Pop Culture, Race & Politics

Slaves, Ni**as, Huck and Jim

"Hey Jim, you know you my n*gga, right?"

(Please forgive my late pass on talking about this since apparently it was all the rage to talk weeks ago according to Liz.)

Recently, 60 Minutes did a piece on the decision by a small publishing company in Montgomery, Alabama, NewSouth Books, that decided to replace the word “nigger” in the American classic, Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn with the word “slave”. And while I understand the logic behind doing so, I think it’s both a cop out and ultimately does a great disservice to both Mark Twain and history.

But let’s backtrack a bit.

Huck Finn might be one the most divisive books in the American educational system, if not the most divisive. Some schools ban the book because of the language and use of the dreaded n-word, while others teach it from a distance being very careful to talk about the use of the word while never actually saying it out loud. Hell, I went to a high school that refused to teach the book. Which I always found odd considering that, well, I went to a high school where race relations fell apart after the OJ verdict and a sizable percentage of the white folks wore the confederate flag as a sign of things to (hopefully) come.

Nigger.

Let’s be real, if a white person were to use that term, most of us would be ready to resort to violence. The word still has power. It always will. No matter how we try to pretend that it doesn’t, or how often we (including myself) use it as a term of endearment or listen to songs by A Tribe Called Quest that make no sense whatsoever but are called “Sucka Nigga,” the word will remain revered and controversial. Nothing new there. White folks know this and Black folks know this.

With that, I understand the logic behind wanting to remove the word from a book that is largely not taught because of it. In the 60 Minutes segment, the publisher who removed the word said that it still allows for the teachable moment to exist, but I think that’s wrong. A University of Oregon professor, David Bradely, basically spoke my thoughts when he said that removing the word deprives students of the teachable moment.

“You use the term ‘teachable moment’ and that’s what n*&^%$ gives you.  That’s why it’s important to keep it in there,” says the author and Mark Twain scholar.  “I call “Huckleberry Finn” a power tool when it comes to education,” says Bradley.  “There are so many things [in it] that pry things open…That teachable moment is when that word hits the table in a classroom. Everybody goes ‘wooh’ Okay, let’s talk about it.”

“It’s not ‘Huckleberry Finn” anymore,’” counters Bradley.   “What are we teaching them [by removing the N-word]? This may be their first encounter with slavery.”  He says that to withhold the N-word is to avoid an integral reality. “‘Slave’ is a condition…nothing for anybody to be ashamed of,” says Bradley, “But n*&^%$ has to do with shame…calling somebody something.  N*&^%$ is what made slavery possible.”

To me, one of the biggest problems with race relations in this country is that white people try to pretend that slavery and racism either never existed or are a figment of imaginations. Mind you I’m not blaming everything on white people when it comes to shattered race relations. Black folks think everything’s racist and that can’t exactly help the convo either. It’s impossible to have the conversation necessary when both sides come in completely defensive so that nobody listens.

The removal of this word is proof positive of more “white guilt” or to me an attempt to rewrite history. The n-word is a word that historically was used during the time setting of the book. You can’t just rewrite history to make it more palatable to the masses. That’s that BS the state of Virginia tried to do with their textbooks that insinuated that slaves fought patriotically alongside their white counterparts to preserve their quality of life. History – good, bad, or ugly – is just that, history. It’s what has gotten us to the points we are today…again for good, bad, or ugly.

Plus, I think the way that most people end up engaged in necessary and progressive conversations is via other people’s word and discussion starters. Like Professor Bradley says, when that word is said, in an academic setting, it requires discussion and evaluation, etc. Why even attempt to deprive that potential. Again, I get where the NewSouth Books Publishers are coming from, and in some ways, I think their logic is genuine but misguided. Interesting though isn’t it, that the use of the “word” slave would make something benign, and yet in this case it does.

I feel like Professor Bradely, removing “nigger” removes the potential to fully delve into what the word represents historically and how it’s impacted our nation to today. It doesn’t force the conversation. And like with anything, how can you move past something if you can’t even talk about it.

I’m curious though. What do you think about this publisher’s removal of the n-word and replacing it with “slave”? Does it matter? Is it a good idea or a bad idea?

Where do you stand?

What’s the 411, son?

-VSB  aka THE ARSONIST aka 40P aka lower.case.p aka SHUGGIE JACKSON aka GIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIRL HE A 3

 

Filed Under:
Damon Young

Panama Jackson is pretty fly for a light guy. He used to ship his frito to Tito in the District, but shipping prices increased so he moved there to save money. When he's not saving humanity with his words or making music with his mouth, you can find him at your mama's mama's house drinking her fine liquors. Most importantly, he believes the children are our future.

  • http://iamyourpeople.com/ I Am Your People

    No one said it better that Larry Wilmore on The Daily Show – “Jim ran away from being a slave, he couldn’t run away from being a n*gger”

    • Yoles

      agree…

      Brian Grosz wrote, “I’m fairly certain that the main point of the novel was to reveal the horrors and injustice of racism. This kind of ‘sterilization’ strikes me as something that potentially dilutes that message […] Where do we draw the line when it comes to revising the past—especially in this case where it’s a work of art that reflects a social climate?”

      • Thereluctantsocialite

        Completely agree.

        In Texas, they actually voted to revise the cirruculum to basically water down the importance of the civil rights movement (among other things).

        This is getting rediculous. One of the reasons why I think its even more important to educate your kids at home. We can’t even depend on the school system to teach them the basics of our history now…

        • http://headedintherightdirection.blogspot.com Liryc

          Remember black history is rarely taught in schools. Black history isn’t part of American History. Outside of black history month where students get a watered down version of african american inclusion in history there is no curriculum in urban high schools (low income) that includes african american history.

    • http://twitter.com/#!/legitimate_soul legitimate_soul

      Agreed!

    • V Renee

      “Jim ran away from being a slave, he couldn’t run away from being a n*gger”

      Truth.com

  • IsOurChildrenLearning?

    I say remove it. Do you give middle school kids books with other vulgar terms? Nope, it’s offensive. You can get a point across without using the N word. Slavery, Jim crow, segregation, and the generalized atrocities that black folks faced in this country go way beyond a slur. We don’t need to have a kid say “Nigger” while reading aloud in class in order to get him to understand that we had it rough.
    Race relations are bad in America, as they are everywhere. The only difference is the degree of supposed tolerance. The inclusion or omission of a terrible word in an old tale will not improve or worsen how well we get along.

    • Myseducation

      How bout the inclusion of the word in a top 40 rap song? What does that do for the kid?

      • DQ

        When they start making it mandatory learning in a class room I think you’ll have a valid point. Until then you are comparing apples and wheelbarrows

        • Myseducation

          Me no care the color of the mouth that says it or the setting in which it’s said. The potential for discussion is there. I’m not in the ‘reclaiming the word for our purposes’ Mo’nique school of thought

          • DQ

            Once it’s mandatory learning for everyone in a class room you will have a point. And that sword will cut several directions. I personally would love to have Ice Cube’s lyrics as mandatory learning and to have his songs read out loud in class.

            You are the prince of darkness
            Arch enemy, father of evil
            Hell born, demonic, savage, fierce, vicious, wild
            Tameless, barbaric, uncontrollabe, obstinate beast

            [Verse One:]

            Horny little devil, you gotta back up
            Horny little devil, you can’t bust a nut

            Hope little Suzy doesn’t mind being called a devil. Too bad if it’s offensive, gotta maintain the author’s message.

            • Myseducation

              Maybe it’s time to write up THAT lesson plan. I guess it can start as an elective…

              • DQ

                It should be no more or less elective than Huck Finn (IMO)

                • whykendra

                  i get your point.

                  i dont know if this is exactly what you meant but if the intention was to start a conversation, it ought be a well rounded one.

                • DQ

                  @ Kendra

                  I’m just knocking down all the false arguments that suggest that n!gger cannot be removed from Huck Finn. If the idea is that we need to have a conversation on race, it doesn’t even require Huck Finn. Ice Cube can start the conversation just as easily. But Ice Cube would offend a different audience in the process of having “the teachable moment”.

                  I bet a number of people will suddenly think sensitivity to the children in the class room would be a valid issue. LOL

      • IsOurChildrenLearning?

        At this point, we’re discussing the merits of the word in a text that’s required reading for many children. The “N” word in rap songs argument is tangential and belongs in an completely different discussion.

        • Myseducation

          I hear you IsOur but the impact of the word in text will be contributed to by exposure in other contexts.

          *continues to roll wheelbarrow full of apples*

          • WestPointProper

            iChuckled.

    • sol

      What about the slaves in these stories? Do you think it right to change the disgusting offenses with which they were harassed every day just to make the reader more comfortable? Don’t you think it would be a massive disrespect to them? Would we be honoring Malcolm X for example if we pretended nobody ever looked him in the face and told him he was nothing but a n****? What if we replaced every time somebody called Harriet Tubman a N**** with slave in her biography? Are we not then just condescending their struggle for the sake of our comfort?

      • sol

        It is uncomfortable and vulgar, but if analysing a young slave owner and the relationships he had with the slaves in his life doesn’t make one feel vulgar and uncomfortable than we’re doing it wrong.

        If you want to reflect on history comfortable you’re living in the wrong country mate

        • IsOurChildrenLearning?

          The only kids being truly offended are black kids. So we should humiliate black kids in classrooms in order to teach how bad black slavery was in white america?? Curious indeed.

          • http://www.hotbiscuitsandgravy.com Bengemin Grehe

            I’m curious about this, tho. Because it’s NewSouth publishing that wants to edit the word. I’m not sure if it’s only black children getting humiliated. I think it’s more what P said, dealing with white folk not being faced with the word so that they can avoid feeling guilty.

            • V Renee

              dealing with white folk not being faced with the word so that they can avoid feeling guilty. .

              I think THIS is the main issue. They don’t want young Billy to feel guilty for the atrocities (oops I mean things) his ancestors did. I mean it’s “just” an unfortunate “situation”** that happened over 400 years ago, why can’t blacks just get over it.

              ** Pretty soon slavery will be replaced with situation at the rate we’re going.

              • http://www.pinchmycheekie.wordpress.com Cheekie

                THANK YOU.

          • WestPointProper

            Black kids are definitely not the only ones being offended. You don’t think it forces non-black kids to start asking some questions of themselves, and their histories? I think that’s critical to their education and their cultural development.

          • Racqs

            I don’t agree with this. We read this book in high school and it was difficult for anyone to read it out loud. The white kids felt just as uncomfortable saying it as black kids. White kids almost said the word apologetically, if they said it at all.

            It brought up honest discussion about racism back then and the different forms of it now, including the use of the n-word. I’m not going to say that the book had all of us singing kumbaya in a circle by the end of it, but it definitely sparked earnest efforts towards understanding each other. As said earlier, replacing the word slave with n***** isn’t an acceptable replacement. There IS no replacement for a word that strikes so deep. We can’t just ignore that part of history too make us feel more comfortable with the wrongs that were done by previous generations.

        • Honey

          “if analysing a young slave owner and the relationships he had with the slaves in his life doesn’t make one feel vulgar and uncomfortable than we’re doing it wrong.”

          you’re right, and we ARE doing it wrong. i worked in a suburban school in the north and then southern state for like a year and a half, and in both places they taught kids in social studies classes that most slaves had great relationships with their masters and that masters where very good to their slaves. so in many cases, replacing the N word with “slave” puts a whole different spin on it.

          • Tentpole

            What this is doing is is changing the relationship to be more in line with European mindset of slaves. Like with the Romans and their relationship with their slaves which had run of their households and were happy to be there for the most part.

        • Mo-VSS

          Thank you. I am so tired of folks wanting to coddle our kids from the “offensive” while simultaneously shoving it in their faces. We want a piece of EDUCATIONAL LITERATURE censored, but we don’t want to impede on the latest rappers “freedom of speech” by requiring the same of them???

          I call extreme BS on anyone who thinks that way.

          • Mo-VSS

            This comment was in response to Racqs comments, not Honey’s

            (not that there’s anything wrong with Honey’s comment…my comment wasn’t in response to hers though.)

      • IsOurChildrenLearning?

        I get your point. I really do. The main reason that I say take the word out is because I think this entire controversy is retarded. I think that the stories of the slaves (in this and in any other work) can still be expressed without the inclusion of that particular slur. I don’t think the word is NECESSARY for the purposes of teaching CHILDREN LITERATURE. They don’t assign Huck Finn in History class.

        Is the degradation of black folks an important part of history? Of course. I’m not saying rid all texts in rotation of the word. Library cards are still free. The internet still accepts cards and Barnes & Noble also takes cash. People can still access the original. This can’t be likened to the erasing of history or mass book burnings.

        I just think that if parents are offended, or kids are to distracted to get the jist of the message…go ahead and remove it. If most people want the word in or find it a necessity, leave it. Either way, that one word in that one book isn’t moving mountains.

        • http://www.hotbiscuitsandgravy.com Bengemin Grehe

          If that’s how you feel, then don’t teach the book. But to edit the book entirely?

          • Thereluctantsocialite

            Agreed!

          • DQ

            Changing one word is changing the book entirely? And I’m talking about books being used as mandatory reading. No one’s advocating a book bonfire where we destroy all original copies.

            • http://www.hotbiscuitsandgravy.com Bengemin Grehe

              Actually, I do think that changing one word is changing the book entirely. If not, then why else change it?

              But to your main point, yeah. I think I have to agree with you. I didn’t initially, but you’re right. If the book is so polarizing, it shouldn’t be required reading.

              • DQ

                Maybe what I should be asking you all is why you think the word n!gger is so important to the book? The book is not about what black people were called. Further down stream folks were trying (and unsuccessfully so in my opinion) to say that the use of the word slave does change the novel because not all slaves were black. They were by the time that Clemens wrote his novel, but let’s side step that.

                What if he had said negro? That refers to black people only. Does that change the novel?

        • Caballeroso

          “I don’t think the word is NECESSARY for the purposes of teaching CHILDREN LITERATURE. They don’t assign Huck Finn in History class.”

          Why must a literature class not be allowed to provide historical context? Or even a math class for that matter. I can understand how a teacher may get tunnel vision and limit himself to a strict adherence to the subject matter at hand, but I think kids should be given the opportunity to be well rounded and to see how each thing affects everything – it’s all intertwined. I think a good teacher, a smart teacher, or a teacher who is not lazy will help kids see the big picture. Once the kids make associations, the information will be retained and it won’t be as necessary to ask “IsOurChildrenLearning”?

          While this discussion has focused on one word, it is not entirely about the one word, it is about the precedent that it sets. It fosters an attitude of being able to run away from our past. We can’t, and the sooner we confront it, the sooner we can move on….and yes, it is akin to erasing history AND mass book burnings, it’s just doesn’t have the appearance of being as drastic. Incremental encroachment and sh*t.

          • niksmit

            This is why I love VSB, I can just drop a co-signature here instead of explaining myself. Now let me see if I can wade through the rest of the comments.

      • DQ

        I gotta agree with IOCL. I’ll give you an excerpt from Chapter 32 and you tell me what is lost in the translation.

        VERSION 1
        “It warn’t the grounding — that didn’t keep us back but a little. We blowed out a cylinder-head.”
        “Good gracious! anybody hurt?”
        “No’m. Killed a nigger.”
        “Well, it’s lucky; because sometimes people do get hurt.”

        VERSION 2
        “It warn’t the grounding — that didn’t keep us back but a little. We blowed out a cylinder-head.”
        “Good gracious! anybody hurt?”
        “No’m. Killed a slave.”
        “Well, it’s lucky; because sometimes people do get hurt.

        Did we lose Clemens message? Is the word nigger supposed to be the idea that’s offensive or is the dehumanization?

        • Honey

          “slave” represents a specific group of people, while the N word is all-encompassing. someone could have said that about any of us, or any black person around at that time. it holds way more weight.

          • http://verysmartbrothas.com Panama Jackson

            I agree with this. Slave is a condition. N*gger is a way our culture was viewed, treated and impacted. Anybody can be a slave. The n-word was denoted to emphasize the 8-th class citizenry we’ve been accorded through much of our history.

            In context of what you wrote, DQ, you’re right, I don’t know that it loses much. However, if you put it into a broader historical context, which I think is necessary to do when discussing Huck Finn, then I think it’s a copout.

          • DQ

            Sigh.

            It holds weight NOW. It didn’t hold the weight you are assigning to it now that the author used when writing it. Thus you all are continuing to argue that what’s most important is an issue that the author wasn’t addressing. There is little to suggest that Clemens thought the use of the word n!gger was dehumanizing. There is EVERYTHING to suggest that he thought the institution of slavery WAS dehumanizing. That was his point. The rest of this is just retroactive attribution.

            • Honey

              so because it’s retroactive it’s completely meaningless then. ok.

              • DQ

                Because it’s retroactive it’s not the author’s point or objective.

                If it merely had to have meaning then there is no argument to be made against changing the novel. The novel CAN be changed and still impart meeting. And by the way, this wouldn’t be the 1st edit to Huck Finn (and somehow it didn’t destroy the novel)

                • Honey

                  idk, i just feel like editing things long after they were published diminishes the integrity of the work. but that’s me.

        • PerceptionIsYourReality

          DQ…. I have to disagree. The N-word holds much more weight. In this passage it displays the lack of concern and the evident concept that a Ninja’s life is not valued at the same level as everyone else.
          By replacing it with slave, you could in essence be referring to any person that was enslaved. But you lose the concept that blacks were despised and considered at best animals to be conqured and used for the benefits of others and not even human.

          • DQ

            It holds more weight because YOU are assigning it. Not the author. You are looking at a work concevied before the Civil Rights Movement through a post Civil Rights Movement lens. The way you are viewing the word is not the way the author was viewing the word. You are providing the author a disposition on a topic he never treated from a perspective he never had.

            • http://twitter.com/#!/legitimate_soul legitimate_soul

              DQ, I see that you feel passionately about this, but I don’t think you can speak for the author. No, “slave” is different. There were white indentured servants that were “slaves” too that could eventually earn/purchase their freedom in America. The ‘N’ word holds much more weight. The ‘N’ word’s intent was to dehumanize and “slave” in and of itself does not cover the context in how dehumanizing it was.

              • DQ

                *but I don’t think you can speak for the author*

                LOL. Why not? Everyone else is. There were no white indentured servants at the time when Clemens was writing his book. As a practice it ended in the early 19th century. This is post Civil War time frame. Clemens didn’t start writing his novel until the late 19th century. There is no room for confusion on who he is talking about.

            • Mo-VSS

              DQ, if that’s the case, then why in the world wouldn’t we leave the word in there? If Mark Twain didn’t use the word to provoke discussion over race relations and other things, then why remove it? Why not teach what the word means in the context of how the author used it?

              Why??? Because it’s ALWAYS been a volatile word. Always. Do some research and you’ll find that nigger, boy and things of the like where used to devalue black people always.

              • k-steez

                why are you so insistent that the author did not perceive the word that way? it seems like you’re the one adding meaning that wasn’t there. as said before, ni99er is a term that was used for ALL black people. how is that “a post Civil Rights Movement lens”? are you saying that’s not who that word referred to before then? ur confusing me :(

                (by the way, wordpress agrees with the publishing company, lol. had to repost this comment b/c moderation ate the other one.)

                • k-steez

                  ^^ that comment is for DQ

              • DQ

                Mo-VSS. The argument for changing the word is this entire thread. The novel isn’t about what we’re discussing. Nor is what we’re discussing the author’s intention. Contention over the word is overshadowing what scholars original thought made the novel compelling.

                If you do the research you are suggesting that I do, you will find that everything you have just suggested about the word n!gger is false.

            • k-steez

              why are you so insistent that the author did not perceive the word that way? it seems like you’re the one adding meaning that wasn’t there. as said before, nigger is a term that was used for ALL black people. how is that “a post Civil Rights Movement lens”? are you saying that’s not who that word referred to before then? ur confusing me :(

              • DQ

                Although Twain was against racism and imperialism far in front of public sentiment of his time, some with only superficial familiarity of his work have condemned it as racist for its accurate depiction of the language in common use in the United States in the 19th century. Expressions that were used casually and unselfconsciously then are often perceived today as racism (in present times, such racial epithets are far more visible and condemned).

                http://www.readeasily.com/mark-twain/index.php

                LOL, you’re gonna have to dig a little deeper on this k-steez. As I have said several times before, it is the academics who feel the language shouldn’t change. They are the ones insisting that this is how he viewed the word (well that and the fact that he was anti-slavery)

        • http://tdlove.wordpress.com Tonya

          Ni**er is not only a horrible term because it was a word that Whites used to dehumanize blacks, but because of how it made blacks dehumanize themselves, and when we take that word out, THAT concept is lost.

          As Panama and Honey already stated- anybody can be a slave. New white immigrants who came to the country were enslaved. These ‘white’ slaves were servants and weren’t **always dehumanized in the same way. The loss of their life would not be viewed in the same way. When the question is asked “Was anybody hurt” and the answer is “No’m. A ni**er was killed” The message is: No one was hurt, a ni**er was killed, but who cares about them? The the loss of the ni**er is no big deal.

          I haven’t read the book. (At my high school we read Toni Morrison instead. It’s on my list though.) However, if the character who answered “No’m. A ni**er was killed” was Black, that is very important, because not only it showed that not only did white people come to feel that blacks were nothing, but blacks themselves were made to feel that way as well.

          To put the word “slave” in is totally different. Whites might feel the loss of a slave– even if monitarily. But apparently back them Black slaves were a dime a dozen. We were nothing. We were roaches on the bottom of their foot. Our death meant nothing to them. Nothing convey’s that message as clearly as the use of N word in this context.

          The fact that we are having this conversation shows the importance of the word. If it makes people feel uncomfortable.. it SHOULD. That’s the teachable moment.

          **I put that here because I have heard arguments from white Italians and Irish who felt that they were mistreated during their time of servitude and I don’t want to dismiss that idea, though I have always felt that the mistreatment of blacks in this country is beyond comparison.

          • DQ

            Indentured Servitude was ended as a practice long before Clemens begin penning his novel. He started writing in the 1870’s, indentured Servitude (white slavery) ended in the early 19th century. There is no confusion about who Clemens was talking about whether he uses n!gger or slave.

            • http://twitter.com/#!/legitimate_soul legitimate_soul

              I disagree, DQ. “Slave” alone can not be used interchangeably especially if one would make a distinction between a slave to the left and a ninja to the right. If someone from Ireland came here as a slave, their experience is very different from someone in shackles who didn’t voluntarily come. It is also very different from African slaves taken as spoils of war between warring African kingdoms.

              Plus, slavery aside, even a “free man or woman” could be called a “ninja”, so it is a very necessary distinction. A free man or woman could be kidnapped into slavery again, they had to have their “free papers” on them at all times, and someone white could ask to see their papers tear them up or steal them and disregard their existence. That’s because even if that person WAS NOT a slave, their race made that person a “ninja” in the perpetrators eyes.

              • DQ

                I can actually argue this much further on how slave could only refer to black person but it isn’t necessary. It’s not the replacement word you object to,it’s any replacment that you object to.

                I could just as easily suggest that we use negro instead of slave and that would mitigate the confusion, but that isn’t really the point is it? You don’t want the novel changed

            • http://tdlove.wordpress.com Tonya

              Even if indentured servitude ended in the 19th century.. that does not take away how the N word was used and what that did to us as a people. If you take the word out, than it dismisses the whole them in the first place.

              As far as speaking for the author.. we would definitely be abusing the author’s intent by replacing the words that HE used.

              • DQ

                His novel has already been edited in other ways. Why is this word so important?

                And I have to say it again. The word was innocuous back when Clemens used it. He wasn’t saying it to be provocative or offensive because it wasn’t provocative or offensive at that time. He was using the words that everyone used to describe black people.

                Now if that is true, then you can’t have it both ways. You can’t say the word was innocuous and then argue that it “did something to us as a people”.

            • k-steez

              even in the 1870s, a slave was always a ni99er, but a ni99er wasn’t always a slave. so in the excerpt you chose, the meaning has changed from the man’s death being unimportant because he was a slave, instead of because he was Black. a HUGE difference.

              • DQ

                Ok, first in the 1870s there were no de facto slaves. The Civil War ended in 1865.

                Second, in the 1870s only blacks would be slaves. You cannot infer that the death was unimportant due to either his color or his condition… but what cannot be denied is the dehumanization. Whether it was due to his condition or his color is irrelevant. Clemens is condemning the dehumanization.

                Third, since it appears the principle “push back” is going to be to argue that somehow slave and black is different – we can side step this issue and get to the major point which is that you all don’t think the novel should change. If the book publisher suggested using the word negro instead of slave, you would STILL argue that that the book shouldn’t change.

          • http://twitter.com/#!/legitimate_soul legitimate_soul

            I had posted before I saw you made a similar distinction. Agreed!

    • Will

      Middle school kids in America have already heard, and most likely said, the word. They probably associate it with either racism or rap music. They should be taught the history of that word, and why it’s so hurtful to both whites and blacks. They should look that word in the face and learn to deal with it, instead of pretending it doesn’t exist or learning its meaning from Ludacris or Cletus.

      The whitewashing of history damages everyone. Imagine if the horrors of the Holocaust were “toned down for the classroom” or the realities of the atom bomb were “edited.” Perhaps we can “clean up” Vietnam while we’re at it? Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it.

      • IsOurChildrenLearning?

        “The whitewashing of history damages everyone. Imagine if the horrors of the Holocaust were “toned down for the classroom” or the realities of the atom bomb were “edited.”

        If I can recall, This isn’t a historical account but a fictional novel. Therefore, editing one term in this fiction CANNOT be construed at whitewashing history. additionally, this book is taught as an example of literary dexterity with the bonus of it’s deception of the era. It isn’t the history book from which all students are taught. If anything you’re giving this book and this word too much power and insulting the intelligence of children. I would say that black children are being insulted the most in that they would be the ones to take the offense to heart. I’m fairly certain that this edit will not affect any forthcoming documentation of american History.

        • http://verysmartbrothas.com Panama Jackson

          you’re right. it is a fictional novel. but it’s also one of the most ubiquitous when it comes to teaching about slavery. let’s not pretend that fiction never gets used to tell a true story. nobody’s going to say that “native son” or “the invisible man” are historical documents, but they do use a ficiontal narrative to discuss a greater historical context. hell, nearly every book that came out of the harlem renaissance had a similar theme and purpose. those aren’t just novels. they’re indictments.

        • TrackStar

          “Therefore, editing one term in this fiction CANNOT be construed at whitewashing history.”

          Yes it can. This is exactly how seeds are planted. As other posters have noted, some schools systems have already begun teaching curriculum that waters down the brutality of slavery and the civil rights movement. When you start changing the general attitude and emotions that people have towards a situation, even with a book of fiction, it makes it easier to distort your view on reality/history.

        • http://tdlove.wordpress.com Tonya

          “It isn’t the history book from which all students are taught. If anything you’re giving this book and this word too much power and insulting the intelligence of children. I would say that black children are being insulted the most in that they would be the ones to take the offense to heart. I’m fairly certain that this edit will not affect any forthcoming documentation of American History.”

          REALLY?

          The story is fictional. The setting, the circumstances, the feelings, the themes..are all real. The actual story didn’t happen, but because of the way history was- it certainly COULD have happened, and that is what makes it so powerful. Panama said it more eloquently than I did, but I had to comment in order to add another voice and emphasize how WRONG (IMO) you are about this.

          (I feel really strongly about this..to the point where you have almost hurt my feelings. I’m sensitive and a lover of historical fiction. lol)

          Even the most imaginary fantastical piece of fiction is based in some sort of way on reality. Take Lord of the Rings, or Harry Potter. The themes..the lessons (courage, compassion, perseverance, tolerance, racism) are all too real and the message that is conveyed is what teaches children, heck adults every time we open a book.

          When you give a child this type of book, that is honest and real and unadultered, you aren’t insulting their intelligence, you are telling them that you feel that they are intelligent AND mature enough to digest the lesson and learn from it.

          As a black child, reading books like this, didn’t hurt me. I actually craved it. I sought it out. When we read “Song of Solomon” I not only read that book, but sought out all of Morrison’s other books. I looked for and read other books from other Black Authors. I absorbed everything I COULD because I was STARVED for knowledge on this subject.

          What hurt me was not the book itself, but how some white students reacted to it. That they dismissed it, that some even used the word against me (being the only black girl in my high school class) when I proved to be more successful than I was ‘supposed’ to be. But THAT’s the life lesson…because that is the reality I had to learn to face.

          …sorry for the tangent, but it just goes to show how words are important.

          • Honey

            i feel this comment, i really do. literature like this can do a lot of good for black kids.

            it can do good for kids of other races, too, if they’re open to learning and if they’re given the opportunity by their teacher to do so.

          • Kema

            Yes!! I remember being 10 and reading Roll of Thunder Hear my Cry and The Bluest Eye at 11.

            • V Renee

              OMG! I used to love love love Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry! I’m about to go see if my local library has it now.

      • http://www.hotbiscuitsandgravy.com Bengemin Grehe

        Agreed.

      • V Renee

        Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it. .

        WHOA! (in my Black Rob voice)

        • Book2

          The End.

      • miss t-lee

        “The whitewashing of history damages everyone. Imagine if the horrors of the Holocaust were “toned down for the classroom” or the realities of the atom bomb were “edited.” Perhaps we can “clean up” Vietnam while we’re at it?”

        Hmmm. Very good points.

      • Honey

        my exact thoughts. i 100% agree, Will.

      • PerceptionIsYourReality

        This…. Will!! THisssss! Amen!
        Hotep!

    • http://kineticculture.com NubianEmpress

      I disagree. Leave it in, like P said, it describes the language of the era, and its a book thats against slavery.

      • Caballeroso

        Co-sign.

    • http://twitter.com/SmartFoxGirl SmartFoxGirl

      @IsOurChildrenLearning?
      I agree with everything you said. I think people need to remember that our school systems do a TERRIBLE job of teaching real history and slavery in this country. It’s all watered-down with lies. I think they need to focus on really teaching the truth…we don’t need the N word in a novel to do that. They should explain hate, hate words, and how it affects others. You can do that without repeating the actual word over and over. How do we think the Black children in the room would feel hearing that word read out loud? All it’s going to do is incite anger within them. The word is in the novel because it was commonly used back then. Why would we want to re-use that ignorance to prove a point? It’s already dumb that we use that word to this day. White kids know about the N word, know what it means,etc. Let’s teach and get an understanding without being ignorant ourselves. Basically, just because they used that word back then, doesn’t mean we have to use it now in order to “teach”.

      • Honey

        “I think they need to focus on really teaching the truth…we don’t need the N word in a novel to do that. They should explain hate, hate words, and how it affects others.”

        when it comes to teaching, sometimes less is more. instead of having a whole class discussion about hate and hate words, why not just have them read it in a book and FEEL it? kids are smarter and more intuitive than people give them credit for…a kid (of any race) can read that word in a piece of literature and know exactly what it’s about. why do you think it’s so cutting and humiliating to a black kid when they have to read that word? why do you think white kids and their parents get so uncomfortable with its use in a context like this? because the word is powerful, and when we read a book like Huck Finn, we have EXPERIENCE it.

        people learn better when they actually experience something, rather than having someone tell them about it. does this have to be the method? no. is it more effective? i would argue it is.

        side note: people do kids a huge disservice by trying to shelter them from everything. this is partly why education in america sucks so much; no one has that expectation of higher order thinking from our kids. they can handle a lot more than we think they can, and they WANT to.

        • http://tdlove.wordpress.com Tonya

          THANK YOU!!!

          I was trying to convey this above to IsOurChildrenLearning..but my comment is currently in moderation. *sigh*

        • http://twitter.com/SmartFoxGirl SmartFoxGirl

          ” instead of having a whole class discussion about hate and hate words, why not just have them read it in a book and FEEL it?”

          Really?? I’m going to disagree. Communication is KEY when educating anyone. Feeling it? You’re trusting the person to interpret the meaning all on their own. It’s possible yes, but you’re more likely to get a bunch of diff interpretations…especially amongst adolescence. I don’t underestimate kids. I just know that they lack experience and people relations….they lack knowledge. That’s why they are there in the first place, to LEARN. If a teacher decided to stop talking and provoking discussion but instead have them “feel it”, she/he would serve no purpose. Remember that it’s not sheltering kids. They’re still reading the book and getting the message…it’s just the substitution of one word with another word that has the same meaning. The word “N*GGER” teaches us nothing…now “SLAVE” says a whole lot more.

          • Honey

            no, you have the discussion after they feel it. that’s crucial. i see i didn’t communicate that well enough. my point was that you provide the experience first, then you talk about it. but the experience is what makes the lesson most effective.

            • Mo-VSS

              I agree. I’m so insulted that many black people think that this word should be removed. These are the same black people who will cry foul when the white world doesn’t want to acknowledge or face that racism actually exists. When you strip students of the opportunity to actually interpret and take in their own experience and apply it to books such as these and truly DISCUSS it, then you set the framework for how future generation handle race relations….or should I say “don’t” handle race relations.

              • IsOurChildrenLearning?

                “These are the same black people who will cry foul when the white world doesn’t want to acknowledge or face that racism actually exists.”

                Naw, we’re just black people who can look at the matter at hand and analyze it. But, if you feel that you need to here one specific word in order to understand an entire period of history then the word should be kept in for you and people with your thought process.

                • http://twitter.com/SmartFoxGirl SmartFoxGirl

                  Exaaaactly!!!! One word teaches her what exactly? It’s the message behind the teaching that can be done without even using that word. Basically, slavery and racism are bigger than the word “n*gger”. People can speak for their own kids. I don’t want my child reading that book, PERIOD. Other people can do what they want with their kids.

                • V Renee

                  then the word should be kept in for you and people with your thought process .

                  or it should be kept in because that’s what the author wrote. just a thought….lol

                • Kema

                  “or it should be kept in because that’s what the author wrote. just a thought….”

                  I agree… If its too uncomfortable then it should not be read until the parents are ok with them reading it as it was written.

              • Honey

                exactly, mo. i’m not seeing what good changing the word does for kids, other than protect their feelings. and in this case, i don’t think their feelings need to be protected. they need (and deserve) the raw. they can handle it.

            • http://twitter.com/SmartFoxGirl SmartFoxGirl

              @Honey
              Not in all cases. If your theory is correct, in order for me to teach my child about bullies…I must let her experience bullying. So I should allow a bunch of kids to call her ugly, etc…let her feel it then talk to her about it? So in order to teach her about peer pressure & drugs, I should shoot her up with crack or maybe send her to a crack house?

              My only point to you is that there are many ways to teach someone. Certain things are un-necessary. If you want to teach a child about slavery and opression, you can. There are many ways outside of them reading a novel with the word n*gger in it.

              @Mo
              I’m sorry you’re so insulted that some of us don’t want our children reading books with the word “n*gger” in it. How dare us. Btw, me supporting replacing the N word with the word Slave in no way endorses the practice of whites refusal to acknowledge racism exists. I think many of you are confusing the two. This novel was written a very long time ago and I have yet to meet a white person who doesn’t believe racism existed then…not one. Like I said to Honey, we can, should and WILL teach racism to our children. That’s my job, not Mark Twain’s or some teacher. It’s my obligation and my child will learn without having to read anything with HATE words in it.

              • Honey

                “If your theory is correct, in order for me to teach my child about bullies…I must let her experience bullying. So I should allow a bunch of kids to call her ugly, etc…let her feel it then talk to her about it? So in order to teach her about peer pressure & drugs, I should shoot her up with crack or maybe send her to a crack house?”

                yes, SFG, that is exactly what i’m saying.

                lol not at all. what i said does not apply to all types of life lessons, obviously. but it is extremely effective when teaching about race. take it from someone who has taught people about race this way and seen them become enlightened right in front of her (over time). and that’s people of all races.

                race issues are a totally different animal. they’re very complicated, and it takes a lot of different approaches and experiences for someone to truly understand the issues in depth. does that mean you have to make your kid read a book with the N word in it? no. is it a great way to make the subject hit home and incite passionate conversation? hell yes.

                as i said somewhere else, i’m not trying to convert you all or make you agree with me. teach your kids how you see fit; i have nothing but the utmost respect for that. but as i also said, i think trying to edit words out of books and all that is doing a disservice to kids by unnecessarily sheltering them. in the right enrivonment, with the right guidance, kids are in fact capable of handling complex, provocative information like that. so what if it makes them angry? teach them how to harness that anger and direct it toward something productive. so what if it makes white kids feel ashamed of what their ancestors did. USE it. and in the end, end the conversation in a way that promotes peace and brings everyone back together. it can be done. i have seen it, and i have done it.

                and that’s my $.02.

                • http://twitter.com/SmartFoxGirl SmartFoxGirl

                  So let me simplify it and ask you this: Do you think the children would STILL learn a good lesson about racism/oppression if the word “n*gger” was replaced with “slave” in the novel? In my opinion, they would still learn because “slave” has the same meaning, it’s just more of a politically correct term than words like n*gger, porch monkey, etc….get my point now? That’s all I’m saying.

                • Honey

                  i’m getting ready to leave work and start drinking, so this will be my last comment for now lol…

                  …but i am not AT ALL interested in political correctness. not one damn bit. i actually think it’s harmful in many cases. now, will the kids still learn a “good” lesson? sure. but i think there is a lesson that they may be missing out on with the omission of the N word. the story definitely loses some of its punch by replacing the N word with the word “slave.” and conversations that teachers and students may have had about both the word and what it represents probably won’t happen in districts where this change has taken place.

                  look at the big picture for a minute. it’s all good for kids with parents like you and me, who will teach them about race at home. but there are MILLIONS of kids in america whose parents avoid the subject like the plague. these are the kids i’m thinking of, who need to see that word in black and white, be affected by it, and ask questions. and if you aren’t feeling me on anything i’ve said after this comment and all the other things i’ve said today, then we just will never agree on this subject. but i can’t tell you how to feel. i thank you for sharing your opinions and giving me the opportunity to sound off :)

                  and now, off to get wasted with some redneck white people lol. see how versatile i am? maybe i should bring this topic up with them and see what happens ;)

              • Curious Capital

                @SmartFoxGirl do you think the age of the child makes a difference? I’d agree that this probably isn’t a good idea for 10 year olds. At around 10th grade and up, I’d argue that it is appropriate to leave the word in there. at some point, children need to be exposed to topics that make them uncomfortable and if a teacher can create a safe space in the classroom, it seems like a good forum to me.

                • http://twitter.com/SmartFoxGirl SmartFoxGirl

                  You’re right. I’m a mother and I’m thinking about my 6 year old. It’s difference if we’re thinking of ourselves. Obviously as adults, we can handle the N word. My concern is the children/teens/adolescents who lack the maturity to handle just a strong hate word for “educational” purposes. I can see a bunch of white kids snickering and a bunch of black kids getting mad. Highschool isn’t exactly the most mature setting.

                • Mo-VSS

                  That’s what I’m talking about. I understood that Mark Twain was not being read to elementary or even middle school children. That book is introduced in high school…where kids hear worse and definitely don’t have much of a framework to discuss it….especially in the context of the educational system. Why not have young adults prepared for some of what the outside world has to offer (in all its good, bad an ugly)?

                  I’m not suggesting that we induct our kids into racism for racism’s sake. I’m talking about structured dialogue and analysis of a book for class. Isn’t that what is SUPPOSED to happen in schools anyway?

                • Kema

                  As a mother of 9 and 10 year old boys I think (like another commenter said) that we under estimate what our children know. We try to keep stuff from them while they are keeping the same stuff away from us. Maybe we are the ones that cant handle our children dealing with such issues.

              • V Renee

                It’s my obligation and my child will learn without having to read anything with HATE words in it. .

                So if there was a book about MLK and it mentioned him being called a n*gger, she still couldn’t read it?

                Like CuriousCapital, does age play a part? I, too, can understand not wanting a middle schooler to read it, but in high school too?

                Although I’m pretty sure in middle school, I was sneaking and reading the s3x passages in my mama’s books. And sneaking to look in my daddy’s adult magazines. LOL

                • http://twitter.com/SmartFoxGirl SmartFoxGirl

                  I think a book on MLK and reading once as opposed to 30 times is a bit diff for me but I do see your point, V. Age does play a part too.

    • B. Nicole

      Are you serious right now? Nigger is not a vulgar term. It’s a word filled with disappointment and negative connotations. It was (is) used to demean us. It’s not a nice word by any means. But please don’t call it vulgar.

      I can agree with you on one point. It should not be taught in middle school. Few of those children are mature enough to deal with some of the issues in the book. Also, stop being so sensitive. The book has little to do with what black people went through. Jim is a nigger in the book simply because that was the accepted terminology of that period.

      • IsOurChildrenLearning?

        “Also, stop being so sensitive.”

        I’m not sensitive at ALL. I just honestly think that the message of the book can be taught without the N word. That’s it. It’s actually quite simple. We can save the diatribe.

        • DQ

          * I just honestly think that the message of the book can be taught without the N word*

          And you are not alone in that assessment.

          • http://twitter.com/SmartFoxGirl SmartFoxGirl

            Cosign +3

        • B. Nicole

          I’m glad you think so. But, what message would that be?

  • http://Fatgrlatheart.com Fatgrlatheart

    Not sure that I agree that white people think racism and slavery never existed.

    Agree that publishers’ logic was probably genuine but misguided.

    I read alot of coming of age stories set in the south in junior high … And the word nigger was in each one. It’s a part of the reality and it needed to be included in those stories for me to start to picture as young girl what living in those times was like.

    • http://verysmartbrothas.com Panama Jackson

      Not sure that I agree that white people think racism and slavery never existed.

      what i said was that they like to pretend they never existed. while its an extreme statement, the point is one of “get over it, or why can’t we just move past that one small dark part of history”. white people in general do not like to talk about slavery, for the most part or are quick to point out that they were never slave holders. many white people tend to view our current history as one where racism isn’t nearly as pervasive or existent as it once was. and i dont think that you can truly move forward, racially, when you have a group of individuals who would rather trivialize its existence than acknowledge that not only did the institution exist, but its effects are still present today. that’s my point with that.

      • http://fatgrlatheart.com fatgrlatheart

        ah gotcha.

        you’re right … a lot of them are uncomfortable discussing it or prefer not to.

        anybody (whatever race) with the “get over it” attitude is …well, part of the problem.

  • miss t-lee

    Did you catch the white dude saying that the civil rights movement freed the white folks as well? I was side-eying my tv so hard. I wasn’t a fan of the book, we muddled through that ish in 8th grade and still couldn’t tell you what it was about. I think I blocked it out or something. LOL I don’t agree with the fact that they want to change someone’s original work into something else that they want it to be.

    • IsOurChildrenLearning?

      “Did you catch the white dude saying that the civil rights movement freed the white folks as well? ”

      When/where was this?

      • miss t-lee

        It was on the 60 Minutes piece this past Sunday which Panama is referring to in the post. I got the point that he was trying to make, but his execution was all wrong.

    • http://verysmartbrothas.com Panama Jackson

      I did hear him say that. And you know, while I thought it was a soundbyte, I actually think that dude (co-owner of the NewSouth books) was extremely genuine and really thought he was doing the right thing. It’s just misguided. He grew up in Montgomery during all of that clearly had a change of heart at what he was taught and grew up with. In some ways, I felt like he just felt like he was trying to do something good. Can’t be mad.

      • miss t-lee

        I agree with him being a bit misguided. It seems like maybe some type of antonement for his past or something…IDK.

    • http://twitter.com/SmartFoxGirl SmartFoxGirl

      I can picture your side eye from your previous twitter avi. Epic. lol

      • miss t-lee

        It was that exact look too!!!! :)

  • stlunatic

    The kids. . need. . .to KNOW.

    There, there Cicely Tyson. Give me my computer back and stop ringing that damn big ass bell. I swear fo God, if you weren’t Jesus’ bff . . .

    • stlunatic

      but seriously, that’s where I stand. It’s what fatgirlatheart said. The intent of Twain was to create an image of the situation at the time. He used beautiful imagery in all his writing, and the use of nicca was just part of the masterpiece. Kids need to understand the word nicca, to not just passively hear it on BET, but to read the original meaning and intent behind the word.

    • Naomi

      Now you leave Cicely outta this ‘fore she go in on you like she did on all them folks in the woods or wherever they were at in Madea’s Family Reunion….or was that Maya Angelou?

      off topic, but that scene was a hot mess

      • stlunatic

        I think it was both. They tagged-teamed them h0es.

    • IsOurChildrenLearning?

      Cicely Tyson is the oldest human on earth yet I’d never even heard of this woman until 2007. Is she having some sort of end of life career resurgence or have I just been missing her old a$$?

      • WeGottaDoBetter

        She’s our Betty White. Cicely Tyson used to ride with Betty White through the Garden of Eden like Sofia did Miss Millie.

        • IsOurChildrenLearning?

          I was thinking that she was like a black Betty white…just less entertaining. I don’t know who Sofia or Miss Millie are but I will assume that they also lived to be 1000 years old. I guess I just don’t check for old ladies.

          • Yoles

            Sophia & Ms. Millie= The Color Purple

            • IsOurChildrenLearning?

              Ah, yes.

              • WeGottaDoBetter

                I guess ourchildrenarelearning.

                • IsOurChildrenLearning?

                  Yay!!

        • http://GenevaGirl.net Geneva Girl

          “Our Betty White” You’re too funny!

        • http://www.pinchmycheekie.wordpress.com Cheekie

          “She’s our Betty White” dayum near kilt me. lol

        • MsMelissa!

          She?s our Betty White. Cicely Tyson used to ride with Betty White through the Garden of Eden like Sofia did Miss Millie.

          ROFL …… that made my afternoon!

      • Book2

        @ IOCL Fa real?????? o-O

        • IsOurChildrenLearning?

          I saw that movie years ago. I don’t know/remember most of the names of the characters.

  • Myseducation

    I’m going with the teachable-moment-has-been-lost perspective. I think it goes for ‘both’ (knowing there are more than two, but for simplicity’s sake) races. White folk need to be able to confront the reality of a playing field that has never quite been even and black folk need to recognize the significance of the opportunities we have the luxury to take for granted.

    • Honey

      church! *puts money in the collection plate*

  • http://lifeofalibra.wordpress.com L Boogie

    Like you said in your post, I think that taking the word out of it deprives the work of its true intended form. It was a sign of the times back then, and it does serve as a teaching point for young people. Shoot, by the time a lot of kids now hit 13, n****r probably isn’t the worst word in their vocabulary — it’s still important that they understand the context of the word used in those times, and why it has the ramifications and effect that it does today. As you said, it starts the conversation…one we’ve had for a very long time, and one that won’t go away for generations to come…

    • Myseducation

      Co-sign

      Maybe it won’t spark a revolution in racial awareness that spans eons, but the conversation must needs start

    • Yoles

      exactly!!! nigger used to be the common vernacular, black people were casually treated as livestock. we, as readers, are supposed to be shocked and horrified when we read “Huckleberry Finn.” Twain chose his language carefully, using it on purpose to showcase the ignorance of his society at that time. The heart of “Huckleberry Finn” is Huck’s realization that Jim is a human being, equal to Huck, despite what Huck’s society might believe. Huck’s decision to do the right thing and help Jim escape, in spite of the possible consequences, is the whole point of the book.

    • http://thatdamnafrican.wordpress.com/ That Damn African

      “it’s still important that they understand the context of the word used in those times, and why it has the ramifications and effect that it does today”

      Right. Some parents and teachers are quick to coddle these kids from the words that they see and hear everyday from TV, music, the internet, and other students. If they won’t teach them, someone/something else will.

      • Mo-VSS

        TDA…EXACTLY! Why we want to coddle our kids from the harsh realities of the real world at all costs is beyond me. I guess I was raised differently because my parents did a lot to make sure I knew exactly what was out there and gave me a frame of reference for it. Not saying that parents should just wild out on introducing their kids to all sorts of world debatchery, just saying that when structured, teachable moments happen, we should shy away from them.

        It’s the same argument of sex ed in schools. Parent usually say “I want to handle it” but then they don’t…and wonder why their kid is clueless about the entire process of sex and its consequences.

        • Mo-VSS

          *shouldn’t shy away from them

  • http://ThinkPrettySmart.typepad.com Ms. Smart

    Removing it allows people to avoid the uncomfortableness that STILL come along with anyone in mixed company when its read. I wonder if white people exclude it when they sing rap songs. Do they skip over the word in mixed company? Buy the radio edits of songs. *thinks back to hanging with white friends* I don’t remember them playing rap but I know they like it.

    • LSQ

      no, them bastards sing it, then look at ya, then an uncomfortable conversation between a supervisor and subordinate ensues.

      • Honey

        yeah, they definitely sing/rap it when we’re not around and sometimes it slips when we are around.

    • WIP

      They sing it. They have to! Ain’t nobody trying to buy some radio edits, LOL. I’ve wondered about that too though; when you’re hanging out with black folks are you still gonna sing n*gga?- probably so. I’m not sure that’s a bad thing though.

      • Mimi

        As a form of entertainment for my black azz, when I was in ‘mixed company’, I used to put on rap CDs, and watch the white people recite the lyrics.
        So imagine being a 2520, in a social circle filled with black people while listening to rap music and having a black woman glare at you, while you’re reciting the lyrics to “Pass The Courvosier”.

        • WIP

          If I was white, I’d say that sh*t LOL

    • http://twitter.com/SmartFoxGirl SmartFoxGirl

      The N word will always make people feel uncomfortable and rightfully so. We shouldn’t be using it at all. I wish they would say it in my presence. lol

  • Anechoic

    When I was in high school (Catholic school, overwhelmingly white), there was a huge controversy because the teacher in my honors English class wanted the class to read Huck Finn and one of the students (backed by his parents) did not want the book taught in the class. I remember the teacher storming into class and writing “CENSORSHIP” on the black board and explaining her views.

    I supported her. Mark Twain was regarded as a classic American author, Huck Finn was regarded as a classic American novel, it was only a bunch of words on paper, and we were old enough and mature enough to handle whatever the book could throw at us. Let us read the book.

    Eventually the teacher and the student were able to come to an accommodation (I don’t remember the specifics, and we began to read the book.

    A couple of chapters in, I regretted wanting to read the book. Again, people talk about Huck Finn as a classic. The only thing I remember about it is nigger Jim. I don’t remember the plot,, the themes, the local color, anything else but having to read a book about niggers so I could get a good grade. Remember the Malcolm X quote about “what do you call a black man with a PhD?” That’s pretty much what I kept thinking as a read the book.

    Huck Finn was the last Twain book I’ve ever read, and I have no desire to ever read anything else he wrote. (yes, I know he was a abolitionist, doesn’t change anything). If reading the full, uncensored version of the book was supposed to make be appreciate him as an author, it failed. As for reminding me about the history of the word and the treatment of blacks, well frankly there are plenty of cops and other folks around today who do that just as well as Twain could.

    If I had the choice to read a “sanitized” version of Huck Finn (knowing that it was sanitized of course), I likely would have been able to focus on all the good that other folks find in the work, so I am perfectly okay with giving people the choice. More power to you if you can let the word roll of your shoulders, but it ruined (what is supposed to be) a perfectly good book for me.

    YMMV. I suspect I am in the minority

    • http://iamyourpeople.com/ I Am Your People

      Funny you said you went to Catholic school. Twain fought censorship of all his books while he was alive. He was amused that a teacher with a Bible on her desk wanted to censor him, given all the rape, incest and murder in the Bible.

      Somewhere, Twain is laughing his a$$ off that this is still an issue

      • V Renee

        “He was amused that a teacher with a Bible on her desk wanted to censor him, given all the rape, incest and murder in the Bible”

        Ha! Tooooo funny.

    • Tes

      I think that’s just what you get out of it that stays with you, not the word itself. I remember Jim too, but I remember mostly his kindness and his thoughtfulness and depth and the fact people refused to see that for the color of his skin. It’s all about perception with Twain, I learned.

      You aren’t in the minority though; I think a lot of people feel that way. I just don’t know too many people who do. Rephrase: I don’t know too many people who’ve read the book at all.

    • Caballeroso

      “More power to you if you can let the word roll of your shoulders, but it ruined (what is supposed to be) a perfectly good book for me.”

      While I disagree with your ultimate argument that a sanitized version should be available, I appreciate that you appear to understand that just because a book is not appealing to one, does not mean that it won’t be appealing to others. I support leaving it in the original context. If people don’t like it, they don’t have to reread it or other works by said author just as you have opted to do, but don’t bastardize the author’s work.

      • DQ

        I support leaving it EXACTLY like it is so long as it is not mandatory reading in class.

        You’re not alone Anechoic – a good book was ruined by his vernacular. His point was initially lost because of the language he used. But I guess for the people whom it cost nothing to retain the original, it’s worth it. They get to decide that for themselves and us as well apparently.

  • DQ

    Gimme a second Panama. I’m typing a response. I’m about to go in.

    • Myseducation

      Wait for it…

    • DQ

      I read this book as a 9th grader, and the only thing I remember about it was the red hot anger and humiliation I felt every day having to listen to it being read out-loud. Why? Because some ivory tower academician thought my humiliation was worth it. I didn’t learn $h!t but to hate the book and the author, and to look sideways at everyone who insisted that regardless of the impact to me, the artistic integrity of a dead author was more important. I wonder if that was Clemens intent?

      It is nonsense to argue that we cannot understand slavery without repeatedly invoking the word n!gger and/or humiliating black children. There is plenty we aren’t shown or exposed to in an academic environment that pertains to slavery as 7th, 8th, and 9th graders which people readily accept as appropriate censorship. I never once in school read a novel or was shown in pictues about how African women were raped repeatedly and savagely by their slave masters. That’s historical record too right? Funny how no one seems to want to memorialize that in literature. No stout defense of the ghoulish behavior of White so-called Christian slave masters as a portrayal of the times? No one worried that we won’t fully understand slavery until we explore the depths of the depravity of the slave master eh? LOL. Ok.

      BTW We can extend my earlier analogy as far as you want, example: we learned about WWII long before I saw the dead fly ridden emaciated bodies of Jewish victims of the holocaust piled onto one another. Please explain to me how showing some sensitivity to Jewish children in not showing these images would be the equivalent of wanting to white wash history, normalize Nazi barbarism, or missing a teachable moment? IMO, only a culturally tone deaf academic or a lazy intellectual would say such a thing.

      Literature is subject to change, edit, modification all the time. Who decided that Huck Finn was the sacred cow that could not be altered? For goodness sake the BIBLE has been updated to contemporary language. What is so sacred about Huck Finn that it should be exempt?

      Further I thought I read someone say, “Nigger is what made slavery possible?” I would definitely like to understand what they mean by this since the word n!gger (1574) definitely doesn’t precede the Atlantic Slave Trade (1502). Seems like the Slave Trade is what made the slur possible (not the other way around). Afterall it wasn’t considered a slur at first right? But hey a Professor said it, so he must be right.

      What is blowing my mind completely is the fact that anyone is even suggesting that this word is the teachable moment out of the novel. People keep mentioning these opportunities to engage race discussions. Let me tell you what my experience was on that. The discussion about race related to Huck Finn was limited to justifying it’s language. “It was the vernacular of the time”, they said. We didn’t even spend 5 minutes on it. That was the end of the discussion. No open flood gate to dialogue and cultural understanding. No teachable moment that the academic theorized in his model. Nothing. Just n!gger this and n!gger that and the repeated assurance that Clemens was one of the greatest authors of all times.

      Yeah I know the book is not about the word “n!gger”. That it has become the focus DEMONSTRATES that the author’s original intent is lost over an issue he wasn’t addressing (which begs the question then why RETAIN it?). I understand history is history. But we are talking about a novel, not a recount of the assault on Ft. Sumter. It is not whitewashing to modify a work of fiction. I mean come on y’all – I don’t expect anyone to change their position to agree with me after reading this, but at least argue with some validity. #tellemwhyyoumadson

      • http://kineticculture.com NubianEmpress

        Great response.

      • IsOurChildrenLearning?

        This entire response is perfect. This presumed teachable moment is not built into the novel, required for it’s presentation, or even necessarily appropriate for the course that the novel is assigned in. However, this moment alone is worth embarrassing our kids? This expectation of emotional flagellation is crazy to me. So I literally have to be called a N!gger in order to be taught a lesson? I don’t think so.

        Your last paragraph really answers the question at hand, which I think people are straying away from. Slippery slope, “If a man can marry another man he can marry a toaster”, arguments can be distracting in any discussion.

        • http://www.hotbiscuitsandgravy.com Bengemin Grehe

          I would use the word regularly back in middle school. But I was also one of those kids who didn’t like that white kids would use it as slang. That being said, I never felt humiliated when having to read it in school.

          It’s interesting that the black community is kind of split on this, because originally I was wiith P in that it was NewSouth trying to avoid that white guilt. But maybe they really are looking out for black children. I highly doubt that, tho.

          I would say remove it as required reading, but don’t edit it.

          • SpottieOttieDarlin

            I would say remove it as required reading, but don’t edit it.

            I agree with you on this BG. I felt extremely uncomfortable when we had to read this in school. Then in college we read “N*gger Heaven” in a class with 20 white people and 5 blacks. THAT was uncomfortable. I didn’t event want to go to the library and check it out. Two years later we read a poem that used the word 27 times. There were two of “us” in the class, and on the day we discussed it, the other black person was abscent. I wanted to VANISH. The white people used the word so freely…as if our discussion was a pass they’d been waiting for. I felt like, damn…don’t they see me sitting here?!? If I felt like that in college I can imagine outnumbered black students feeling 10x worse in high school; especially in the deep south.

            But…we can’t keep our kids on the teet either. We can’t shield them from the word. That does them a disservice.

            • SpottieOttieDarlin

              *absent

              ..note to self: spell check yo sht.

      • http://www.hotbiscuitsandgravy.com Bengemin Grehe

        I’m curious, tho. How do you feel about the word nïgger? Is it part of your daily, weekly, monthly vernacular? How do you feel about it’s use in hip hop music? How do you feel about black people “taking ownership” of it?

        • DQ

          I loathe it. When I first started doing my little hip hop, I dropped the word regularly. Then one day I was up watching a documentary on the early Civil Rights Movement (in particular the lynching of Lemuel Penn) and I felt convicted. I never used it in a song again. That was 1995. I hate that it’s in our songs (even though Midnight Marauders is one of my favorite albums and home to the song “Sucka N!ggas”) because the word has impact. And by folding it into art, people believe they have license to use it freely – but the difference (in my mind) is that we have paid and continue to pay for that license – others have not, and will not ever.

          I have been actively self-censoring ever since. In the interest of honesty I should acknowledge that I have been far more successful in excising the word from my music than just my every day banter with friends, but I try. And it bears notice that we don’t use that word here. Why not? Why use Ninja?

          • http://www.hotbiscuitsandgravy.com Bengemin Grehe

            Well, it seems like you’re almost there. Personally it’s not a word I use at all (except in “intelligent” conversations when discussing the word…like this one), and I don’t understand how we can be upset at how others use it when we use it so freely. I don’t care about “taking ownership” or “reclaiming” it or whatever. At the end of the day, we’re rationalizing the use of a derogatory term. Which is cool for some, I suppose.

            • DQ

              ” I don’t understand how we can be upset at how others use it when we use it so freely.”

              Intent sometimes makes all the difference.

              There is no white person who could use the word n!gga as a term of endearment towards me. That alone would justify (IMO) being upset.

              What I say amongst friends does not grant others license to use as well. There are some things that are only afforded to you to via membership. This is hardly a concept pioneered by or exclusive to post Civil Rights African Americans.

              • http://www.hotbiscuitsandgravy.com Bengemin Grehe

                I agree…partly. Just as is there no white person who could use the word n!gga as a term of endearment towards me, there is no black person who could use the word n!gga as a term of endearment towards me.

                None. Why not?

                Because when I hear the word nïgger/nïgga, I don’t hear the high school graduate, college gradaute, career/life oriented, law abiding, respectful individual that I am.

                No.

                I hear porch monkey, lazy, stupid, inept and souless. There is not a black person on Earth that can make me hear anything different.

                Again, we’re rationalizing the use of the word that has denegrated us for centuries, and still continues to do so. If it didn’t, then why be upset if a white person called you nïgger?

                And fµck how other cultures use their own derogatory terms. Seriously. I don’t care if this not a concept pioneered by or exclusive to post Civil Rights African Americans. Black folks don’t go around calling each racial slurs for Jews, whites, Asians, Middle Easterners, Indians or North Africans. We are unique, and our issues are unique to us. The fact that women call each other bïtches is not an excuse for me to call my brother a nïgger.

                But, thas jus how I see it.

                • http://www.hotbiscuitsandgravy.com Bengemin Grehe

                  Hmm, forgive me if the tone is a little….”passionate”. Good discussion is all.

                • DQ

                  I’m not rationalizing anything, I’m explaing the difference of the impact when spoken by different groups. The fact of the matter is, for most of us, there are things that are friends can say to us or about us, that others who are not our friends (or within a certain circle of trust) cannot. Making a special case for the word n!gger doesn’t change the general principle at play here. This is precisely why the idea is not exclusive to post Civil Rights Black people.

                  Italians are free to call each other d@go, w0p, or gu!ne@ all they like (and many do in jest). You have not earned the right to do likewise, you are not a part of that peer group and you have not suffered their stereotyping and stigma. There is absolutely NOTHING wrong with them taking exception to YOU saying it as opposed to someone within their peer group. You don’t have to agree but that’s what I’m saying.

                • http://www.hotbiscuitsandgravy.com Bengemin Grehe

                  I hear what you’re saying, but I don’t entirely agree. Fair enough, tho.

      • http://www.pinchmycheekie.wordpress.com Cheekie

        “There is plenty we aren’t shown or exposed to in an academic environment that pertains to slavery as 7th, 8th, and 9th graders which people readily accept as appropriate censorship. I never once in school read a novel or was shown in pictues about how African women were raped repeatedly and savagely by their slave masters. That’s historical record too right? Funny how no one seems to want to memorialize that in literature.”

        Except my parents DID want me to know that part of it, too. Especially my older sister. The dumbed-down, prettied-up “historical” record of slavery is not to protect the children, IMO, it’s to protect the guilty.

        “The discussion about race related to Huck Finn was limited to justifying it’s language. “It was the vernacular of the time”, they said. We didn’t even spend 5 minutes on it. That was the end of the discussion. No open flood gate to dialogue and cultural understanding. No teachable moment that the academic theorized in his model. Nothing. Just n!gger this and n!gger that and the repeated assurance that Clemens was one of the greatest authors of all times.”

        But, this shouldn’t raise a discussion on whether the word should be included or not. This should raise a discussion on whether the teacher should expound on it or not. Which, I think is good. This is the fault of the teacher brushing over it, not the book for including it. The book was real. Anything else is damn-near fantasy.

        As for your WWII example, everyone has their experiences because I distinctly remember seeing the piles and piles of bodies when I learned about it. I can’t forget anything like that. I mean, kids are showed images of N-words hung from a tree, too. This ain’t new…

        • DQ

          The book wasn’t about the word though Cheekie. The teachable moment that people are suggesting as a reason to leave the verbiage intact, WASN’T even Clemens point. The word n!gger isn’t what Clemens finds offensive, it’s the dehumanization that he considers offensive – that’s what his novel sets out illustrate.

          The idea that we can’t have a teachable moment about race without Huck Finn (a novel that doesn’t even apply a moral treatment to the use of the word) is mind boggling to me.

          If you all really want to have a teachable moment, let’s talk about Ice Cube’s “Death Certificate” or “AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted” in class room. And let’s read it out loud without censorship. Let’s let the language of Ice Cube’s songs bang their kids upside the head, and say that their humiliation and discomfort is justified and necessary in order to have “a teachable moment”.

          We’ll see who is still for artistic integrity and white washing then.

          • http://www.pinchmycheekie.wordpress.com Cheekie

            “The word n!gger isn’t what Clemens finds offensive, it’s the dehumanization that he considers offensive – that’s what his novel sets out illustrate. ”

            And slave isn’t JUST as dehumanizing? I don’t see what changing the word accomplishes other than satisfying the dayum FCC, lol.

            “The idea that we can’t have a teachable moment about race without Huck Finn (a novel that doesn’t even apply a moral treatment to the use of the word) is mind boggling to me.”

            Oh, we can. The question is, why CAN’T we? I mean we can name every book in literature and ask “Well, why can’t this be taught instead, or this be taught instead of that?”… That’s what variety is for. Every single book in literature doesn’t have to be taught in classrooms, nor is that possible. The point is, this IS a common book being taught in classrooms, which is why this particular one is being discussed.

            • http://www.pinchmycheekie.wordpress.com Cheekie

              Just to clarify, I mean “we can have a teachable moment without using that book” but my question is, why can’t we use it as a possible teachable moment.

              • DQ

                Because the author’s intent and message is lost because of his use of vernacular that he couldn’t have anticipated would become the inflammatory that it is today. His use of the word is detracting from his message to the point where some of you all are suggesting that it WAS the message.

                • http://www.pinchmycheekie.wordpress.com Cheekie

                  I’m not sure I’m trying to say that it WAS the message so much that it was part of the message. I mean, the word was used back then in that context… it’s used that way in that context today (just not as outwardly). Why is it so hard to accept that?

                  Sure, it’s an imflammatory word… but the fact that it’s inflammatory doesn’t change the fact that the word was accurately used.

                • Honey

                  no one is saying take the book and turn it into a whole unit about the N word. but as cheekie said, you can’t just brush over the race issues in the story. you have to stop and talk about it, at least for maybe one class period. and that’s all it really would take.

                  i’m not a teacher, i taught for like a year, but i have had some education training. enough to know that “teachable moments” can happen at any time in the day. they can be a result of ANY stimulus. as a teacher, you have to be flexible and aware enough to know when an incident is worthy of stopping what you’re doing and teaching kids something about life. and the use of the N word in books like Huck Finn is a damn good stimulus…you almost couldn’t ask for a better one.

                • DQ

                  @Cheekie

                  *I’m not sure I’m trying to say that it WAS the message so much that it was part of the message.*

                  Acknowledged. You didn’t…which is why I was careful to say “some of you are”.

                  *I mean, the word was used back then in that context… it’s used that way in that context today (just not as outwardly). Why is it so hard to accept that?*

                  Because the academic argument for retaining the word is that it WASN’T offensive during Clemens time. To be sure I’m not making this argument, this is what academics have been saying; n!gger was merely a descriptor. It thus can not, have been used in the same context back then, as it is now. Their defense of Clemens is that it WASN’T an inflammatory word when he was using it.

                • DQ

                  @Honey

                  *no one is saying take the book and turn it into a whole unit about the N word. but as cheekie said, you can’t just brush over the race issues in the story.*

                  Here is what the problem is, the race issue isn’t brushed over. It is addressed directly by the author, by how the people are treated in the novel, not by what they are called in common language.

                  Goodness, 100 years from now are black people going to argue that Dr. King used the word negro in his “I Have A Dream Speech” in order to spark conversation and racial dialogue? And that he used the offensive word to demonstrate the degradation of black people at the time, or was that simply what black people were called during his times?

                • http://www.pinchmycheekie.wordpress.com Cheekie

                  “To be sure I’m not making this argument, this is what academics have been saying; n!gger was merely a descriptor. It thus can not, have been used in the same context back then, as it is now. Their defense of Clemens is that it WASN’T an inflammatory word when he was using it.”

                  Well of course it wasn’t used to be inflammatory back then because it was so commonplace to call us that. It was like second nature. Sure the context of the word has changed, but so has the meaning of a bunch of words. We can’t go around changing words in historical (yes, even historical fiction) texts to appease how we use language today. Like, what if we went around permananently changing the words of Shakespeare just because we don’t talk like that no mo’. lol

                • DQ

                  @Cheekie

                  If it is not mandatory reading, I am fine with not changing the verbiage. As long as it HAS to be read in a class room environment, I say modify it, so the language that he never intended to be inflammatory, doesn’t overshadow the valid point that he WAS making.

          • http://tdlove.wordpress.com Tonya

            The word n!gger isn’t what Clemens finds offensive, it’s the dehumanization that he considers offensive – that’s what his novel sets out illustrate.

            This is where we disagree. I think the N word goes hand in hand with the dehumanization of Blacks. The act of slavery alone wasn’t enough- it was how we were addressed, and how we were taught to address ourselves. We were CONDITIONED, and that requires so much in order to be accomplished- physically, emotionally, psychologically. The N- word was a part of that whole process.

            • DQ

              If the word meant now, what it meant then, I’d agree with you. But it doesn’t.

              • http://tdlove.wordpress.com Tonya

                See my comment below. :)

      • LSQ

        well, middle school is that time of education where things are supposed to get “uncomfortable”. Life is a messy dirty thing, when we are children, I guess we don’t want to know or hear the reality of life, its shocking.
        Firstly thought n!gger is just a word. Its the meaning that matters only. Where/when I grew up, if a certain ethnic group said it, it could mean something 180 degrees that if another said it (that demonstrates the contextual nature of the word).
        Much like the rebel flag, and seeing it, causes my parents to feel fearful (no, not offended – fearful), the word “n!gger” said from a caucasion classmate, in my youth, meant they were ready to fight.

        I was talking to a young lady last year and I said something to the effect “this work is a bitch to do” – and she was offended by the “b-word”. At some point, we have to grow up and analyze / face WHY we are offended by a word – and deal with it from a rational perspective.

        perhaps that was a subtextual goal of the author’s use of the word, it certainly made an impact with you nonetheless. Isn’t that the point of literature?

        • DQ

          Naw, they can’t have it both ways. They can’t argue that the language should be retained because it was just the language of the time, and then later on say that language was meant to invoke discussion. It made an impact but for NONE of the reasons the Author intended. That’s the problem.

      • WIP

        The Bible was updated so people could read it. The miscellaneous edits by various churches probably weren’t up for debate at the time they were made. It’s censorship plain and simple. If the book is offensive, the solution is not to bring the book in the school- not to change the book to suit the audience. Your class probably could have watched Schindler’s List and got some of the grit, but I’m sure someone simply felt it was inappropriate. (I’m not sure if I made my point there, because I’m sure there’s some ‘director’s cut of Schindler’s List somewhere) but the school system isn’t forced to use this book. Just choose another book. I do agree with you that n*gger isn’t needed for some schoolroom race discussion.

      • Honey

        “Nigger is what made slavery possible”

        this statement means that the perception and denigration of black people is what makes slavery possible. the word in its original form is about the fact that many white people- hell, black people too- saw african americans as second class citizens and less than human. that mentality doesn’t change whether a person is a slave or not…if you’re black, you’re a n*gger and worthy of no more than scraps from the white man (if you’re lucky and he’s in a good mood).

        so now do you see how this changes things? that one word- nigger- describes the mentality. if you replace it with the word “slave” then everything becomes much more benign because you are simply describing a person’s position. and don’t think kids can’t pick up on the difference between the two, because they can. even if it’s not explained to them in depth. i think it is definitely important for kids (well, adolescents) to be hit hard with that word. like you, DQ, i felt humiliated during discussions of race as one of a few black kids in a whole school of white people…but that feeling of humiliation is powerful motivation.

        and forget about us, i think it’s powerful for the WHITE kids to feel that shame and humiliation as well. i see nothing wrong with making kids think about things that really matter like this. and i strongly disagree with changing the word.

        • DQ

          Respectfully, you are putting the cart before the horse. I do not diagree that the word now has degrading meaning, it is historically inaccurate to suggest that it always did. That is one of the principal arguments for retaining the original language, n!gger was the parlance of the time. Clemens didn’t intend for his vernacular to be the focal point of the novel, and it’s not, because the word was not meant as degradation when he used it. Yet we are suggesting we should examine a message that Clemens isn’t even considering?

          You all are retroactively assigning teachable moments that was never the author’s intent. It would be like suggesting Hemingway’s “The Old Man & The Sea” is a necessary teachable moment about animal cruelty – even though as a novel, no treatment is ever made concerning animal treatment (pro or con). And it is equivalently false to suggest without the novel, we can have no discussion about animal treatment.

          • Honey

            that’s the thing about literature, you can take many things away from it and learn things that even the author didn’t intend for you to learn. works that are considered great or classic are usually filled with stuff scholars notice that the author probably never even thought about. sometimes writers write things that aren’t really significant during the time they wrote it, but they become significant to readers as history unfolds. and that’s okay. so whether the author intended for the word to be an issue is beside the point.

            and as far as the N word not always having a degrading meaning, i’m gonna need your source lol. i’ve never heard that before. what did it originally mean, then? this is a genuine questions, i’m ready to learn something :)

            regardless of all this, though, it’s widely known (or believed, if what you say is true) that the word originated out of hatred and fear of black people. so for the kids who read this book in school, it still provides the teachable moment.

            • DQ

              Honey, respectfully you are a bit off the mark here. Classics don’t become classics based on what scholarly analysis failed to realize in it’s first peer review. It is probably more aptly described as the EXACT opposite of what you are suggesting. They are classic because the message remains true regardless of time, antagonist, or protagonist, and scholar/philosophers realize it.

              Here’s more on the etymology of the word n!gger
              http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/style/longterm/books/chap1/nigger.htm

              It didn’t originate out of hatred, it was merely a descriptor when first used. So I fail to see how it provides a teachable moment, when the usage of the word then by the author did not carry the same meaning as it does now.

              • Honey

                “Classics don’t become classics based on what scholarly analysis failed to realize in it’s first peer review.”

                that’s not what i meant.

                “They are classic because the message remains true regardless of time, antagonist, or protagonist, and scholar/philosophers realize it.”

                this actually IS what i meant. as far as i and most other people know, the N word meant things back then that are just as relevant now. maybe twain meant it as just a descriptor, but that descriptor was and is a racial slur that still holds weight today.

                i did look at the article you cited, and from what i saw, it was not “merely a descriptor.” it was an insult, describing something deplorable. just because it may have been used to insult other things before or in addition to black people doesn’t make it any less of a racial slur. let me know if i missed something, but i am not convinced. the article didn’t really get into any other uses of the word, did it? i had to read it kind of fast because i’m at work, so forgive me if i’m sounding basic because i overlooked something…but it’ll take more than someone just mentioning it wasn’t originally intended as a slur for me to concede.

                • Honey

                  i’m in moderation, but my word choice toward the end of the comment might look a little combative, so i need to point out that i’m not trying to make this a debate or a competition or anything. you are entitled to your opinion. i just disagree with it.

                • http://tdlove.wordpress.com Tonya

                  ughh..moderation.

                • DQ

                  I’m not trying to convince you to concede anything. I am just supporting the position I have taken and rebutting instances of what I regard to be false logic. You can read all my points in succession and understand them and still choose to disagree.

                • http://tdlove.wordpress.com Tonya

                  DQ..

                  Aww man..I hope you aren’t done because I want to discuss this more!

                  Thank you for the background on the story..because as I mentioned I haven’t read the book. It gives me a better understanding of your argument. Yes, from your explanation I can see why you would feel that in the book the word was not meant to be used in a derogatory manner. However, and this is purely from your explanation, I get a different message.

                  That although Huck goes through a metamorphasis and changes his feelings about Jim’s enslavement- his understanding of the dehumanization of Blacks STILL needed work. The N word was SUCH a part of the lexicon, that it was ingrained in white people’s mind that that was how you were supposed to think about Blacks. Huck didn’t understand that even the use of the N word alone was dehumanizing. He felt ‘cleansed’ by not letting Jim’s master know where he was. That’s it? How about treating Jim like a human being and stop referring to him as a Ni**er? The thought never entered in his consciousness..because at the time, to Whites and even to Jim himself (which is really sad), the word was still an acceptable word to use in reference to someone who is black.

                  Slavery might have soon be abolished in Huck’s future (in 1865)..but the idea that blacks were less than, still existed, which then leads us to Jim Crow. There is a lesson to be learned in that. EVEN if that was not Clemens’ intention..it’s something that the reader can put into context in respect to their personal knowledge about history.

                  You say:
                  ” N!gger for Huck, and for Clemens’ usage, is just a word. Neither positive nor negative. There is no message for the reader about the word. The message is about the interaction of the people…Clemens’ novel says as much..”

                  The interaction of the people says that although the beginning of change was happening..but with liberal use of the N word.. they had a long way to go. Clear message to me.

                  IF the teacher who introduces that concept to the students in a thoughtful and thought provoking discussion, I think the use of this book with the word intact can be very useful.

              • http://tdlove.wordpress.com Tonya

                It didn’t originate out of hatred, it was merely a descriptor when first used. So I fail to see how it provides a teachable moment, when the usage of the word then by the author did not carry the same meaning as it does now.

                The article you use to support your argument, does not support your argument.

                It says.. “According to the Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang, it did not originate as a slur but took on a derogatory connotation over time….No one knows precisely when or how niger turned derisively into nigger and attained a pejorative meaning. We do know, however, that by the end of the first third of the nineteenth century, nigger had already become a familiar and influential insult.”

                The first third of the nineteenth century being 1830? Huckleberry Finn was published in the US in 1885.. by then the insult of the word has been understood and was still commonly used.

                …But maybe there are other sources that support your argument. Maybe your article goes into further detail.. I will have to read further.

                Even so, the use of ni**er in the book at that time, demonstrates how the dehumanizing of Blacks began, by taking such a cavalier attitude towards our existence by the continued use of a word used to characterize us. Even if that was not what the author intended, it becomes a valuable lesson to be learned. I agree with Honey wholeheartedly in that just because a peace of work has one intent- doesn’t mean you can learn from it in other ways. That’s what makes works of art, art!

                Maybe the proper way to teach the books is to say: “You know at the time, ni**er was a GOOD word, but it isn’t now. We don’t know if Clemons intended for it to be used in a slighting manner. However, it is insulting now. Let’s explore why that is..and what it means about how they felt about Blacks for Whites to use it so casually”..

                But to remove the word from the book entirely? No. I don’t agree with that at all.

                • http://tdlove.wordpress.com Tonya

                  Yes..it was written in 1885, the book’s setting was maybe between 1835 and 1845. Even by then..the word was accepted as a slur against Blacks.

                  Your article further states:

                  “A Treatise on the Intellectual Character and Civil and Political Condition of the Colored People of the United States: and the Prejudice Exercised Towards Them (1837), Hosea Easton wrote that nigger “is an opprobrious term, employed to impose contempt upon [blacks] as an inferior race. . . . The term in itself would be perfectly harmless were it used only to distinguish one class of society from another; but it is not used with that intent. . . . [I]t flows from the fountain of purpose to injure.”

                  So to replace the word with slave, would dilute the attitude that whites had against blacks, and the process of dehumanization.

                • DQ

                  I have said it many times now, but the argument that Clemens was just using the lexicon of the times is the argument for people who support keeping the original language. You can google on your own and find link after link where people (who agree with you that the language shouldn’t be changed) note that Clemens usage of the word reflects his historical accuracy.

                  I posted the link you are talking about in response someone else’s claim that the word n!gger always had a negative connotation. That is simply not true. That confusion is indicative of the fact that WE are ascribing our current day values and feelings about Clemens use of the word, in a way that he never intended, never treated as a subject, and is distracting to the actual message.

                  Still as you point out, the term was at least thought to be an insult by some by 1830s (it should come as no surprise that a black abolitionist would see it as an insult). Does that mean that his view was universally accepted? Not sure. Maybe, maybe not.

                  But if you would like the definitive stroke on how Clemens meant for the word to be seen, let’s just use his work. Afterall he is making social commentary through Huck. And Huck’s use of the word is not ever meant as the insult or slur (even though Easton already considers it one in 1837) that you all are saying was meant.

                  The pivotal point of the entire novel is when Huck abandons what he was taught about morality. Jim has been sold for $40 and Huck is contemplating writing a letter to Ms. Watson (Jim’s original owner) to tell her where her slave is. He believes doing so is the only way to make things right. And once he writes the letter he feels “cleansed”. But then he thinks of Jim, and times they have spent together and how they have bonded, and he is unable to send the letter. He says the pivotal line of the novel “All right, then, I’ll go to hell” as he tears up the letter.

                  He has just recognized Jim as a human being and as his friend and is abandoning his morality. And do you know what word Huck uses to describe black people after this turning point? N!gger. Even as he is plotting to free Jim from his new captors, Jim is referred to as a n!gger, not just by the other characters, but by Huck himself. Is anyone going to seriously argue that Huck intended this word as an insult? As a slur? That he is insulting the man he is risking EVERYTHING for to try to rescue?

                  N!gger for Huck, and for Clemens’ usage, is just a word. Neither positive nor negative. There is no message for the reader about the word. The message is about the interaction of the people. Who says as much? Clemens novel says as much. Aight I’m done y’all.

                • http://tdlove.wordpress.com Tonya

                  Repost because I posted it in the wrong spot.

                  DQ..

                  Aww man..I hope you aren’t done because I want to discuss this more!

                  Thank you for the background on the story..because as I mentioned I haven’t read the book. It gives me a better understanding of your argument. Yes, from your explanation I can see why you would feel that in the book the word was not meant to be used in a derogatory manner. However, and this is purely from your explanation, I get a different message.

                  That although Huck goes through a metamorphasis and changes his feelings about Jim’s enslavement- his understanding of the dehumanization of Blacks STILL needed work. The N word was SUCH a part of the lexicon, that it was ingrained in white people’s mind that that was how you were supposed to think about Blacks. Huck didn’t understand that even the use of the N word alone was dehumanizing. He felt ‘cleansed’ by not letting Jim’s master know where he was. That’s it? How about treating Jim like a human being and stop referring to him as a Ni**er? The thought never entered in his consciousness..because at the time, to Whites and even to Jim himself (which is really sad), the word was still an acceptable word to use in reference to someone who is black.

                  Slavery might soon be abolished in Huck’s future (in 1865)..but the idea that blacks were less than, still existed, which then, eventually, leads us to Jim Crow. There is a lesson to be learned in that. EVEN if that was not Clemens’ intention..it’s something that the reader can put into context in respect to their personal knowledge about history.

                  You say:
                  ” N!gger for Huck, and for Clemens’ usage, is just a word. Neither positive nor negative. There is no message for the reader about the word. The message is about the interaction of the people…Clemens’ novel says as much..”

                  The interaction of the people says that, although the beginning of change was happening, with liberal use of the N word shows that they had a long way to go. Clear message to me.

                  IF the teacher introduces that concept to the students in a thoughtful and thought provoking discussion, I think the use of this book with the word intact can be very useful.

      • http://verysmartbrothas.com Panama Jackson

        The only thing your response made me think was that, much like has been said, it needs to be removed. Not edited.

        From a literary standpoint, a fictitious novel, language is as pertinent to the story as anything else. The actual conversations that took place help to add to the setting, theme, and perspective. To make an edit like that blurs the true historical nature of it. And seeing as Mark Twain wrote it that way, it was his intention. The only reason the Bible is subject to so many interpretations is because everybody and their grandmother has translated it to fit their own personal needs. But generally, most people revert back to the King James version. Further, that was probably some ploy by Christian missionaries to ensure they could reach as many of the masses as possible. Every single time the Bible gets a revision, somebody adds their own interpretation. That’s the very reason that I attempted to start taking Arabic classes so I could read the Qu’ran in its natural form without the inclusion of varying interpretations for whatever reason.

        So no, you don’t need the word n*gger to teach about slavery, but if you’re going to use a fiction work to do so, then you’re doing a disservice by removing a central piece of the conversation. That’s just a fact. Nobody is saying remove it from Black lit books written where it may be used, but just to remove it in a place where white people might have common access to saying it out loud. And I think that’s more for their benefit than ours. In that sense, you cannot honestly teach about a tumultuous part of human history if you’re trying to make it easier on anybody. Hell, they don’t even really delve into the true machinations of slavery and all of its facets in most schools because they are already staying as far from the truth as possible. The least that can be addressed is a word that still manages to hold so much weight.

        • DQ

          What also boggles me is that, this isn’t the first time Twain/Clemens has been edited. I remember there being a version that almost edited out Tom Sawyer out completely from the novel. Don’t remember an outcry from the purist then.

          I think editorial makes a good point and illustrates how the outcry against censorship is overblown.

          http://blog.tompappalardo.com/?p=1064

          • http://verysmartbrothas.com Panama Jackson

            i had no idea about that outcry. again, i never even read huck finn in school so my vantage point is one of, generally, whats the big deal about.

            ill peep the link though.

      • Caballeroso

        Obviously your experience with the word and the book have affected you. I believe this exemplifies the whole point. I’m not suggesting this is the most comfortable word to hear, especially in mixed company. But, you will always be exposed to this word as it will not be going away dispite our efforts to “bury” it. I believe the sooner you start dealing with it, the better you’ll become at dealing with it. You felt horrible at the repeated use of that word in it’s original context from the book. It’s a horrible word. Sounds like you learned a lot about the context and use of the word so, mission accomplished – despite the discussion.

        “Please explain to me how showing some sensitivity to Jewish children in not showing the dead fly ridden emaciated bodies of Jewish victims of the holocaust piled onto one another would be the equivalent of wanting to white wash history”

        You raise a valid point with this statement. I would not advocate exposing children to these images all willy nilly, but I would not hide them either. The realities of life are harsh. We can’t avoid them. We must confront them, the good the bad, and the ugly. Only then will we fully appreciate the context.

        To know something is one thing but it lacks emotional content. To experience something is to know it on a whole new level whereas it’s less likely to be forgotten and more likely to be internalized, become apart of your being, and affect your decision making process. Being exposed to the word or the images is more akin to the experience of it. For example, I’m fairly certain that it’s difficult to deal with the loss of a loved one – feel like I know this, but I’m sure that once I experience the loss of a loved one, it’ll have much deeper resonance with me and will allow me to actually understand it and will give me an idea of how to better empathize with people who experience such a loss.

        • http://twitter.com/SmartFoxGirl SmartFoxGirl

          If I may Cab,

          “But, you will always be exposed to this word as it will not be going away dispite our efforts to “bury” it.”
          Why? Whites are trying their best to bury it. I don’t have to hear it. It’s us we keep pumping this word out their in rap songs, it’s internet gangstas who spew hate online but….most whites refrain from using this word in an open setting. We SHOULD bury it and we most certainly can. I refuse to accept it coming off the lips of any person whether reading a book, singing a rap song or making a joke. I’m not giving any flag of acceptance. We don’t need it and I think many of us have become to complacent with it’s usage. So we deal with it and then what? It becomes a part of our lives and we all live happily ever after? This is a HATE word that will always have a negative meaning whether we deal with it or not. Truth is, we’ve already dealt with it however it still brings feelings of anger that will never go away. Dealing with racial slurs is not our problem.

          • Caballeroso

            Hey SFG! Long time no chat….

            “Dealing with racial slurs is not our problem.”

            Au contraire, as a matter of fact, it is predominately our problem and no one else’s. Yes, the good white folx are trying their best to bury it right alongside the NAACP, but rest assured that when “mad day” comes, when you cut them off in traffic, when they out number you on their own turf and are comfortable…that word WILL be ressurected. I take no interest in trying to use the kumbaya approach to educating the youth. The “protectionistic” approach that people have begun to use is causing more damage than good. If we teach little Ray Ray that the word is bad and is hurtful to us, but we don’t give him the opportunity to experience it in the negative context of its intent while he is in a “safe” environment, I can only imagine how his world will come tumbling down when he is sent as the company sales rep to a rural Alabama town to market to Cooter and his cohorts. If he is given the opportunity to take up and bear armor before being thrust into the fight (thereby being given the coping mechanism to deal with it), while he may not be unscathed by the venemous spew of hatred, he will not feel the urge to cower and run back home to momma with his tail between his legs looking for his blankie and his safe zone. But, regarding these racial slurs, rest assured that Cooter don’t.give.a.sh*t, because actually, it ain’t HIS problem.

            I hope all is well with ya; stay in touch.

            • http://twitter.com/#!/legitimate_soul legitimate_soul

              Excellent point, Cab!

            • http://twitter.com/SmartFoxGirl SmartFoxGirl

              LOL Hi Cab, all is well and I miss ya. :)

              I hear you but do you really think that anyone reading that novel will be the first time they saw or heard the word N*GGER? I highly doubt it. They don’t need to read the N word in a Mark Twain novel. If they had the priviledge of growing in a white neighborhood like myself, they’ve heard it a few times over. My point is, it’s unnecessary to have it in books. Kids have a hard enough time dealing with all the hate language used today. I don’t want my child sitting in a class listening to someone say it out loud and them having to deal with it. They are there to get an education. We can teach them the truth about slavery and the word “slave”. I don’t water down anything for my daughter. I just recognize what is necessary. I don’t want to unflict un-necessary hurt for the sake of teaching her. That’s like me calling her UGLY rather than teaching her about vanity and how to deal with it. <— that makes no sense to me.

              • Caballeroso

                “do you really think that anyone reading that novel will be the first time they saw or heard the word N*GGER?”

                The context of that word coming from DMX versus the context of that word coming from kids on the playground versus the context of that word in a Mark Twain novel are not the same. Each context and the interrelation should be understood.

                “I don’t want my child sitting in a class listening to someone say it out loud and them having to deal with it.”

                Try as we might, we can’t protect our kids from the harsh realities of life. There will be uncomfortable moments. When your kid comes home crying because of it, teach that kid how to deal with it. It won’t be the last time it’s heard, but right now, you’re there to provide guidance…it’s an education indeed.

                “That’s like me calling her UGLY rather than teaching her about vanity and how to deal with it.”

                I doubt that you could produce an UGLY kid. I ain’t fallin’ fer it, so I don’t see why you would have to call her such. But, if some misguided idiot should find occasion to call her ugly, by all means teach her how to deal with it…better now than later…and that’s really all I’m getting at.

                • http://twitter.com/SmartFoxGirl SmartFoxGirl

                  I understand but my point is I don’t have to let her read a novel with the word “n*gger” in it in order to teach her about racism. We teach our kids hoping that they never have to deal with it….I’m not sheltering her from anything because either way she gains the knowledge from my teaching…I just pray that she doesn’t have to face it. Same thing goes for drugs, s.ex, etc. I teach her about drugs, s.ex, etc in the hopes that she’s not in that environment. I wouldn’t thrust her into it on purpose. It’s hard to understand but it’s my job to protect my child and arm her to deal with this world. I choose the many methods I have available to me in order to do this. If I choose for her not to read a Mark Twain book, I can still teach her.

      • http://twitter.com/SmartFoxGirl SmartFoxGirl

        @DQ
        *standing O*
        “It is nonsense to argue that we cannot understand slavery without repeatedly invoking the word n!gger and/or humiliating black children.”

        EXACTLY! I can’t believe what I’m reading today by Black people. How does using the N word support education of slavery??? The word in itself is a mispronunciation by some idiots that people still use today AND provide their own mispronunciation (i.e. n*gga) for “entertainment purposes”. People please. I thought I was the only one who thought of the Black children and how they would feel. The N word will do nothing but fuel an already brewing fire. It serves no purpose in our vocabulary and we don’t need it to teach or learn. I don’t need to preserve anything by keeping that word in a book. The message is still there and just as effective with “slave”.

        You are always spot on sir.

      • http://tdlove.wordpress.com Tonya

        I respect your experience with the word, but I did not have your experience when reading about slavery and racism, etc in my class.

        I didn’t feel feelings of humiliation or anger negativity for myself, but for the people who had to suffer in the past. I cried for THEM. But what it did for ME, was to give me a better understanding of, and perspective about what I experienced as a black teenager in high school and what I am experiencing as a black woman today.

        When my white peers, who were young and immature and didn’t know what to do with what they had learned, used it against me (called me ni**er or what not), what I had read gave me the strength to deal with it. Regardless of what was thrown at me (and there was some pretty outrageous situations my brother and I had to deal with..and in the early 90’s!) I learned that nothing could compare with what my ancestors had to deal with. That didn’t humiliate me, it gave me a sense of pride and helped me to hold my head up high.

        So as I stated above, I searched and read more than what was taught in my classroom and I learned more. My high school didn’t teach me everything- but boy did they introduce me to literature I had never confronted before and I will always be grateful for that. I would never take that experience away..even if some of it was painful- it has made me to the adult I am today.

        I am sorry that your experience was different. However, I don’t think it is right to take that experience away from others due to censorship.

        Your opinion is valid- because as an intellectual black person, all of our opinions should be taken into account. But when you say things like: “I mean come on y’all – I don’t expect anyone to change their position to agree with me after reading this, but at least argue with some validity. #tellemwhyyoumadson” .. that is when you lose me. I may disagree with you..and say that your opinions might be wrong (IMO), but to say your opinions aren’t valid- that’s not fair.

        • DQ

          To my mind’s eye there is absolutely nothing wrong with requiring everyone to “argue with validity”. I do not apologize for it. I will require it of people I converse with now and in the future without a moment’s hesitation.

          I do not require that people agree with me, I just ask that their positions be of substance. And flawed logic is not substance. Historical ignorance is not substance. Repeating someone else’s argument without validating it for yourself is not substance. Going with the popular sentiment is not substance.

          When I perceive people doing it, I will call it out. I didn’t feel like that verbiage was directed at you, but if you feel like it applied so be it. No love lost. But I will still demand that you argue with validity in the future and expect that you require no less of me (or anyone else) in conversation.

          • http://tdlove.wordpress.com Tonya

            But who are you to judge what is valid and what is not? What of your argument, do you feel you are valid? If so, you are applying a term used in logical arguments towards one that is a subjective opinion.

            You say: “Yeah I know the book is not about the word “n!gger”. That it has become the focus DEMONSTRATES that the author’s original intent is lost over an issue he wasn’t addressing (which begs the question then why RETAIN it?).”

            Yeah..the book may not be an essay on the word N-word, but you don’t know if the author wanted us to focus on it or in the least, think about it.

            Your argument is that: The N word was used in the book because it was an acceptable use of the word in the setting’s time.
            And because of THAT.. Clemens’ did not intend for it to be used in a negative way. Therefore we can replace it with the word slavery or delete it altogether..because the word had nothing to do with the overall message of human interaction. (Correct me if I am wrong, we have been going back and forth over multiple posts so I could be confused).

            But you don’t know WHAT Clemens’ intended with the use of the N-word, so the premise is flawed and the argument not valid. It’s just your opinion. Just because HUCK (the character, or any of the characters in the book) didn’t find the word offensive, doesn’t mean Clemens’ didn’t think so and wanted to use the word to demonstrate the dehumanizing of blacks consciously (through slavery) AND subconsciously (through the liberal use of the N-word).

            I gave you my thoughts above on what the use of the N word in that book says to me. The liberal use of the N word, despite the changes of thought about slavery, shows that that race relations had a long way to go at the time (This is just a summary-please read more above on how I get to this thought). How do you know Clemens’ didn’t want his readers to think about that? I already demonstrated (through your posting) that it was understood at the time that the book was published, the N-word was thought to be an insult. Maybe Clemens’ thought so too and wanted his readers to think about how wrong it is to believe that just because you free slaves everything is hunky dory. Maybe he wanted the readers think about how Blacks were further being dehumanized by the use of the word.

            Maybe he did..maybe he didn’t.. but since we don’t know, to say otherwise is merely OUR opinion..and it is a subjective one.

            So in YOUR minds eye.. who is valid and who isn’t?

            In MY minds eye.. I don’t think it’s fair to apply logic to subjective opinions.