I deplore the word ‘nigger’.
I deplore the word ‘faggot’.
I do not want either used in common every-day conversation, and can say I have no friends that do.
But there comes a time when the word ‘nigger’ conveys the tone and message required, such as in the book “Huckleberry Finn” that many of us read as youngsters in conjunction with “Tom Sawyer”. At least I did. In fact, “Huckleberry Finn” was a classroom text for me and my school peers.
I mention all this as “Huckleberry Finn” that was penned in 1884 is now being published without the word ‘nigger’. In its place will be the more sterile word ‘slave’. I find this censorship highly troubling. To add salt to this wound is also the removal of the word “injun”. Again, not a word we want used today, but one that puts the reader into the times of which the author has constructed in his book. (Let us not forget, it IS his book.)
I think it asinine to touch the words penned by Mark Twain. I have enough problems when some in Hollywood condone colorizing old films. But when someone remakes the words of a classic read I want to scream.
Racism was, and remains a real and troubling part of our society. To attempt to whitewash it from a text takes away the one thing that we need more than anything else. That being a protracted and highly engaged conversation about racism. University scholar Alan Gribben is responsible for the censoring of “Huckleberry Finn” in what he describes as an attempt to get the book back in the hands of high school literature courses. The edited book is soon to be published and released for sale.
While I applaud the desire to have youth read “Huckleberry Finn”, I throw-up over Gribben’s means to achieve it. To not address racism in the manner it was presented in the book by Twain removes a great teaching moment for the folks who will read it.
Even after the many decades of work and public policy aimed to construct our society to be more equal we are still limited from a real dialogue on racism. If we can not get over the mere usage of the word ‘nigger’ in a text as highly praised as “Huckleberry Finn” how can we move to a higher level of awareness in our communities or legislatures when confronting racism?