• CORI

White Pride and Prejudiced Literature

In the 2018-2019 school year I was enrolled in Brit-Lit or British Literature, a notoriously boring and difficult English course. We read Beowulf, and Macbeth, and we ended the year with an unnecessarily in depth reading of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. You can image my exhaustion after a year of attempting to decipher old English and British culture, being assigned yet another "classic" that I couldn't understand. I've always wondered why we read the books we read, what makes the story of Elizabeth and Darcy so classic, as it's far from relatable and offers no value in the year 2020.

I had the same issue with To Kill A Mockingbird. By the time I even understood it enough to get what they were saying, I didn't get why they were saying it. If the school deemed it necessary for us to learn about racism in the deep south, why wouldn't we learn it from an author who actually experienced it. Racism in the 20th century was horrid and bleak, we could learn about that reality and condemn those historical mistakes, but instead we spend weeks learning to praise the actions of Atticus Finch, the original white savior.

At the end of Brit-Lit I did something I hadn't done in a while, I read a book of my own. It was a YA Romance, by a Korean-American author, and I loved it. After finishing that 3-part series in only 3 days, I was hooked. I was reading nearly 3 books each week, turning pages and consuming words that I had been deprived of for so long. Why did it take me so long to remember that books can be entertaining and understandable, that I could read books by and about people who weren't all the same.

I'm not the only young person with this experience, we are turned off from reading after being force-fed non-relatable and indecipherable "classics" that tell one narrative from one perspective. It's another slice of the white supremacy pie, teaching us that white stories are classic stories, and POC stories don't exist. They exclude us as young POC readers, not to mention diminish the work of POC authors. We are left to our own devices, forced to do the work for ourselves. This is another call to action, we have to dismantle the structures that have been set up to harm us, and it all starts in schools. Question your teachers, your administration, take your own trip the local (black-owned) book store, and find some words of your own.

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