On the N-word and Huckleberry Finn

Written by Rizoh. Posted in Culture

Tagged: ,

Published on January 06, 2011 with 4 Comments

A new, forthcoming version of the Mark Twain classic Adventures of Huckleberry Finn substitutes the word “nigger” with “slave.” I won’t bore you with the details. I’m more interested in the cultural implications. It is, how do I put this subtly…fucking ridiculous. It’s an injustice only rivaled by that last Black Eyed Peas album.

The move begs the question: Would you rather be called a “nigger” or a “slave”? I’m torn on that one, as I’m not particularly fond of either word.

It also makes you wonder about the ethics of editing an author’s work against his will? Twain can’t defend himself from the grave. But here we are tinkering with a book he published in 1884. Even if he could come back from the dead, I’m willing to bet my last pair of crochet pants that he’d still stand by his writing, “nigger” and all.

Imagine if someone went back and excised certain offensive words from, say, It Takes A Nation of Millions… or Illmatic? Such an act would alter, and possibly demean, the quality of those albums. Forever. Huckleberry Finn is a classic work of American literature. It should be treated as such.

More importantly, it’s unhealthy to shy away from aspects of our history that make people squirm. Just last year, the Texas school board moved to neuter the slave trade by renaming it the “Atlantic triangular trade.” Kids need to learn everything. What does it say about our attitudes when we’re constantly revising history to suit the comfort level of one group or another?

The usage of “nigger,” in and of itself, doesn’t necessitate a moral failure. Twain was a part of and above the history he was documenting. He stuck that word in there 200 times on purpose. He wanted you to cringe as you read the story. The book is about a racist boy growing up in a racist society. Stripping Huckleberry Finn of the vitriolic N-bomb, however well-intentioned, effectively strips it of its power as a scathing commentary on entrenched racism. Rather, it sets a horrible precedent of cultural constriction.

Ultimately, yanking the racial epithet from Twain’s book does nothing to move us forward as a nation. It certainly won’t stop security guards from looking at me funny at art galleries, nor will it stop cops from pulling me over for DWB (Driving While Black). We should be more concerned with our future instead of trying to cleanse our past. There’s a reason the windshield is bigger than the rear-view mirror.

TRU

Rizoh

Rizoh is the most powerful man in all the lands. He lives in Houston where he earned a BS in Nerf Herding. He's the founder of The Rap Up, the former editor of Roc4Life.com, and is in the Grammy-awaiting band Pervertable Disciples.

More Posts - Website - Twitter - Facebook

4 Comments

There are currently 4 Comments on On the N-word and Huckleberry Finn. Perhaps you would like to add one of your own?

  1. Wow, that’s absurd.
    A well written essay, however.

  2. i think that the people who revised this were well-intentioned, but i agree with you, henry. taking away the word from the book actually does more harm than good. brilliantly written.

  3. reminds me of an “almost immediately turn off “experience of radio playing 2pac’s hit ‘em up censored version.

  4. I agree with you 100%

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Jaap van der Doelen

Leave a Comment

Site Meter