Saturday, January 8, 2011
Mark Twain ... A Racists?
Is this world getting a bit nuts …. Or is it just me.
The latest madness comes in news that a new edition of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer will replace the n-word with "slave" in an effort to boost acceptance of the books.
It seems that Mark Twain's classics are frequently challenged because of the use of the 'racial slur' and appeared as recently as 2007 in the American Library Association’s list of most banned books.
"It's such a shame that 'n' word should be a barrier between a marvellous reading experience and a lot of readers," said Twain scholar Alan Gribben, who is working with the publisher on the new versions.
“There is a risk that a new generation may miss out on reading Adventures of Huckleberry Finn or Tom Sawyer because of sensitivity about the use of the "n-word," Gribben said.
The word appears 219 times in Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and four times in Tom Sawyer, he said.
Rob Morrison, an English professor at Queen's University in Kingston, Ont., called the changes "wrong-headed."
"I don't believe that we can solve racism by pretending that word wasn't used during this time," he said in an interview with CBC News.
"If that word makes you uncomfortable — it should make you uncomfortable and the best way to solve that discomfort is to talk about it."
Morrison said he would be happy to see Twain's classics taught to children in Grades 7 and 8 (about age 11-13).
"They have heard that word," he said. "What they maybe haven't heard is an intelligent discussion of the word and what it meant at the time."
That kind of discussion takes good, committed teaching, he said, but if youngsters never hear racism discussed, they risk thinking that it is culturally acceptable, especially now that rappers have appropriated the word.
Twain published Huckleberry Finn in 1885, and it is set in pre-Civil War days when the character Jim was still in the grips of slavery. Twain set out to depict a southern U.S. of the past and Jim, a close friend of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, is frequently referred to with a racial slur.
Tom Sawyer and the famous fence painting.
In my opinion this isn't so much about racism as much as it is about erasing historical fact. So what if the N word was/is used in literature. In Twain's time, the word was used as an means of identifying a particular group.
The next step is to eliminate racial references from all literature, so this could go pretty far, to the point of seeing the words white, black, asian, or whatever removed. One could go even further with this and eliminate references to ideology (because politics causes fights) and religion. (ditto) You may even see gender neutral references removed (because weirdos are bugged by those) and a lot of other troublesome references cleaned out.
The fact is, that if youngsters never hear racism discussed, they risk thinking that it is culturally acceptable, especially now that rappers have appropriated the word.
Lets hope that some good sense prevails before we really start tobogganing down that slippery slope of political correctness.
Posted by Tom at Saturday, January 08, 2011