of another one.  

But hearing it in the context of a play in which we are teaching our children and society of a blight on our past so that it is not repeated is cowardice and I am disappointed in the those governing your neck of the woods.

Good for you Inna for always have the courage to stand up.

Nov 02, 2010 09:55 AM #10
Rainmaker
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Margaret Goss
Baird & Warner Real Estate - Winnetka, IL
Chicago's North Shore & Winnetka Real Estate

Political correctness does not understand context.  Political correctness (I can appreciate it to a point - as a daughter of Polish immigrants, we all had heard the Polack jokes during "Laugh In") causes people to not be able to voice the truth, even within the context of a fictional work. 

Nov 02, 2010 01:28 PM #11
Rainmaker
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Petra Norris
Lakeland Real Estate Group, Inc. - Lakeland, FL
Realtor, Lakeland FL Homes for Sale

Inna - are you kidding me.  They canceled the play because of the word "nigger".  Being taught in the public school system for 20 years and the winning of the Pulitzer Prize doesn't count because of cowardness by school officials.  They are forgetting the most important message "art".

 

Nov 03, 2010 01:17 AM #12
Rainmaker
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Tchaka Owen
Galleria International Realty - Hollywood, FL

Innaroy was here

Nov 03, 2010 04:50 AM #13
Rainmaker
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Michael J. Perry
KW Elite - Lancaster, PA
Lancaster, PA Relo Specialist

I think the presentation of the play is more important than a word. Couldn't they have changed that word to have saved the play ?

Nov 03, 2010 09:46 AM #14
Rainmaker
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Mitchell J Hall
Compass - Manhattan, NY
Lic Associate RE Broker - Manhattan & Brooklyn

Inna, Sorry to hear your school district is banning “To Kill a Mockingbird” I guess life does imitate art. The Palm Coast City Councilman killed a Mockingbird. Banning books or plays is really sad. Unfortunately great works of literature have been banned and censored by schools and libraries.

Nov 03, 2010 01:39 PM #15
Rainmaker
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Marie Haydock
Evergreen Global Homes & Land | RSVP Real Estate - Redmond, WA
Simplifying Real Estate

People often learn the wrong lesson from history.  Well done, Inna.

Nov 03, 2010 06:40 PM #16
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Rene Fabre
First American Title - Seattle, WA
Marketing in the Digital Age

You make your point very eloquently and thank you. All I can say is, what a missed opportunity. Enlightenment would have demanded that all prejudice, wrong doing, and just plain old ignorance be exposed for all to see and share. What the heck do they think Harper Lee was trying to tell us?

I imagine having some kids acting out the prejudices and ignorance of the past (and present it seems) so they might rise above such things is just to powerful... and risky.

Nov 04, 2010 10:53 AM #17
Rainmaker
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Inna Hardison
ha media group - Orlando, FL
Wordpress for Real Estate & Design, Print HaMedia Group

Everyone - sorry for the belated comments on this.

Deanne - a shameful decision indeed.  Thank you for reading!

Greg - I'd take your take on the subject of this post over header and pic compliments, truly.

Rick - this country has always engaged in censorship for one reason or another; generally thinly veiled as safeguarding the youth from vulgarity or something along those lines.  In this case, it really strikes me as officials cowering in the face of imaginary fear of repercussions of some kind.  It was juast an easier road to take - in case of potential back lash.  They didn't expect any backlash for cancelling the play, and if it wasn't for above referenced article by Pierre Tristam - no backlash would have happened.  Sad it is, indeed.  Thank you for your comment.

My Tanya - oh, but they do discuss it, in the classrooms.  It's required reading - always has been.  The isulting thing is that the community members are not to be trusted to interpret the play without the 'benefit' of said classroom discussion.  How one can possibly misinterpret that particular work of literature is beyond me, but if they can censor something this unabmiguous for such lame reason - what do we do when dealing with a work that is layered with complexities?  xoxo lovely lady!

Sharon - I think that some folks on there certainly could stand that lesson.  Sad is an understatement...

Jon - no, the words don't matter, although there is still that matter of insulting community's intelligence in this case... Ironically, the other local high school was in the midst of staging a highly religious play at the same time, and that show will go on without a whimper of a protest of any kind from anyone.  Not that I think there should be - i am just puzzled with what counts as controversy.

Gabe - I'd rather not paint with so broad a brush in this case.  Although I agree with you on the voting thing.

Nov 05, 2010 06:23 AM #18
Rainmaker
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Inna Hardison
ha media group - Orlando, FL
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Mike - by the time next election rolls around here, nary a soul will remember this incident.  That's how it usually plays out, and so the cowards remain in power.

Chris - well, at least in my district, parents were sent out letters where they could opt out of the Obama video.  Don't know if too many did, but i find it sad that such a letter even had to go out.  Safeguarding our kids from hearing the words of their President is bizarre, to put it mildly.

Thank you for your kind words on this, my friend.  I am only greatful that there was an outrage of some kind in the community and that ought to count for something.  AP news picked up the story from the News Journal so now we are publically a rather backwards place to live.  I am just hoping that public humiliation will reverse the decision.  If nothing else, the 1200 seat Auditorium will be sold out:-)

My Susan - the kids have all heard it in the context of that play or at the very least read it - they had to.  My ten year old heard that word almost daily on his school bus without the benefit of context, but that's a whole other story.  We'll do our part in letting him know exactly what it means and why people use it, and likely use the words of Atticus to explain it to him.  That's the irony of this whole damn thing - one of the most powerful cases against bigotry and injustice squished by the fear of the very word kids throw at each other thoughtlessly and callously on a daily basis.  xoxo

Margaret - when fiction is historically accurate, as this work certainly is, it's even more imperative that we make sure it gets read and watched and staged.  Proudly and loudly.  It's just that simple.

Petra - they forgot a lot more than it being 'art'.  "Scout," said Atticus, "nigger-lover is just one of those terms ... that don't mean anything – like snot-nose. It's hard to explain – ignorant, trashy people use it when they think somebody's favoring Negroes over and above themselves. It's slipped into usage with some people like ourselves, when they want a common, ugly term to label somebody." "You aren't really a nigger-lover, then, are you?" "I certainly am. I do my best to love everybody... I'm hard put, sometimes – baby, it's never an insult to be called what somebody thinks is a bad name. It just shows you how poor that person is, it doesn't hurt you." (11.107-109)..."  This lesson is pretty darn timeless, and oh so necessary for the ones wielding power in Flagler at the moment.

Tchaka - :-)

Michael - The drama teacher did try to get the word changed to Negro.  I am glad the publisher refused.  It would have been a sacrilige.

Mitchell - well put...

Marie - a pleasant surprise seeing you here:-)  Thank you!

Rene - I think they are finding it hard to believe that the students and adults in this community are quite capable of thinking for themselves, especially given the rather unabmiguous nature of this particular play.  That only adds insult to injury, of course.

 

 

Nov 05, 2010 07:06 AM #19
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Andrea Swiedler
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices New England Properties - New Milford, CT
Realtor, Southern Litchfield County CT

Inna, very sad testimonial indeed for Flagler County. Those who do not learn are doomed to repeat.... and this is a very good way for people, children and adults to learn.

And come on, lets put it out on the table here (since you already did) do they think that by squashing the play they are going to stop anyone from using the big nasty "N" word? (that is one of a few words you will never heard coming out of my mouth, or from my keyboard, by MY choice). HA! I can bet money that many of the kids who are not allowed to see this now are using this word on a regular basis. Perhaps if they would have let these kids see the play they may have understood how horrible it is, how terrible racism is, how ignorant and stupid those are that are racists.

IGNORANT AND STUPID, yes indeed. And I agree with Susan, #10, that word would have gotten a slap across the mouth with my girls, that and a few others.

"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." George Santayana

And those who are not allowed to learn the past by going to a play, reading a book, are certainly condemned... for many reasons.

Nov 06, 2010 01:00 PM #20
Rainmaker
161,942
Satar Naghshineh
Satar - Amiri Property and Financial Services Corp. - Irvine, CA

Two thoughts about this:

1. By censoring a word, you only give it power. However, by not being afraid to use it, takes away the power from it.

2. The word "Nigger" in this book was significant. If you notice, it was one of the few works of literature that addressed the labeling of a race where the discussion of dissrespect, illogic and emotional justification were based on the word rather than a concept. Growing up, I remember reading this book in High School and again, on my own, in my early 20's as it meant so much more to me than it did in high school. To even censor the word "Nigger" to "Colored" or "African American" to get the play approved would do the entire play injustice.

I think this website hits on this subject:

http://www.shmoop.com/to-kill-a-mockingbird/race-quotes.html

"Scout," said Atticus, "nigger-lover is just one of those terms ... that don't mean anything – like snot-nose. It's hard to explain – ignorant, trashy people use it when they think somebody's favoring Negroes over and above themselves. It's slipped into usage with some people like ourselves, when they want a common, ugly term to label somebody."

"You aren't really a nigger-lover, then, are you?"

"I certainly am. I do my best to love everybody... I'm hard put, sometimes – baby, it's never an insult to be called what somebody thinks is a bad name. It just shows you how poor that person is, it doesn't hurt you." (11.107-109)

Thought: In giving Scout a lesson in How Racism Works 101, Atticus also does the same for the audience. On the syllabus in this conversation: the power of language, not only as a way to shame those who don’t toe the racist line, but also to set the terms of the debate. Racists use "nigger-lover" to suggest that a person is trying to give African-Americans special rights, but Atticus points out that all he’s arguing for is equality, loving everybody the same. The end of the quote is basically a grown-up version of "I’m rubber and you’re glue," suggesting that schoolyard taunt actually has some merit – some insults do tell you more about the person hurling them than about their target.

 

Nov 07, 2010 07:15 AM #21
Rainmaker
886,683
J. Philip Faranda
J. Philip Faranda (J. Philip R.E. LLC) Westchester County NY - Briarcliff Manor, NY
Broker-Owner

The message of the book is that of justice. It is one of the most important messages of the 20th century. Those officials are idiots. 

Nov 08, 2010 01:35 PM #22
Rainmaker
178,678
Bob & Bonnie Horning
Mount Joy, PA

Sadly, the spirit of fear has chased away the courageous spirit this great nation was founded on. I'm not sure it would matter where this play was attempted the way things are today.

Nov 11, 2010 06:17 AM #23
Rainmaker
432,723
Ted Baker
Carmody and Associates LLC - Winter Haven, FL
MidFloridaMediation.com

Political correctness and zero tolerances in school policies are offensive to me and difficult for me to respond to without spitting (outside my normal emotional range).

Interestingly, after reading your post I happened to see the movie again on tv.  

Flagler school officials should be ashamed.

I wll wave when I drive by tomorrow on the way home.

 

Best wishes for a Merry Christmas and a safe holiday season.

 

Dec 04, 2010 07:04 PM #24
Rainmaker
211,946
Inna Hardison
ha media group - Orlando, FL
Wordpress for Real Estate & Design, Print HaMedia Group

To everyone who commented, and the ones i didn't respond to - my apologies.  After much deliberation and rather vocal community support for the play - it will now be put on at the end of February.  Hopefully, the community will pack the auditorium.  Of course the play now will come with disclaimers and such, but at least it will go on.

Andrea - sorry for the belated.  Well stated.

Satar - interestingly, that same passage was quoted in the NYTimes review of the book when it first came out.  They weren't worried about that word being there....

J. Phillip - they are less idiots than scared of possible repercussions for any decisions they might make. Easier not to, I guess.:-)

Bob & Bonnie - that play and book always find itself on the controversial/disputed list, sadly.  

Uncle Ted - By all means wave!!! And you, too, have a fantastic Christmas and if you are out and about this way last weekend of Feb - let's go see this play together.  The kiddos in it are quite good:-)

Dec 05, 2010 03:48 AM #25
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