An opinion piece published by NBC News on Friday complains that Harper Lee's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel To Kill a Mockingbird teaches school children to disregard rape claims.
African-American novelist Alice Randall asked, "Why Are We Still Teaching To Kill a Mockingbird in Schools?" She argues, "those who blindly defend Mockingbird are missing an important point."
Randall's op-ed follows a recent controversial decision by a Mississippi school board to stop teaching the 1960 novel in its Language Arts classes. The school said simply that "there is some language in the book that makes people uncomfortable," the Indianapolis Star reported.
Randall complained the black characters in the novel lack agency, and argued the novel's use of the n-word might be damaging to black students who have it used as an epithet.
"Another kind of damage less often discussed is how the text encourages boys and girls to believe women lie about being raped," she continued.
In To Kill a Mockingbird, a black man named Tom Robinson is falsely accused of raping a white woman, Mayella Ewell, but is sentenced to prison after an all-white jury ignores the evidence of his innocence. Randall suggests the narrative "complicates the modern ‘believe victims' movement."
Randall asks her readers to imagine how a young white girl would feel reading the book.
"Perhaps it fuels your growing suspicion that people don't believe girls who say they have been raped—and that, should you be raped and try to tell people about it, people will have reason to doubt you like the book says everyone should have doubted Mayella Ewell."