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Arts and Culture

10 Reasons Why the Slurs Should Stay in ‘Huck Finn’

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Posted on Jan 7, 2011
Composite image / Wikimedia Commons

By Marcia Alesan Dawkins

It’s not surprising that the latest edition of Mark Twain’s paired classics, “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn,” will remove all traces of nigger and Injun from its pages when our leaders confuse books with bars, Charles Dickens’ words with Leo Tolstoy’s, and omit slavery from Confederate History Month. Our leaders obviously aren’t reading. So why should we care about an old book like Twain’s? Here are 10 reasons.

1. It’s Mark Twain. You know, the guy who said, “The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.” If he had wanted other words used, he would’ve used them. 

2. Tampering with literature even if it’s not Mark Twain’s. It’s a simple case of censorship and it’s a bad idea. What’s next? Perhaps we will remove references to the Moors from Shakespeare. Wait—Thomas Bowdler is halfway there. He edited Shakespeare’s profanity and sexual content in the interests of younger readers.

3. Erasing racial epithets doesn’t erase race or racism. Actually, not talking about the “hurtful epithets” perpetuates racism because we’re never allowed to make corrections. The desire to be less racist doesn’t give us the right to erase someone’s words. Being less racist would mean that we’d be able to face those words and recognize their repugnance as a sign of how much we’re evolving.

4. It eliminates teachable moments. We’re teaching our children that no one should talk about race, not even dead or fictional people. We’re doing this because we adults don’t know how to talk about race. It’s like saying, “I don’t really know how to explain this … so forget it.” It’s a good thing that people like Isaac Newton, Copernicus or Thomas Edison didn’t give up so easily. 

5. Freedom of choice. If you find this book offensive, don’t buy it or read it. There are plenty of books that none of us have an interest in reading for one reason or another. We don’t rewrite them. We simply choose not to read them. We don’t let others make that choice for us.

6. There were other options. Alan Gribben, the book’s editor, could’ve rewritten the story from a different perspective or context, like Gregory Maguire wrote “Wicked.” He could’ve rewritten “Huckleberry Finn” from Jim’s point of view to explain why these two terms are offensive. Or, he could’ve written a foreword that struggles truthfully with race, racism and the questionable terms in the book.

7. You can’t fight censorship with censorship. Twain’s critics said that they didn’t want their children exposed to hateful speech, so the book was banned in some places. Now Gribben is censoring Twain’s words in order to fight that censorship. His goal of “introducing Twain’s work to new readers” implies that his freedom of speech gives him the right to do so. But Gribben has conveniently plowed over Twain’s freedom of speech in the process. After all, Twain isn’t here to comment.

8. We’re not talking about the words that will replace nigger and Injun. While this could be an effective marketing ploy, the publishers should be as open about what they’ve added to the book as they are about what they’ve deleted. Fairness suggests that potential buyers and readers of the book should know how Gribben decided what the “less offensive words” would be.

9. Offensive terms are being invented and popularized right now. Why pick on historically offensive terms when offensive “buzzwords” are being invented today by living people? This week MSN’s “Business on Main” featured “10 Buzzwords You Need to Know.” No. 2 on the list was Jennifer Lopez. Usage: “I wouldn’t mind seeing a little more Jennifer Lopez (highly desirable rounding bottom of a stock’s price on its way up) on the NASDAQ.” The use of Lopez’s name in this context is definitely problematic, yet readers are told they must know about and even use it. 

10. It’s coming from the “New South.” Actually, NewSouth is the name of the publisher. But some research I’m conducting reveals that there is a quiet movement called the New South that is about rewriting history, reviving the Confederacy and erasing the historical fact of slavery’s existence. Though the publisher does not appear to be connected to this New South movement, and doesn’t appear to have racist intent, it’s hard to ignore a shared revisionist impulse.

But the most important reason to stay true to Twain’s words is this. We’ve been reading “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” and “Tom Sawyer” for over a century and it hasn’t stopped us from passing civil rights legislation, ending segregation in public schools, passing the Voting Rights Act, engaging in interracial relationships, appointing nonwhite members to the Supreme Court or electing nonwhite political officials, including our current president. So why, in 2011, do we suddenly need to change Twain’s books? 

I think it’s because our desperate desire to free ourselves of racism has given way to the wishful thought that we’ve gotten beyond race. We believe that acknowledging race gives way to the inevitabilities of anger and retribution instead of the possibilities of healing and forgiveness. We’re wrong.

And we’re not beyond race either. There. I’ve said (and written) it. 


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By Don Bates, January 25, 2011 at 4:46 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Seems to me that the changes underway and/or planned are all about PC and in this instance selling more books. What next—erase insulting terms, phrases, ideas from all the great books? Reminds me of what the Communists did during their reign.

I remember reading a couple of sanctioned edits of American classics. The changes were not so stupid that I actually thought at the time “Inevitably, these guys are going down BIG TIME. Who can be so stupid?”

Any publisher who cleanses books for PC reasons should be ashamed. No, brought to trail for a conspiracy to destroy freedom of speech.

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By Napolean DoneHisPart, January 18, 2011 at 5:25 pm Link to this comment

Gulam, don’t leave.

Simply call them as you see them… as you did.

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By Gulam, January 18, 2011 at 4:15 pm Link to this comment

Greatest Show on Earth

There can be no real discussion in America today, and Inherit the Wind has
shown us why this is so here. One small minority ethnicity in America controls
the debate totally, and they lash out and bring the house down when anyone
questions their divine right. It is most revealing to watch what hate speech is
tolerated and what is not.  The great gentile herd pays little attention to the
clowns who run the punch and judy show, though they do watch from a
distance and gaffaw occasionally. These side-show barkers think that they have
the crowd totally under their control, but they are wrong.

This is my last post on this web site. This was my first venture into blog
discussions, and the result is not unexpected. Now I will return to watching this
American farce play out from afar. It is going to be quite a spectacle, quite
possibly even uglier than the ones the Germans and Russians and Chinese put
on in the last century. History shows quite clearly that once you cast aside
traditional religious discipline in favour of any of these enlightenment ventures
into pure materialism, once you let women share in politics and war, things get
really nasty and violent in a hurry. My bet is that once it gets rolling the
American show is going to be the greatest show on Earth.

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By Napolean DoneHisPart, January 18, 2011 at 2:35 am Link to this comment

As always, long threads involving race, religion or another “arrrgh” “r” delves into madness… but the discourse is dense with morsels of culturally identifying nuances.

Just play nice, please.

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By Inherit The Wind, January 17, 2011 at 6:04 pm Link to this comment

Moonraven:

English comprehension seems to be a persistent problem for you. 

I did not and do not threaten you.

I merely informed you of the request I have made of TruthDig’s management, after I made that request.  I have made this request, and they will act as they see fit.

In my humble and personal opinion you are irrational and incapable of rational discourse.

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By moonraven, January 17, 2011 at 4:00 pm Link to this comment

Inherit:


Don’t threaten me.  It’s not your site. 

Just try demanding giving someone a virtual spanking for calling you on your hatespeech and verbal violence—not to mention your insane personal attacks.

You have been way over the top in all those areas since you started posting on this site.

I more than welcome a gander at your foul-mouthed ravings.

It would do a lot towards returning civility to this site—where I now post VERY infrequently because of foul-mouthed zionists like you and rabid redneck racists who have created a toxic atmosphere that is not conducive to discussing issues.

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By Inherit The Wind, January 17, 2011 at 2:20 pm Link to this comment

moonraven, January 17 at 6:14 pm Link to this comment

Inherit:

You have a serious problem with verbal violence.

I think you should be locked up until the gun laws change.
******************

You have crossed the line with the words “verbal violence”. I’ve asked the management of Truthdig to review this post and consider disciplinary action.

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By Leefeller, January 17, 2011 at 1:43 pm Link to this comment

moonravin;

Bears, Cubs all the same to me, just another basketball team from the city in the Frank Sinatra song,....now that I think of it, ......  just like our president!

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By moonraven, January 17, 2011 at 1:18 pm Link to this comment

Leefeller:

The Cubs, huh?

Ron Santos recently died.

The Cubs have not interested me since Ferguson Jenkins retired.

He now has his own Canadian stamp, I hear.

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By moonraven, January 17, 2011 at 1:14 pm Link to this comment

Inherit:

You have a serious problem with verbal violence.

I think you should be locked up until the gun laws change.

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By Leefeller, January 17, 2011 at 10:25 am Link to this comment

What in hell does Israel have to do with Huck Finn and the N word? Contingent of Driveling mindlessness have taken over several of the threads attempting to move them off topic, with their own obsessive crap,  so…...what about those Cubs?

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By Inherit The Wind, January 16, 2011 at 10:52 pm Link to this comment

Apparently my post was unclear—but that doesn’t mean that you have license to accuse a PhD in English with a 40-year academic history of not being able to read!
************

Too funny!  You FUCKED UP, Lady—and aren’t enough of adult to admit it! You could have 100 years of experience and credentials and it STILL wouldn’t change the fact:

You misread what I wrote, or mis-cited me, or, just flat-out lied about me….All 3 of which are possible.

You must be one of those kinds of professors who thinks her PhD gave her the god-head and rips her students apart who dare challenge your godly pronouncements, bullshit that they are.  In your case, in post after post you’ve merely proven it stands for Piled Higher and Deeper.

So don’t strut your credentials at ME! You certainly don’t have a single credential in logic, applied logic, nor the use of hypothesis formation with falsifiability as dictated by the scientific method.

The issue isn’t Israel and Palestine, Dr. “I have 40 years so I can parse sentences”.

It’s Huckleberry Finn.  Oops.

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By moonraven, January 16, 2011 at 1:53 pm Link to this comment

Inherit:

Apparently my post was unclear—but that doesn’t mean that you have license to accuse a PhD in English with a 40-year academic history of not being able to read!

I did not accuse YOU personally of claiming exclusive rights to the term Holocaust.  It is a zionist policy to do that.  Hence the refusal to acknowledge either the holocaust committed against indigenas in this hemisphere, the Armenian holocaust or that committed by the Kmer Touge in the 1970s in Cambodia.

Now, back to the POINT, sir:  Which is that despite being victims of genocide the zionists in Israel happily recreate the same genocidal conditions and process against Palestinians.

And that, if you want to get this thread off track, is what you needed to address in regard to both of us who posted it.

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By Inherit The Wind, January 16, 2011 at 11:15 am Link to this comment

Moonraven:

Thanks for the support on Huck Finn—I think.

You need to learn to read.  Nowhere in this or any other thread have I said that the Holocaust was exclusively a Jewish catastrophe.

I didn’t because I wouldn’t.  I damn well know how to count and I KNOW that the tally of the Holocaust was between 11 and 17 million people (scholars keep adjusting estimates), of which 6 million were Jews.  That means somewhere between 5 million and 11 million NON-JEWS died in the Holocaust as well. And yes, their deaths is a tragic horror.

Simple arithmetic.  Try it some time. It’s the antidote to certain loud-mouths around here.

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By moonraven, January 15, 2011 at 2:32 pm Link to this comment

How did this thread on Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn turn into another self-pitying zionist attack?

First off, let me say that I agree with Inherit the Windbag that Huckleberry Finn is the greatest US novel (I generally don’t care for US novels, but have often been tempted to teach a course in US Novels—instead of limiting myself to courses in US Drama—JUST so that I could teach Twain’s works).

Inherit the Windbag:  You are completely off base.  The paragraph you quoted does not claim wht you say it does.

What it does reference—and maybe that was too subtle for you since you are so far into the sewer of denial that you simply lash out at any reference to Jews—is that after being subjected to a holocaust of approx. 6 million (and insisting on claiming the term holocaust only for Jews, despite the fact that in what is now US colonial territory more than 20 million of MY people were exterminated):  The zionists have been replicating the same process of genocide against Palestinians since 1947!

Now, for the sake of reason if not civility:  Put a sock in it!

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By Inherit The Wind, January 15, 2011 at 9:36 am Link to this comment

This great herd of gentiles do not work on the same set of premises and habit as the Jewish community, and since the Jews are so very much more literate and intellectual in their habits and expectations, it may appear to them that they have that herd under control after preaching “never again” for half a century and never every letting anyone ask what made the Germans so angry, while methodically reproducing that same situation.
*****************

This is one of the most sublimely hate-filled sentences I’ve ever seen here. In this ONE LINE, Gulam COMPLETELY JUSTIFIES THE HOLOCAUST!  IT WAS THE JEWS’ OWN FAULT THAT GERMANY GOT “SO ANGRY”!

Despite the verbal diarrhea spewed here by Gulam, the fact remains: He says the slaughter of 6 Million Jews by Hitler was the Jews’ own fault!

So, tell us, “Scholar”, was it also the fault of the OTHER 6 to 11 Million who died as a result of Hitler’s death machine?  Was it the Gypsies’ fault? The Homosexuals? The Communists and Socialists? The Christians who kept to Jesus’ message of “Love Thy Neighbor”?

Or were they all innocents but only the Jews were to blame for their own destruction?

Since you are the guy who defended Southern slavery, I already know your answer.

I stand by my assertion that you may well be a sophisticated recruiter for a right-wing extreme racist organization.  Your arguments keep coming back to:

It’s the Jews’ own fault, and slavery was better for Blacks than current freedom.

No, Gulam.  Jews and Blacks are not the problem. You are.

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By zonadude, January 13, 2011 at 11:08 pm Link to this comment

To Mr. Wieder, I offer thanks and praise. You nailed it. There are many thoughtful, and many petty, self absorbed, responses to “The Huck’N word debate”. The arc of Huck’s character, and eventual epiphany, that Jim is a human being, with all the history, longings, heartbreaks,(like being owned by another person) sense of humor, and intelligence like any other of we two legged folk. This is THEE seminal novel ever written by an American author. How dare anyone deprive anyone else
the pristine version of this truly, authentically American work of art? I was given this book as a gift from my aunt, on the occasion of my eighth birthday. I was told at that time all about the ugliness of the word “nigger” and was forbidden way before I read “Huck’to never utter this word. I am 52 now and re-read this story a few years ago and now know its importance to our society. If a f#%&#*n’8 year old kid “got it during the height of the civil rights struggle, what’s the point? What would MLK do?

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By Gulam, January 13, 2011 at 1:01 am Link to this comment

No ITW, you have this turned upside down. On the excavation sites in the
Negev my job was to take young Jews fresh from secular homes in New York,
kids who knew nothing about their heritage and bring them up to speed so they
would have some clue as to what they were studying. Here I was trying to see
what forms of rational discussion might be possible on intelligent blogs like
this one that are not strictly academic or Jewish. And, I selected a site that is
run by Jews but not focused on Jewish issues.

Over the centuries Jews have been driven from countries over and over again in
Europe; it followed serious economic recessions, like any other stimulus-
response situation in nature. When the economies of Europe collapsed in 1929
the Jewish position in Germany was remarkably like that in America today, with
Jews disproportionally in charge of finance, media, and academia. This is not
bigotry; this is fact that Jewish and gentile historians alike agree on. Crash the
economy or the military now,  the US will get a general as a protector, and
suddenly a Christian fundamentalist military command is in charge.

Frederic the Great invited Jews and Jesuits to his court, though he himself was a
devout Protestant. All through the 19th century Jewish numbers grew in
Germany, and they had opportunities greater than elsewhere in Europe, much
like America today. When the stock market crashed more than a majority of the
seats on the Berlin exchange were in Jewish hands, and most of the film noir
movies of the twenties were made by Jewish directors. The parallels are just to
close for comfort, and it has long seemed to me that this should be discussed
quietly, not just on overtly Jewish sites, since it is the Jewish relationship with
the great herd of politically immature and passive gentiles that presents the
danger. This seemed like a good place to start a discussion of what is the most
dangerous single issue facing the US and Israel during the next half century.

This great herd of gentiles do not work on the same set of premises and habit
as the Jewish community, and since the Jews are so very much more literate and
intellectual in their habits and expectations, it may appear to them that they
have that herd under control after preaching “never again” for half a century
and never every letting anyone ask what made the Germans so angry, while
methodically reproducing that same situation. However, that herd can rapidly
change direction, and they do not read enough for logical arguments to turn
them once in motion. This pattern has gone on over and over again since the
Crusades. This IS a valid concern, not some wild eyed red-neck diatribe. I can
recall more than once listening to Yesheva students talking long into the night
about the coming American holocaust that they saw as inevitable and against
which I have spent much of my adult life working.

If America ever does go crazy. If things do go badly for this community in
America it will be women like you who were as responsible for it as any
firebrand bigot to which poverty and chaos give birth. Much of the fault will lie
with a lot of secular Jews like you who want to always have it both ways. In
America it is demanded that every public school cease and desist singing
Christmas music where Jews are the tiniest minority.  Judaism must never be
treated as or spoken of as a race in America, only as a religion. Then when I got
to Israel most of my Ulpan class said openly and often: “I’m not religious. I do
not believe in God at all. Judaism is my race.”

Jew or Gentile, Hindu or Muslim, we do not make this situation better by wildly
attacking anyone who wants to discuss this serious on-going problem for the
people of Israel by wild talk of the kind in which you indulge. It amused me to
see this little argument though, but I will not stoop to commenting here again.

?? ???,  ????

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By Inherit The Wind, January 12, 2011 at 12:59 pm Link to this comment

Gulam:
What I know is you an anti-Semite using “code” to hide your bigoted slurs.
What I know is you posted totally phony statistics claiming slavery was BETTER for Black Americans than the current situation (You claimed 4 times as many Black Americans are in prison as were in bondage in 1860—which is totally false).
What I know is you subscribe to the lie of “The War of Northern Aggression” even though the Southern states committed high treason by:
1) Seceeding
2) Committing an act of armed insurrection against a US military installation (that would be Fort Sumpter).

Now, like Sarah Palin, you are trying to escape the consequences of your own words by…attacking! Accusing the accuser is the oldest trick in the book—and is used every day by the talk radio fascists.

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By Gulam, January 12, 2011 at 2:51 am Link to this comment

Inherit the Wind, you sure do make assumptions, entertaining ones to be sure
for anybody with any idea of psychiatry at all, but that kind of rabid lashing out
is out of place here. Still, you have provided us with a stunning example of
projection.

Do you think that no Jews are born and raised in the South, people who know
that racism today is far worse in Boston than Atlanta? What if I am a woman of
Pashtun parents who was educated in Virginia and who is tired of the constant
hypocritical posturing of American liberals who think the Civil War was really
worth every drop of youthful blood? I might be a bored Brit who took American
studies at university in York and who now teaches English in Japan, a man who
enjoys baiting Americans with their logical and historical inconsistencies? Just
for the record, I am not writing from the US, I can reach my hand out from my
desk and touch the Torah in ancient Hebrew and books left from my Ulpan
course; I I once spent several weeks in Mozambique, alone in the bush helping
all-black teams to remove mines and other explosives. Your accusations are a
bit like a photo negative is to a positive print.

Love for Israel and her people is not best expressed by setting them up again. I
was simply referring to what every historian knows, Braudel, for example,
outlines this in his famous tome on the Mediterranean, how over and over, as
trade in Europe grew after the Crusades, the Jews were driven out of European
cities during times of economic recession. We saw what was hopefully its worst
example during the last century. America is now facing a massive recession at
a time when Jewish names are all over the banks involved and all over the
media in all its forms. Is it totally beyond the Pale, or the Jordan, to talk about
this danger here on this site? The holocaust has all my life been THE issue;
every graduation speech still refers to it. Is this not today the gorilla in the
corner that nobody can mention? Apparently so, because Inherit the Wind
freaked out when I only began to go near it.

This is a topic suitable for Mondoweiss, but I thought it best too keep it low
key. I had hoped to learn something by discussing it with a broader audience
that is not specifically focussed on this issue. I pushed the envelope a touch to
get a response, but not that hard. I would be curious to know who the
moderators and patrons of this site consider to have crossed the line here,
though I realize this particular thread may be exhausted.

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By Inherit The Wind, January 11, 2011 at 6:37 pm Link to this comment

Gulam:

Do you think I’m too stupid to read and recognize your obvious Jew-hating code words?  You defend slavery and anti-Semitism in pretty much every post.

“The on-going banking swindles have very clear racial and religious overtones that are far more serious than any conflicts today between white and black Americans. Poor and middle class black and white gentile Americans have both been fleeced by the banking and mortgage schemes, and they have served together in the military.”

Why don’t you just be honest and say what you think straight out: That all of us Jews are dirty, thieving conniving enemies of all mankind.  But like all the neo-Nazi recruiters you can’t do that because then it’s too obvious.

It’s clear that’s what you are. You defend slavery and the South’s secession (which is a blatant attack on Blacks, but in “code”) and attack Jews in the same way.

Tell me, when you are alone or with your buddies, do you refer to MLK as Martin Luther “McCoon” the way the white supremacists do?

I like E Cynic’s attitude—stop speaking in code and say what you mean!

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By Gulam, January 11, 2011 at 5:43 pm Link to this comment

Black Americans are in prison now in horrific numbers, while certain other
minorities regarded as white see their average incomes wildly increasing in
recent years. How can people care so much about the use of this one word and
bask in the moral sunshine of slave liberation, while condoning and ignoring
today’s realities regarding the racist treatment of black and hispanic and
Muslim Americans? The on-going banking swindles have very clear racial and
religious overtones that are far more serious than any conflicts today between
white and black Americans. Poor and middle class black and white gentile
Americans have both been fleeced by the banking and mortgage schemes, and
they have served together in the military. If America suffers a major economic
or military debacle in the next few years, I do not think “nigger” is the most
likely hate word that will be tossed about by mobs of angry, hungry Americans.
Today this worn-out use of the “nigger” issue has been revived in order to keep
alive an on-going white-black divide. Most black and white Southerners do not
today regard each other as their most serious problem.

Today in the West books are rejected automatically that show Muslims as
humane and sane and loving people.  Anyone who can claim that America is the
most racist of nations has never spent serious time in Israel. Today American
liberals and US churches are happy to stand firm against white on black racism,
though they let Jim Crow run unopposed until the Civil Rights movement
pushed this issue to the forefront. Now Americans support Israel while it
systematically denies civil rights, based on the most flagrant of racist
ideologies, to Christian and Muslim Arabs in Palestine, people whose families
have lived there for a thousand years or more. The entire assault on Iraq, Iran,
Afghanistan, Yemen, and Pakistan is based upon and reinforced by American
and Zionist concepts of racial and national exceptionalism. The word
“exceptionalism” explains much of what passes for US foreign policy today, but
the word is not recognized by my American-made computer’s spell checker.
The Americans use a high percentage of the world’s landmines, but these
spelling checkers also do not recognize the word: “demining.”  Those who
control America’s dialogue with itself are also selective and self-serving in their
approach to what words and ideas are permitted regarding race and religion.

Because blacks were powerless and poor they were regarded by Americans as
less human and somewhat demonic. America did great harm over the years to
her citizens of recent African ancestry by regarding them as sub-human and
treating them accordingly.  Over the centuries no Jewish young man could take
his Bar Mitzva without being literate in a dead language, and in practice they
often were literate also in the language where their family was living as well as
that of the lands they had previously fled when the economies in those places
collapsed. In an information age this extraordinary, long-standing commitment
to literacy makes some Jewish people increasingly rich and powerful. Today
Americans are putting the Jewish people in harms way by regarding them as
super-human and automatically morally superior and treating them
accordingly. This is not the way that these people have been traditionally
described by their own prophets, and this approach could in the long run be
every bit as dangerous, damaging, and as unfair to ordinary Jewish citizens as
the treatment of black and Hispanic people has been to them. Racism is still
racism whether you are asserting racial inferiority or racial superiority, and both
are a wild distortion of any true faith or the proper use of reason.

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By Salome, January 11, 2011 at 3:33 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

What purpose is served by removing “injun” and “nigger” from Mark Twain’s work?  If the intent is to teach Twain as a great author, and the thought is that the terms are too hurtful for students to read, then use some of Twain’s other writing.  If the intent is to teach about slavery, a myriad of other texts on the subject are available.  If the intent is to teach a sanitized-Twain with one’s lefthand while patting onesself on the back with one’s righthand for having non-racist sensitivities, it seems to me that the act itself casts doubt on the righteousness of one’s motivation.

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By E Cynic, January 11, 2011 at 11:37 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

One more thing.  If Political Correctness has it’s way, we Blacks would be stuck with the lie of “Post-Racial America.” 

Two thumbs up to the bigots and xenophobes within and without the Tea Party for destroying that myth. I for one appreciate your honesty.  The Political Correct cops would have let me (us Black Americans) disarmed to the truth and reality if they had their way.

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By E Cynic, January 11, 2011 at 11:30 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

As an African American I assure you that Political Correctness is poison.  I hate political correctness,it’s simply a poor disguise at censorship and thought control. It obscures truth and fact.

First I love Mark Twain and he was using the vernacular of the time.  I don’t care for some mamby pamby political correct cop sanitizing what a person writes or thinks.  The KKK should have every right to march in my community and call me a nigger as long as they don’t advocate (violence) killing me.  What do you think, that I want the KKK to call me “friend,” “buddy” or “homeboy?” Tell it like it is or tell me nothing.  I want to KNOW WHAT PEOPLE THINK, not have the local censor tell me what he or she thinks they are thinking. 

Political Correctness is just cheap and destructive censorship.  Destructive because is hides truth.  Say wtf you got to say or don’t say it at all.  Don’t call me friend when you mind is saying the “N” word, and you been calling me nigger behind my back all day.

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By Gilbert Cantlin, January 11, 2011 at 10:12 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

One reason is sufficient.  Ugly as it was and is, the “nigger” slur was the bigoted
truth about this “land of the free and home of the brave,” this land of freedom and
democracy, this land with “government of some of the people, by some of the
people, and for some of the people” that still sadly reigns.  This land has as ugly a
history of bigotry and violence as any that has ever existed, it’s just not admitted. 
Where does poverty reign the most?  Where is opportunity found the lease?  Who
among us great whites hasn’t frequently heard or used the term “nigger” in their
own lifetime.  It is only being true to our ugly past as a lesson that will hopefully
inspire us to change our disgusting attitudes and manners, after we are truly
honest about equality, that should make us keep our hands off the culture that
Mark Twain portrayed so honestly.  To change his word is nothing but a cover-up.

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By iwanttogetoffthisplanet, January 10, 2011 at 6:33 pm Link to this comment

and once the people forget about slavery, we can bring it back!!! hahahahahahaha

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By Stevan Hammond, January 10, 2011 at 1:00 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Censoring of various forms of media by the government is often done in fascist states. So… this is perfect for the U.S.! Actually I think it would be more honest to outlaw Twain’s writings altogether than change his words without disclosing the author’s intent. Eventually we may be able to hide history so well that slavery and racism never even existed!
  On behalf of Mark Twain, I just want to say Nigger, Injun, Nigger, Injun, Nigger, Injun, Nigger, Injun, Nigger, Injun, Nigger, Injun, Nigger, Injun, Nigger, Injun, Nigger, Injun, Nigger, Injun, Nigger, Injun, Nigger, Injun, Nigger, Injun, Nigger, Injun, Nigger, Injun, Nigger, Injun, Nigger, Injun, Nigger, Injun, Nigger, Injun, Nigger, Injun, Nigger, Injun, Nigger, Injun, Nigger, Injun, Nigger, Injun, Nigger, Injun, Nigger, Injun, Nigger, Injun, Nigger, Injun, Nigger, Injun, Nigger, Injun, Nigger, Injun, etc.

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By iwanttogetoffthisplanet, January 10, 2011 at 7:00 am Link to this comment

i have come to conviction that most “political correctness” is actually racism in disguise.

Nobody wants to talk about the real racial issue, as I see it. A black president with a large constituency of blacks, raised in a culture of violent rap culture, without any real education who will do whatever their “savior” tells them to do.

When you have a large number of people completely dependent on the state, without any education,a culture of violence, and a messianic figure there is a recipe for disaster.

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By Charles Whitcomb, January 10, 2011 at 1:15 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

This shouldn’t be up for any discussion, at least in a mildly educated country. But we are no longer educated, we are lined up to pass through an arbitrary, but “correct” mold.
It started a long time ago. I remember when I saw my first abridged Dickens novel. And later, I saw the result of Microsoft’s brilliant “Grammar Checker” which turned the Gettysburg Address into three and a half pages of junk.
A young student recently asked, “Are there different Bibles?”. And, of course there are, because they are translations by many different people, at many different times, from many tongues. But Twain wrote what he wrote IN ENGLISH. It doesn’t need translation from English to English. But, with a Government which is incapable of lying to us because they no longer lie, they “misspeak”, it makes sense for them to want to rewrite and redefine everything. Just this week we all began to learn that not having a job and not being able to find a job because there aren’t enough jobs does not mean the Government thinks you are unemployed.
And we also have learned that Democrats and Republicans and Tea Party Patriots and Blue Dogs and Conservatives and Liberals and Progressives are the new words for the old “Crooks and Liars” - Oops! I misspoke - Crooks and Misspeakers.

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By Jake, January 10, 2011 at 12:36 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

of course it didn’t mean the same. Back then it meant a slave.

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By Jerry Wesner, January 9, 2011 at 8:26 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Dennis says: “Let’s ask Twain what he thinks. As a public school teacher it’s totally offensive to everything I do everyday with my young, curious minds.”  I don’t know what grade level(s) Dennis teaches; I wouldn’t use the novel before the 10th grade. But by then they’ve heard every rude, crude, insulting word there is.  What a teacher can do is place words into context and show why careless use is hurtful.  It’s better for kids to face ugly realities than pretend they never existed.

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By REDHORSE, January 9, 2011 at 4:06 pm Link to this comment

In America the word “nigger” was co-opted long ago for use as a weapon by the so called “politically correct”. Swollen toad indignation allowing convienient broad brush painting of political and workplace adversaries as “racist”, “sexist” or “to doofus to defend themselves” often amounts to a kind of passive-aggressive reverse discrimination. It’s shadow play. Blacks and Whites have no chance until it’s brought into the light, and it can’t be legislated on the personal level.  There is no question that insidious racial discrimination should and must be confronted but the word “nigger” is the least important aspect of the real issue.

    Blacks openly use the “N” word between themselves building comedy routines and entire careers around it but Whites aren’t supposed to even think it. It’s a riff. In my experience Blacks play the “racecard” far more often than Whites. Using White Guilt and accusations of racism with an implied threat of violence as a means of mental/physical control of person and environment is a standard ploy by some Blacks. White attitudes about race often amount to less than superstition. The reality is that we’ve both become MSM characterizations. We’re given a lifeless role to play. True, it is a horror that we see others in this manufactured light but the terror is that we lose ourselves in it.

    Any student of American History understands that American Racism was an invention of the institutional ruling elite. Impressment gangs took tens of thousands of Whites off the streets of Europe and they were put side by side “in the ground” next to Blacks in the New World. It was when they began to work together, marry and form community that “massa” grew fearful and the serious business of Black American slavery was instituted and class exploitation began. If it is not at this point obvious to people of all colors in America that Corporate “massa” and the “company store” is alive, well and open for business in D.C. redemption is beyond us.

    These kinds of “tempest in a teapot”-“choke on a knat swallow a camel” conversations speak clearly to the controlled propagandist nature of our public discourse and the dimenished ability of American Soul, reason and intellect to make itself heard. Like the talking head pundit conversations on todays T.V. about the Arizona shootings, the real conversation is in what is not being said—in what is not allowed to be said. Washington D.C. is a profligate sideshow and American social/financial disintegration is in full view.

    I thank Ms./Mrs. Dawkins for the article. “Race”, the exploitation of “race” and the smokescreen it provides for the perps behind the present economic barbarity should be removed. Ignorance, fear, prejudice, violence, crime, class hatred and gangs, are the direct result of social disintegration, failed educational systems, extreme poverty, unemployment, homelessness and job loss. Any social study we’ve ever read confirms it. The Koch Brothers, the Necromancer Rove, Boehner, the Telesatan Hagee all, continue to exploit fear, hatred and prejudice to split American unity. Human reason MUST AGAIN FIND VOICE.

    Americans of all color are ill from exposure to the propaganda and toxicity of Corporate greed and its seizure of the American Democratic system. The Nation is being openly looted. The disintegration of social institutions and its resultant damage speaks for itself. People are going bat shit crazy and like everything else, its being openly exploited and D.C. business-as-usual thugs will be the first to exploit the Arizona shootings.

    “I can’t provide for you no easy answers. Who are you that I should have to lie? But you’ll know all about it Love. It’ll fit you like a glove: When the night comes falling from the sky.” B.Dylan

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By Dennis, January 9, 2011 at 11:34 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Let’s ask Twain what he thinks. As a public school teacher it’s totally offensive to everything I do everyday with my young, curious minds.

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By prosefights, January 8, 2011 at 9:20 pm Link to this comment

Autobiography of Mark Twain: The Complete and Authoritative Edition, Volume I

Google.

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By golady, January 8, 2011 at 9:06 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I was born in the South in perhaps one of the most rascist places in the world.  I didn’t see a black person until I was almost school age. It was unusual but my parents had no anamosity nor did they direct any toward black people. They weren’t rascist.  They simply called black people, niggars. It was a noun used to name them. Rural country people had no other name to call black people.  Negro had not reached their ears, nor had black or African American or what ever is in vogue at this time.
I wonder if Niggar held the same meaninging when Mark Twain wrote it then, as we think it did?

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By Napolean DoneHisPart, January 8, 2011 at 5:58 pm Link to this comment

Someone, somewhere, thinks changing a word in this book will change people’s hearts.

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By Blueboy1938, January 8, 2011 at 4:41 pm Link to this comment

I suppose now that we will see - for instance - a book about spousal abuse that
refers to the brutal acts as “intensities” or “naughty-naughties”!

The fact that Mark Twain was clearly writing about the injustice of slavery and
racism by putting them in the every day linguistic context of plausible people is
apparently totally lost on the revisers.  Changing the way Mark Twain chose to
show the banal aspects of racial subjugation and the character development of
Huck, who comes to understand both the humanity of his traveling companion
Jim and the inhumanity of Jim’s condition and his own complicity in it, does not
change the fact that people actually spoke that way then.

In other words:  That was then, this is now.  As Ms. Dawkins so aptly stated,
notwithstanding that virtually everyone in this country had read this book, civil
rights reform still took place, maybe even because of that book.

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By faith, January 8, 2011 at 3:54 pm Link to this comment

Does this mean that the written book will no longer be listed as Mark Twain?  Is it
pragiarism to take Twain’s book and rewrite it?

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By Kai, January 8, 2011 at 2:41 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Brilliant post!

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By reynolds, January 8, 2011 at 2:25 pm Link to this comment

censor censorship

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By Leefeller, January 8, 2011 at 2:02 pm Link to this comment

renyolds, I still deny posting or using the n word and as for day drinking I only drink after noon and everyone knows anytime after noon is not daytime!

By the way sounds like someone is tipping the sauce quite early this morning.

That darn curiouser and curiouser Truth Dig?

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By reynolds, January 8, 2011 at 1:39 pm Link to this comment

truthdig has been known to excise the n word from a
poster’s comment. the author of the comment, a chronic,
day drinking fabulist, then denied having used the
word. he switched to far more offensive verbiage which
was allowed to stand.
curiouser and curiouser.

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By Mary Lou Gale, January 8, 2011 at 1:01 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Good comments all!  Mine is only that the reason he did not instead rewrite the book
from another character’s perspective is that that would be much more difficult and much
more work.

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By samosamo, January 8, 2011 at 12:31 pm Link to this comment

****************

 

Almost like the discovery or development of atomic energy for
bombs, once a word is created, it is impossible to put it back in
the bottle. Only commonsense, respect and morals or lacks
thereof, determine the use of either.

Reminds me though, that now the ministry of truth is
rearranging Twain’s works, it is neigh time to buy Huckleberry
Finn and some of Twain’s other works. Because if those fools in
congress can fuck up the reading of the constitution as they just
recently did, and now with trying to protect young kids ears
from ‘defamatory’ lauguage, which they will certainly learn in the
streets, which is where too many kids learn about sex or respect
or just life in general, there is nothing that will replace books as
‘real source’ because as enron proved, the lights can go out at
any time. Also indicative of how sick and scared this country is.

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By Eric L. Prentis, January 8, 2011 at 12:05 pm Link to this comment

“Sticks and stones will break my bones, but names will never hurt me.” Just say NO, to censorship!

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By Leefeller, January 8, 2011 at 11:54 am Link to this comment

This whole thing smacks to me very similar to Texas taking Thomas Jefferson out of the history books. 

Me suspicions are this kind of crap is instigated to take peoples eyes off the ball sort to speak. Create controversy where none exists. On the other hand I may be wrong about that!

Maybe we can find out why or who instigated this and if they really had a reason or is it some sort of publicity stunt when the new version of the movie comes out next year?

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By AnnaCatherine, January 8, 2011 at 11:37 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I dont believe this is about “racial slurs”. Mark Twain’s references to Joe were in keeping with acceptable language of the day. I also don’t think it’s censorship to arbitrarily delete words from someone else’s writing. On some level it’s probably illegal. No matter what we call Joe, nothing changes the fact that he was indeed a slave. But the friendship that delevoped between Huck and Joe was due in part to the fact that they were both socially marginal. Joe was a runaway slave and Huck Finn ran away from a father who was a drunk. They were both better off for having found each other. I wouldn’t touch a single word that Mark Twain wrote about anything.

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By Tommy, January 8, 2011 at 10:02 am Link to this comment
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I agree with practically all the comments given.

That’s well and fine, but what if the word was cunt instead of nigger. I taught high school English for a year and was faced with the very serious challenge of convincing my students that “reading” was not a bad word. There’s literature and then there’s literacy. One comes before the other. And as there are many types of literacy—cultural, political, linguistic, sexual, etc., and something educators and parents consider developmentally appropriate—there are many types of literature.

I’ve got my opinion of what is good and what is great, and what is bad. And so do you. And not insignificantly, the majority of my 11th and 12th graders found the syntax and diction much too hard to enjoy. They didn’t like Huckleberry Finn because it was too hard. They didn’t like it because they didn’t understand it. Yes, they mostly understood the N word. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

I have been teaching ESL to college-aged students for a very long time. For the most part, my students are mature enough and culturally sophisticated enough to read great works of English literature. But they are not linguistically capable of reading these works. So they read abridged “level ordered” texts, invariably, as often as not, out of print (and out of copyright) classics. There is no other way that my students could directly and meaningfully engage these texts. And so I am thinking that there are many young people who, without a formal background in critical theory and cultural studies, will read (or hear about the use of)the word nigger and immediately file the book in the no-thank-you pile.

So I don’t think that free-thinking, well-educated people should reflexively slap down this “learner’s edition” of Huck Finn. Look, we’ve read the primary text how many times? This one is not for us. It’s for a certain set of learners.

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By robert in london, January 8, 2011 at 9:44 am Link to this comment
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Mr. Twain was a keen observer of the human condition and his fellow Americans. After all he was essentially one of them with the exception (lucky for us) of an extraordinary ability to convert thoughts to highly readable prose. In the midst of all this controversy I am reading ‘Life on the Mississippi’ which contains a brief reference to a book he is working on (Adventures of Huck Finn was published the following year). Hard to find in the used bookstores I frequent and for obvious reasons. Highly recommended.

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By Inherit The Wind, January 8, 2011 at 9:36 am Link to this comment

Twain was accurately reflecting language used in Missouri on the Mississippi from 1840-1850, which was when he was growing up there. 

My son and I read Huckleberry Finn together and I explained to him that this was language used then, but never to be used now, how they only had 3 words for Black people: “Slave”, “servant” and the n-word.  We discussed how Huck, at the bottom of society, along with Jim, a ragamuffin and a slave, turn out to be at the top of the moral and ethical pyramid, in a story where everything is backwards and upside down. (they flee South, down the river, deeper into slave-country).

We talked about MT’s ruthless laser vision and insight into his childhood world, how they were hypocritical, judgmental, and incapable of administering justice.  The Colonel’s speech while holding off a lynch mob typifies the problems the South had with justice that still was going on in the rigged trial of the Klan-Nazi killers from the 1979 Greensboro, NC massacre.

Even lovable Tom Sawyer is no longer the wonderful scamp of the “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer”.  His game-playing and role-playing results in Jim remaining locked up in a shed for weeks while Tom knows Jim is actually a free man—but his “Count of Monte Cristo” game is more important than Jim’s freedom—to Jim it’s no game.  Tom is now selfish and infantile and Huck has grown up far beyond Tom. 

Huck is now a fully moral man, aware of his morality and ethics even though he’s only 14, and even though they are in opposition to everything his society taught him.

This is a work of genius being butchered by morally-deficient morons.

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By Mike789, January 8, 2011 at 9:06 am Link to this comment

Personally, [and I concur with the tenor and substance of this thread in opposition to corrupting an author’s (esp. a classic author’s) intent], I hope this piece of rubbish collects dust on the shelves of every purveyor.

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By theprogressiveanalyst, January 8, 2011 at 2:35 am Link to this comment

One of the greatest passages in all literature, I am convinced, is when Huck denies knowing anything about that runaway slave, despite being convinced that he is condemning himself to Hell. The book is all about how the dominant culture dehumanized African Americans and yet an uneducated boy who was an outcast saw through the hypocrisy and evilness of that society. The use of the term nigger is vital to this theme. I also think that Twain agreed with Plato that there are certain values of right and wrong which transcend the mores of society and which are knowable. Plato’s Republic was an answer to the idea that might makes right and so, too, in its way, is Huckleberry Finn. It is an absolute travesty to change the greatest American novel ever.

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By James M. Martin, January 8, 2011 at 12:49 am Link to this comment

I can’t wait till these political correctors get hold of the works of Joseph Conrad.  He put a person of color in the crew of a ship and called his novel, “The N——” ooops!, I’m sorry, make that title, “The Slave in the ‘Narcissus.’” I am reading the poetry of one of the most sensitive, compassionate men of letters, Hart Crane, whose letters and some poems refer to “n….s” and there wasn’t a racist bone in the man’s body.  It was simply how people talked back then.

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By aacme88, January 7, 2011 at 10:17 pm Link to this comment

George Santayana- Reason in Common Sense, The Life of Reason, Vol.1,

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

Those who will not remember the past may be planning to repeat it.

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By Charles McGuigan, January 7, 2011 at 9:08 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Listen: Plain and simple, Huck Finn was the first book in American letters by a white author that portrayed an African-American as a human being. Mark Twain, using his gifted ear for vernacular speech, recorded what people said in that era and that’s what has enabled this remarkable novel to live through the ages. The crux of the novel is when Huck has a debate with his own conscience. He knows that harboring a runaway slave is a “sin” but reasons that Jim is a good man and that sin he must. Why have we forgotten this?
Twain also wrote in his later years for Harper’s magazine one of the most amazing nonfictional pieces I’ve ever read about a former slave. Twain himself was an avid abolitionist and consider human bondage the most reprehensible of human crimes both in his native land and elsewhere in the world.

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By Napolean DoneHisPart, January 7, 2011 at 8:46 pm Link to this comment

berniem, that was perfect!

“The revisionist, bible-thumping, flag draped reactionaries never stop trying to justify their continued efforts in maintaining white supremacy and capitalist exploitation by white washing a history replete with genocide, human bondage, intolerance, unjust war, and bigotry in a hopeless attempt at validation of their benighted world view.

Unfortunately for them many in this country know the truth behind the evolution of this empire and have no qualms passing on the information to future generations.

Look, not every American lives in the confederacy or belongs to the neo-fascist republican party or the Weimar democrats!”

—Bernium

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By mrfreeze, January 7, 2011 at 8:25 pm Link to this comment

Recently, there was a controversy over Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World” that raises similar questions. A particular parent took offence to “the (over) 30 references in which the term “savage natives”, were used.

After listening to a number of local programs discussing this issue it made me wonder how it is that Americans have become dumber since I was in HS in the 70’s? It’s not about “political correctness” as it is about intellectual lassitude. The parent who objected to the book felt it wasn’t appropriate for HS students. Really? If kids can sit around and play ultra-violence-style-video games (al la “A Clockwork Orange I suppose) or if they can listen to the profanity in popular music or in film, then I’m sure their precious, tender minds can deal with Huxley. They should also be able to draw distinctions from Huck Finn.

Have we truly become a nation of dullards? I think yes…

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By berniem, January 7, 2011 at 8:03 pm Link to this comment

The revisionist, bible-thumping, flag draped reactionaries never stop trying to justify their continued efforts in maintaining white supremacy and capitalist exploitation by white washing a history replete with genocide, human bondage, intolerance, unjust war, and bigotry in a hopeless attempt at validation of their benighted world view. Unfortunately for them many in this country know the truth behind the evolution of this empire and have no qualms passing on the information to future generations. Look, not every American lives in the confederacy or belongs to the neo-fascist republican party or the Weimar democrats!

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By Napolean DoneHisPart, January 7, 2011 at 7:42 pm Link to this comment

REASON #1 and only reason should be:

The Truth.

Twain’s words captured the heart, ideas and minds of his time… like any other poet, writer, journalist, scribe would do.

This is the exact direction those who truly benefit of the backs of the labor, merchant and managerial classes wish to go… into the dark….

Instead, LIGHT must be shined on the sins of all, starting with those holding state capital office and stately estates.

WikiLeaks is only the beginning of the truth being shout from the roof tops.

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By moonraven, January 7, 2011 at 6:29 pm Link to this comment

Clipper wrote:  “The ones who wish to erace the past are also the ones who wish to take us back.”

Nice phrase.  I will be sure to rip it off.

It’s very clear, based on the hate-mongering in Arizona and other states, as well as the drametic increase in racist rage in internet sites trying to pass themselves off as progressive (sic), such as Common Dreams, that racism is rewriting itself with fire in gringolandia.

Mark Twain—whose house I visited frequently and happily in Hartford since it’s been a museum for a long time—was very probably the one US writer who really “got” what a rogue nation the US was and is, and WHY.

For that reason, he’s still under attack 100 years after he died!

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By Mitchel Cohen, January 7, 2011 at 5:59 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

These are fundamentally liberal arguments for not tampering with the language of Mark Twain’s books. I can agree with them, but they are not, to me, the critical points.

The main point—and others commented here correctly about this—is that Mark Twain was denouncing white-supremacy and slavery in these books, from the perspective of young, working class white kids, and his terminology was indispensable in understanding how a white redneck could form such close bonds with a runaway slave, overcome the racism he was taught, and see him as a dignified human being.

Indeed, as someone mentioned above, without those code words as counterpoint, the novel loses its power.

Mitchel Cohen
Brooklyn Greens / Green Party

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By WriterOnTheStorm, January 7, 2011 at 5:50 pm Link to this comment

WriterOnTheStorm would have led with the “freedom” thing, but hey.

Twain intended Huck and Tom to be read by adults. They were not written for
children, and Twain was adamant that should not be read by children. A better
question is why do schools across the country ignore the author’s admonition? 
Are there no other worthy books with which to broaden young horizons?

He believed that reading adult books at a young age was extremely dangerous to
developing minds. Twain never forgave his own parents for allowing him to read
an “unexpurgated’ version of the bible before the age of 15.

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By Cinnamonape, January 7, 2011 at 5:43 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The biggest reason is that Twain intended to use the word in the mouths of the
ignorant and racist to EXHIBIT their profound stupidity and lack of humanity.
Take those words from their lips and you sanitize the effects of racism on both
the victims of that racism and the mind-set of children like Huck Finn (who
could actually show empathy with Jim and his family). The most hurtful scenes
in “Huck Finn” are when Huck naively uses the word to Jim. One can feel the
horrific burden that word carries. It’s the point in which Jim decides to break
from Huck.

Paper over those words and you’d think that the racists are actually not so
bad…and that Jim is just over-reacting. Twain very well knew what the social
conditions were for blacks in the ante-bellum South. He also knew that his
novel was a subversive novel for showing Americans what they were really like.
He was most famous for putting the actual manner of American speech into his
characters. Rip out the actual words that people used, and you rip out the soul
of Mark Twain and his characterization of what life was actually like along the
Mississippi.

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By gerard, January 7, 2011 at 5:41 pm Link to this comment

A thousand pardons to Mr. Wieder
for misspelling “bowldlerization”—(a clumsy word at best!) It’s not up to TD to correct spelling errors, and if that mistake is the worst you find here, consider yourself lucky.  Besides, misspelling is sometimes fun, as in “The Virginia Monologues.”

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By Ralph Kramden, January 7, 2011 at 5:21 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Isn’t it delicious, Mark Twain is still controversial 100 years after his death. That is the sign of a great artist. This is nothing but censorship and you are right The Merchant of Venice is next. How about the Bible? Offensive to children? It condones incest between brothers and sisters, between fathers and daughters. Infanticide, child abuse, genocide, slavery: they all have the blessing of the Lord. How anyone allows a child to read the bible is beyond me. Maybe I will re-write the Bible to make it “suitable for children.” Which will only motivate children to run off to a secluded spot and read the expunged sections. I quote Mark Twain:...-a divine place for wading, and it had swimming pools too, which were forbidden to us and therefore much frequented by us.”

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By Jerry Wesner, January 7, 2011 at 4:41 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I taught Huckleberry Finn to high school students years ago.  I had one black student.  He told me, laughing, that some of the other boys asked him to protest reading the book so they wouldn’t have to—read a whole book, that is.  I faced the issues of slavery, superstition, bigotry, and others head-on, and dealt with them. After a time it became clear that Jim, the slave, was the most noble character in the book.  The kids ended up thinking it was worth their time—naughty words and all.

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By RayLan, January 7, 2011 at 4:27 pm Link to this comment

Defacing great literature should be a criminal offense - regardless of the political tone. The unredeeming irony of this artistically backwards censorship is that Huck Finn is a story to expose racism and feature the commonality of all human feeling in Huck’s friendship with a black slave


Tom rose square up in bed, with his eye hot, and his nostrils opening and shutting like gills, and sings out to me:

“They hain’t no right to shut him up! Shove!- and don’t you lose a minute. Turn him loose! he ain’t no slave; he’s as free as any cretur that walks this earth!”

“What does the child mean?” “
Ch 42

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By Milliegor, January 7, 2011 at 4:25 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I am going to a used book store to buy copies for my grandchildren. This is like editing the Bible for political correctness. It’s literature, history. I vote for leaving it alone, leave the slurs in as written - be true to the work.

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By Nick B., January 7, 2011 at 4:20 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I for one am positively outraged.

And thank you so much for this piece, Ms. Dawkins. You absolutely nailed it.

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By Mike Strong, January 7, 2011 at 4:16 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The Huck Finn book also was criticized in its own time because it dared to portray a black man, Jim, as admirable, lovable, equal, worthy, someone to care about and so on. That is a context I seldom see mentioned here when we talk about what to do with the casual use of the “N” word. We are forgetting what this meant in its own time, or that as a setting, the casual usage is even more disturbing than if it were used purely as an expletive.

As a person, Twain, himself, contributed to black education and to black causes during his lifetime for which he was also criticized. His uses of the “N” word in the story sets the tone as a counterpoint to the value of Jim as a full human being and a direct criticism of racial attitudes of the time.

The audiences back then recognized the criticism in the text, and some were not happy with how they were portrayed so negatively, casually dismissing, as people, slaves and former slaves (as well as others at the bottom of the social order). Today our reference is very different and we miss those contemporary perspectives.

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By clipper, January 7, 2011 at 4:08 pm Link to this comment

The ones who wish to erace the past are also the ones who wish to take us back. I’m sure after all these years most have learned to deal with, and accepted the past, but try for a better future, but it’s the Tea Party type who wish to make the past look like a rose garden, with the founding father’s who smoked hemp because it was better than tobacco, drink alcohol because of the poor water, who only certain leaders of the mason cult wrote up the constitution, not we the people. Only the ones who owned land could vote, certainly not black or especially women.. There is more to be concerned about to try to end discrimination against all people, as it is still within our supposed christian free country,—urged on by the pretend to be Christians who sprew out the hate.

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By Carl Street, January 7, 2011 at 4:05 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I am shocked to see the reference to “White Christmas” instead of the more politically correct: “Multicultural Holiday”.

After all, if book burning was good enough for Hitler it certainly should be good enough for us…

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By Inherit The Wind, January 7, 2011 at 3:53 pm Link to this comment

1) It’s by Mark Twain.  There isn’t any American writer alive who’s as good a writer, nor any work since Huckleberry Finn that’s been better.  It’s simply the greatest American novel ever written.

No more reason than that is needed.

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By Jonathan Wieder, January 7, 2011 at 3:45 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Okay, first, I believe you mean Thomas Bowdler, not Boulder. It’s where the term
“Bowdlerize” comes from. And someone at Truthdig should have caught this.

Next, unless I missed this in the article, the main point (and how many times do
we need to learn this lesson?) is that the language was carefully thought out and
intentional. Without the language to reflect then-current attitudes, there’s much
less in the story arc for Huck to overcome with respect to his view of Jim. One of
the main thrusts of the story is that he comes to see Jim as a human being.
Without that, it becomes merely a good story, rather than one of the great novels
in the English language and a powerful comment on race.

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By gerard, January 7, 2011 at 3:44 pm Link to this comment

Bowlderization is always popular with people who don’t want to admit the truth, particularly in its darker aspects.

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Gloria Picchetti's avatar

By Gloria Picchetti, January 7, 2011 at 3:43 pm Link to this comment

When they change Uncle Tom’s Cabin the next thing will be civil rights movement denial.

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By Dean, January 7, 2011 at 3:42 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Now give me a reasonable explanation why the N word was removed from all the movie versions.  Please….

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By felicity, January 7, 2011 at 3:38 pm Link to this comment

Miko - would you explain your slur.

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By felicity, January 7, 2011 at 3:33 pm Link to this comment

There was a movement in the ‘80’s to remove both Tom
and Huck from school libraries.  It wasn’t the ‘n’ word
then, it was the “corrupting” influence on “young
minds” apparently encouraging disobedience, free-
thinking and of course the unholy and ungodly
friendship between a black man and a white boy, Finn. I
think the movement started in Texas, where else.

Book burning, censoring etc. by tyrants has been around
a long time.  (Really weird was why the Brits burned
down our complete Library of Congress in 1812.)

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By Miko, January 7, 2011 at 3:10 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Hint: If you can’t think of ten reasons, it’s better to
have a shorter list than to pad it with unbelievably
stupid items at the end.

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