Source: Joplin Independent
“The N word” isn’t a word (and why “nigger” belongs in Huckleberry Finn)
Commentary by Nicholas Ladendorf
For the longest time I was in a seemingly endless debate with one of my best friends about racism. My basic point was that it is wrong to act as if there has not been any progress made on racism when there has been. My friend would make arguments and I would make counter arguments.He was smoking a lot of pot then and would forget the whole conversation; so we’d get into it over and over. My arguments would get stronger while he kept making the same points until he finally threw up his hands and loaned me the book from which he was basing most of his arguments. The book is titled Racism without Racists (Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, May 2003) and it basically says that white people feel guilty for being racist so they cover it up…to which there might be some validity, but the more I read of the book, the more full of shit I realized the author is. As an example he implied that one woman in a survey was hiding her racism because she said that her uncle was black when in fact he wasn’t her uncle; he was her godfather. To me having parents who CHOSE a black godfather would imply that she was probably not a racist.I told you that story so I could rant about something else. In the book Racism without Racists the author argues that in an age of color blind racism that hiding racial slurs is actually evidence of racism. Saying “the N word” means that you are just as much a racist as someone who says “nigger.”Though the author is an asshole it did make me realize how stupid saying “The N word” is. This euphemism actually takes the bite out of the word, but not in the way intended. When it is being reported that someone said “the N word” it doesn’t sound as bad as the man was ranting about “them niggers.” I have a much more appropriate response to the man who was ranting about “them niggers” than a guy who said the “N word.”In current events this is important because there is a new edition of Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn that will replace the word “nigger” with “slave” to allow the book to be taught in schools. This is HERESY! Twain is making social commentary with his book. Changing the word takes meaning out of that commentary. When Finn starts the book calling his unlikely accomplice a “nigger” it shows just how far Finn comes at the end of the book when he’s calling him a “friend.”If teachers are not competent enough to teach the material “as is” they should have the children read something else (likeWhere the Red Fern Grows or My Side of the Mountain). A teacher worried about the parents’ reactions should request permission slips. It is important for the reader to hear the ugliness of the words if they are to understand the book.Some will say it is better to edit the book and let kids read it then deny them the book. Bullshit. They are being denied the book if you “nerf” it. You might as well edit out the section on lynch mobs while you are at it. There are plenty of fine adventure books in classic literature that will appeal to children. Huckleberry Finn says something about our country and it makes us feel something about our country. If we aren’t ready to expose our children to that don’t try to sell them the diet version. Have them read The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and hope they read the sequel when they can handle it.