What to do with racism in novels

The Last of the Mohicans. A tale of adventure, resolve . . . and scathing invective heaped upon the Hurons!

Racial derogation isn’t easy to read. When some character in a novel vilifies an entire people group, it makes you wince. But that doesn’t mean the story isn’t worth reading. (What makes a story not worth reading is another topic.) What it does mean is it’s important to know how to process racism in novels.

I do three things:

  1. Take inventory. Is there any hint of this in my own soul or social group? The abrasion of reading racism provokes sensitivity to its injustice. Clean house.
  2. Watch for strengths. Certain of the Hurons in Last of the Mohicans earned their ignominy. Others were undeserving. Watch for the good. Let it register on your admiration meter.
  3. Take the human view. All characters are kith and kin. Fellow persons without breed or distinction. Aspire to what’s honorable and repudiate what is not. Grow in wisdom by learning from the warp and weft of others.

The more time I spent with the Mohicans, Hurons, French, English, and Colonists, the keener my insight into the character of man. By the end, I aspired to be a better man, for I was reading about fellow men, be they courageous, clueless, or contemptible.

May every book we read leave so positive a mark.

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