This week in N-word news …
Look out, Mark Twain, an Alabama publisher is planning to release a new combined volume of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer that replaces the N-word with the word “slave.” The book will also replace the word “Injun,” a derogatory term for Native Americans.
The N-word appears in the original Huck Finn 219 times. The use of it and other culturally offensive terms in Twain’s book has long been a source of controversy, with parents and activist groups having called for the removal of the book from required reading lists for more than 50 years.
In a Publishers Weekly interview with Twain scholar Alan Gribben, who is working on the new edition of Finn and Sawyer, Gribben explained that he didn’t want to whitewash the historical reality of race in the books, but that an adjustment in the language might be necessary to make the books more accessible to a 21st century audience. From the PW article:
“After a number of talks, I was sought out by local teachers, and to a person they said we would love to teach [Tom Sawyer] and Huckleberry Finn, but we feel we can’t do it anymore. In the new classroom, it’s really not acceptable.” Gribben became determined to offer an alternative for grade school classrooms and “general readers” that would allow them to appreciate and enjoy all the book has to offer. “For a single word to form a barrier, it seems such an unnecessary state of affairs,” he said.
So, what do you think? Another example of PC overkill, or a necessary consideration in our current culture? Have you ever been offended by the use of this type of derogatory language in works of literature?
One more interesting N-word tidbit, per TheWrap.com …
A former TV news anchor is going to trial over an N-word incident. The anchor, Tom Burlington, is white and claims he was the victim of a double standard when he was fired by his former station for using the N-word in a meeting. He claims his African American colleagues had used it freely without consequence. The federal courts will be asked to determine whether it is acceptable for an African American, but not a white person, to use that notorious word in a work setting. Does Burlington have a case?
Here is Ishmael Reed, writing on The Wall Street Journal‘s Speakeasy blog:
The cultural consideration is flattering but unnecessary. Students need to be educated about hate language and racial bias – it doesn’t need to be rendered invisible or people will forget that its wrong. Besides, as a good friend of mine says, taking the word away doesn’t do much if you’re still gonna treat us like what you’re scared to call us straight out. Get serious.