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"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.


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Comments (15)

Mr. Beck mentioned yesterda... (Below threshold)

Mr. Beck mentioned yesterday how many of the CD's by black rappers have the same word and even our Prez has it on his IPOD and it isn't being deleted???

Hey, I've got a great idea ... (Below threshold)

Hey, I've got a great idea - let's re-write Mein Kampf - you know, make it "less offensive".

Fucking 'educated elites' don't know their ass from their elbow. No wonder kids don't know anything today.

Re-writing the literature o... (Below threshold)

Re-writing the literature of yesterday using todays social norms is simply ridiculous. Which is why I'm not at all surprised that the PC idiots of today are undertaking this endeavor.

"72 is Enough"... (Below threshold)

"72 is Enough"

The entire kerfuffle is bec... (Below threshold)

The entire kerfuffle is because the PC Police seem to really, really try to retroactively rewrite literature to fit THEIR current mene....

Samuel was a writer of HIS TIME! He wrote to help abolish racism....his verbiage was correct for the TIME OF THE BOOK!

To change it is to rob us of the vernacular used then and the flavor of a changing America.

WE were NOT sterile and PC....why should we portray ourselves as something we were NOT???

My god, the PC Police will kill our entire history.

Not surprising from the sam... (Below threshold)

Not surprising from the same PC idiots that attacked an aide to the Mayor of DC in 1999 for the use of 'niggardly' to describe how the mayor will handle a tight budget. Why does anyone listen (and give these people credence) rather than heaping scorn on their heads?

Garandfan, I couldn't state... (Below threshold)

Garandfan, I couldn't state my sentiments more plainly then you did. ww

Once again we see the left ... (Below threshold)
jim m:

Once again we see the left preoccupied by stiffling thought and expression. They carry on about diversity but they only mean the appearance of diversity and they loathe the idea of actual diversity of ideas.

They like to accuse the conservatives of wanting to ban books, but more often than not it is they who are doing the banning today.

"They like to accuse the co... (Below threshold)
Upset Old Guy:

"They like to accuse the conservatives of wanting to ban books, but more often than not it is they who are doing the banning today. jim m

But the story will have much better legs for the media when it's the conservatives doing the banning, Jim.

I will offer a small fig leaf for the media however: being a visual species it's easy for us to see skin color and other physical attributes. A bit of intelligence and paying attention is required to experience diversity of thought. Both intelligence and the capacity to pay attention seem to be in short supply these days.

Listened to a woman yesterd... (Below threshold)

Listened to a woman yesterdy trying to defend this "whitewash" of Huck Finn. She was explaining that by changing the language, Huck Finn would no longer be banished from certain schools and could be studied by the students.

I would rather they keep it banned and let those curious students read the real book. If the school boards can't explain to the parents why the book should not be banned, I don't trust that the teachers could teach the students about the book without destroying its complex ideas.

This is kinda funny because... (Below threshold)
Bruce Henry:

This is kinda funny because I first heard about this issue the other day on Oliver Willis' blog. Mr Willis, a sometime target of Wizbang author Jay Tea's scorn, is a black man, a leftist blogger, and a writer for Media Matters.

What did Mr Willis have to say about this kerfuffle? "Removing 'Nigger' From Huckleberry Finn is Stupid" was the headline. Perusing the comment section, populated, as here, with regulars, all were in agreement with Mr Willis' headline.

None supported the idea. No one was calling for banning books.

I haven't surveyed the liberal blogosphere to find out, but I'll wager there's no juggernaut, no grass roots push, demanding the "new improved" version be adopted nationwide.

I point this out because this is not a plot by the "PC police," exactly. It's a dumb idea by book marketers cheered on by some lazyass teachers.

By the way, I personally agree with Mr Willis, and with Rick, that this idea is spectacularly dumb.

Bruce I'll give you credit ... (Below threshold)
jim m:

Bruce I'll give you credit for being half right. Censoring books like Hucklberry Finn is not on most people's radar, bot even people on the left. However, this kind of PC crap is bang in the middle of the education establishment's radar and the teacher's unions and their inane zero tolerance, don't think/don't teach, PC attitudes are what's driving this kind of crap.

The same people who run our schools saying that kids distributing candy canes at Christmas are handing out dangerous weapons because someone could suck on one and sharpen it to a point are the ones demanding that the n word be censored from every published article. There is no sense and no thinking going on by those who teach our children.

Bruce: Re Oliver, even a br... (Below threshold)

Bruce: Re Oliver, even a broken clock is right twice a day
But reading you comment, is that a tacit admission that the "liberal blogosphere" are part of the "PC Police"? Or at least they are in sympathetic alignment with each other?

We need to censor this word... (Below threshold)

We need to censor this word along with a lot of other books and speeches, especially foul mouthed Martin Luther King and Malcolm X. I was listening to them the other day and cringed every time they said the N word. We should probably just take them out of the history books. It sickening I tell you!

Re # 13:No.<... (Below threshold)
Bruce Henry:

Re # 13:


But Jim has a point, kind of.






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