Top Of My Head

Thoughts on everything from Politics to Video Games

Mark Twain, Huckleberry Finn and the use of Nigger

Have you heard the reports that two men have edited the Mark Twain Classic Novel, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and removed the word Nigger and replaced it with Slave?

I admit, it isn’t an easy word for me to type.  I find it completely offensive.  In fact, I don’t listen to much of Richard Pryor’s stand up because he uses that word.  I love me some D.L. Hughley and I cringe every time it crosses his lips.

And, I am white.  I mean I am whiter than white.  I am pale, burn in the sun white.  I am a black person’s nightmare – where they dream that they woke up white and they discover it isn’t cool white, it is nerd white.  And, when I do the white woman happy dance, my black friends just shake their heads and wonder how I manage to dress myself in the morning.

So, I’m not going to say something stupid, like some of my best friends are black, because – well, it isn’t true.  I have some close black friends and some not so close black acquaintances.  But, if you looked at all the pictures of my Facebook friends, you would see a whole lot of vanilla before you ran across chocolate.

You won’t hear me say the word Nigger.  I think in my adult life it might’ve crossed my lips maybe four, five times – all in the context of a conversation and never yelled at someone.

And, yet, I don’t want the word removed from Huck Finn.  I don’t see the point.  Is it a hurtful word?  Yes, it is.  Did Mark Twain mean for it to be hurtful?  I don’t believe so, I believe that he was merely using the right word for the time in which he wrote the novel.

If we remove a word from history, then we lose something.  I’m not sure I’m putting this into the correct words, but I believe that a classroom full of children that have to read the word Nigger is an opportunity to teach them about what it was like to have been a negro in America back then.  It is an opportunity to teach them how words hurt – how calling someone a name could potentially hurt that person more than if you broke their arm.  A broken arm will heal, but a broken spirit will not.

In case you haven’t been paying attention, I’m an out lesbian.  I am as out as I am white.  I’ve been called a dyke and it hurts.  Just when I think that everything is all cool, someone will call me a dyke and I’m reminding that I’m different – that I don’t really fit in with everyone around me.  I wonder, sometimes, if that’s what it is like to be black in America.  Does a black person ever forget that they’re black?  Blacks are only 26% (feel free to check my figures, this is an estimate) of the America population, which probably means that whenever they stand in a room with four people in it – 3 of them are white.  I wonder what that is like for them.  I mean, when I stand in a room full of strangers – no one knows I’m a lesbian, but when you’re black, well, that’s pretty hard to hide.

Anyway, I’m taking a long way to say the following:

  • Censoring a novel because one word or more are offensive today is wrong.  We shouldn’t take out the parts we don’t like.
  • Allowing our children to have open discussions on name calling in a safe classroom setting could be a good thing – if handled correctly.
  • Richard Pryor came to the conclusion that saying Nigger was wrong, before he passed away.  I wish D.L. Hughley would do the same thing – the stop saying the word, not the dying part.
  • I’m a lousy dancer.

I’d love to know what you think.

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1 Comment

  1. And, I’m not alone in my feelings, I thought I might be…
    http://www.cnn.com/2011/OPINION/01/06/powers.huck.finn/index.html?hpt=C1

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