Posts tagged ‘whitewash’

January 7, 2011

Twain, Huck Finn, New South Publications, Nigger Jim, and the whitewash of history as it may be found offensive.

by jhon baker

I’ve recently been disgusted by New South Publications new edition of the Twain Classic, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, where the words “nigger” and “injun” are removed. Nigger is replaced by the word slave as that somehow means the same thing with the same connotation. This is exactly what shouldn’t happen. I have my many reasons and have been all over this blogosphere commenting about it, incensed, and giving it a lot of thought. Today I happened upon this blog…
Et tu, Mr Destructo?
It makes the argument against removal of harmful words from great texts very well and should be a must read for everyone that reads this blog. I agree with it in it’s entirety. What follows are simply additional thoughts related to the matter at hand. I will get back to posting poetry very soon; it is all related though, isn’t it?

I feel strongly about language and that language should never be cheated or cheapened. I wrap myself in the skin of language, it’s importance to me can never be overstated. In writing I have yet to use the epithet “nigger” but know that someday it may come up and I would hope that I wouldn’t hesitate to use it properly with the correct intent – because it is intent that gives any word it’s power – a word on it’s own is a collection of letters that sits meaningless.
I’ve often wanted to have a particular bumper sticker made and may do so during the next election cycle – I want it to simply say “Abortion” – nothing else. This word alone can mean many things and has several connotations, the ire it receives is astounding to me. The word alone is not an opinion but that is what people will ascribe to it and I revel in the reaction.
The word “nigger” is no different, only complicated by our shared history and that we do not want to own the pre-civil rights abuses but we must. We want to put the somewhat recent use of slavery as far away from us as we can and we mustn’t – we should embrace our history, for good or ill, as our shared history. Then we can move forward together.

I have always ironically enjoyed fifties themed restaurants and can often be found asking where the “whites only” or “colored only” signs are or even ask to be seated in the whites only section. The related nostalgic experience excludes the actual past, I believe that this is a greater disservice. This is similar to when people talk about how the fifties or forties or – choose an era, were better in some way – more simple. Utter BS – selective memory and selective application of history is what that is. I point these things out to folks not to inflame but to enlighten and inform.

When did denying the past, obliterating it from our texts, do any good? Is the past not there to learn from, is the past not there and immutable.

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