"if he'd been a black writer; his prose would stand unassailed"

Random Thoughts is waxing eloquent on the efforts to remove “offensive words” from The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn:

I’ve never agreed with banning the book because of Twain’s use of the word “nigger.” Twain had strong views against the racism of post-slavery America, and he used the word deliberately to illustrate Huck’s unwitting prejudice, a prejudice which disappears as Huck’s friendship with the slave deepens and he comes to regard him simply as “Jim.”  But in our classrooms this aspect of the novel was lost as school boards caved to the pressure of parents to ban the book.

Teachers, God help them, are unequipped to genuinely teach literature (and this I know first hand from colleagues who admit to not even reading books, much less being trained to properly teach them). The ability to lead thoughtful analysis of a text eludes many of them.

Replacing “nigger” with “slave” does not at all accomplish what Twain sought to do. Additionally, nobody would ever have called someone “slave,” so it’s historically incorrect as well, not that that matters. And I have no idea with what they are replacing the “Injun” in Injun Joe’s name. “Native American Joe” just doesn’t have much of a ring to it.

I do understand that “nigger” is considered extremely offensive today, despite its deliberate and flagrant use in rap music and contemporary movies. Actually, it’s only considered offensive when non-blacks use it…and Mark Twain of course was not black. I suspect the issue of sanitizing his novel would not exist if he’d been a black writer; his prose would stand unassailed.

I think you should do two things.  You should go and read the rest of RM’s thoughts on this issue, to include her assertion that context is always key (and a most apt cartoon to boot).  And you should bookmark this blog for the wisdom so frequently found within the posts published.

The Maltheists
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