Thursday, January 06, 2011
The "N" word
I admit it. The "N word" strongly offends me. It grates upon my nerves every time I read it. Like fingernails on a blackboard. And I'm white. So I for one applaud NewSouth Books' announcement that they are going to publish a new issue of Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn with the N-word (which is used 219 times therein) deleted. . Let's be clear. As this CNN article (here) points out - this is not about censorship. It is going to be obvious from the get-go what the missing word was. This is about a fine piece of American literature that at present is ruined by a word that may have been okay to use when Clemens wrote it, but is not acceptable today. . Nor is this about Freedom of Speech. You cannot yell "Fire" in a theater, and you cannot make a high schooler read/say this word, 219 times, by making Huckleberry Finn a required reading book. . Now I know the dittoheads are going to rail that black rappers use the word all the time. They do. Blacks can use the word; whites can't. Deal with it. Similarly, I can use the word Honky all the time to refer to myself or among my white colleagues, but if a black calls me that, I will get offended, and I will let him know that. . And I have no problem when Homophobes substitute the word homosexual for gay in their literature. It is apparent that the G-word offends them, so they have a right to interpose. I just find it amusing when Rudy Gay, star basketball player for the Memphis Grizzlies, ends up being identified as Rudy Homosexual. Ditto for the companies that edit all the cusswords out of various movies and re-issue sanitized versions thereof. That ain't for me, but if it unruffles your feathers, more power to ya. . Finally, I recognize that it may initiate some unintended backlash by various Luddites. The Texas Board of Education may now feel it is okay to do some substituting of their own in textbooks. They'll probably replace slavery with "benevolent caretaking", "The Civil War" with the second and sadly unsuccessful War of Independence, and William Tecumseh Sherman with "the 18th Century Anti-Christ". An hey, I'm even cool with that last one. . So Right On, NewSouth Books!! This has been long overdue, and I have a bunch of other books (including Steinbeck's fantastic The Grapes of Wrath) which need the same treatment.