Huck Finn and the dreaded N word

There was a story on 60 Minutes a month or two ago about a new, friendlier version of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.  The publishers have removed the word “nigger” and replaced it with “slave.”  The publisher states this is so the book can be used in school without the stigma of that taboo word.

The story featured two teachers.  They were both teaching the unedited version of the book.  One teacher would say, “n-word” while the other said, “nigger.”  Both teachers were white women.  From my memory the teacher who said “n-word” stated she was not comfortable saying that word and wanted the conversation to be about more than just race.  The other teacher said she wanted to have a conversation about race and found that by talking about the word “nigger” it opened up the class.  I could be remembering this incorrectly.

The other person featured in the story is a professor of some note.  He could be a professor of African American studies, but I believe he was a professor of Literature.  He is African-American.  He is often consulted when a class is going to study Huck Finn, word “nigger” and all.  He stated that when he teaches the book he makes the entire class say “nigger” several times to get it out of the way.  He also says he loves the word.  It’s the framing of the word that makes it negative.  And it doesn’t like the new publication that removes the word in favor of the word “slave.”

The publisher of the “slave” version grew up in pre/post civil rights Alabama.  He grew up a racist, but through education and life experience he learned he was wrong, and hates the word “nigger.”

The reporter on the story is also African-American.

Now my thoughts.

I am not a big fan of censorship of any kind.  I’m also not a fan of the word “nigger.”  I don’t think it’s my place to legislate the word either since I’m lily white.  But with this book I find it to be a case of a well intentioned white person, suffering from white guilt, going way over the line.  It is not the responsibility of this generation to retroactively clean up our history.  Should we not teach American History because there’s a lot of ugliness in it? Just teach from WWI on and brush over the Civil Rights movement.

The word “nigger” has tremendous power, but I think it’s mostly in the mind.  It is, after all, just a word.  I will say this…I grew up in California.  I’m white.  I’m male.  I have never experienced any form of discrimination.  I’ve been pulled over by the police a total of once in my life and that was because I was missing the front license plate on my truck.  For over 10 years.  That’s how white I am.  I lived in the South for three years and did see discrimination in action, but to give the word this kind of power is a mistake.  I give it this power, but I don’t know how not to give it that power.  When I hear it, or write it here, there is an emotional feeling.  It’s not like writing, say, peanut butter.  That’s how I know we’re not living in post racial America.  I’m really digressing now.

Okay…Keep the book the same.  That way you can have an honest discussion about race in a safe environment and hopefully this generation behind me will not give the word the power we give it.  And hopefully I made sense here.

To close I will share my first experience with the word.

When I was 7 or 8 my buddy and I were playing with his G.I. Joes(I wasn’t allowed to have them.  They were too violent…ugh).  The theme song goes, “G.I. Joe….Greatest American hero…”  We changed it to, “G.I. Joe…Greatest American Negro.”  I had no clue what a Negro was, but I thought it was hilarious.  I don’t think I had any black friends at this time.  We lived in Chico, and I’m pretty sure there were no black kids in my class, swim team, soccer team, neighborhood.  I got my first “ethnic” friends when we moved to Sacramento.  Again…digressing.

Fast forward to the next day when my father and I were out in the car.  My dad gets very serious.  He tells me he heard the song we were singing and how it was not appropriate at all.  That that word is very hurtful.  I said, “What word.”  He says, “Nigger.”  Me, “What’s nigger?  We were singing negro.”  He corrected me on negro, too.

My father doesn’t have a racial bone in his body.  I honestly don’t think he sees race.  One of his oldest friends is Floyd Brown(google him) who he met while they were both getting their starts in radio.  I aspire to not see race, but I’m not yet there.

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Yea! I’m blogging again…

So I hate everything and everyone.  This isn’t some new revelation.  I’ve hated for quite a while.  I have been able to drill down my hatred into several subcategories though.  And I find that is helpful.

This past Saturday I was heading over to a friend’s house to deliver some of my macamaroni and cheese.  She’s been laid up with a kidney stone and I find that massive quantities of grease help with that sort of pain.  As I’m attempting to turn left onto a street leaving our subdivision(it’s a joke to call our ghetto a subdivision, but I lack the vocabulary to call it anything else) there was a woman in an Escalade turning left in front of me.  I have a stop sign in front of me so I did the moral, just and American thing and stopped.  She looked at me like I had just punched her infant child in the face.  I waved her to make the goddamn fucking turn.  Then I saw the hold up.  She was holding a Blackberry up to her head.  With her opposite hand.  So take your right hand and pretend you’re holding a phone up to your left ear.  That’s how she was driving.  It took her, and I counted, 45 seconds to make a left turn.  Because it’s hard to crank a wheel when you have your arm blocking it.  I made eye contact with her and I’m pretty sure she could read my lips when I told her what to do in a no outs, runner on first situation(bunt).

That’s one of my subcategories.  Morons who talk on their cell phones and can’t drive while doing it.

I also wish violent, bloody diarrhea upon those bitch constantly about how stressed out they are or how their life is SOOOOOOO rough.  I realize I may sound like a hypocrite, but I’ll get to that in a minute.   You’re life’s not tough.  You don’t have it rough.  My grandfather was one of 10 kids.  His parents were German immigrants.  They didn’t speak English when they came to the US.  THEY had it rough.  My father worked 30-40 hours a week while taking 20 units in college.  In the summer he worked on the railroad.  Like building it.  He didn’t have a belt, so he used a piece of rope that gave him a gnarly infection from rubbing him raw, AND one of his coworkers was a WWII vet who had flashbacks every night so he’d hid in trees  screaming that the Japs were coming to get him.  That’s rough.  I know a guy who is a single father to three boys.  All three boys are in the autism spectrum.  One is pretty high functioning.  The other two are not.  The youngest is something like 10 and still in diapers.  That’s rough.

How difficult you find things is all framed around your perspective.  My life is a cake walk.  I’m fairly healthy.  I have a great wife.  I have a fantastic job.  I get along with just about all my coworkers.  I have more friends than I know what to do with.  I’m a very lucky guy.  So why do I “complain” about things?  I think it’s because it reminds me of how I used to be and I hate how I was, and I have no patience for it.  Plus, it’s funny.

Oh, and I hate the Sacramento/Anaheim Kings.  Seriously.  Fuck those guys.

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