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Author Topic: The "N" Word  (Read 3447 times)
Dice
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« on: January 04, 2011, 03:47:59 PM »

And no gamers, it's not "Nintendo" (this time).

http://perezhilton.com/2011-01-04-the-n-word-to-be-edited-out-of-new-edition-of-mark-twains-the-adventures-of-huckleberry-finn
I *hate* using a Perez Hilton link, but this isn't the first time a story like this has come up....

While many people are against editing a classic piece of literature (sure to become somewhat "historical" in a sense); what could the possible benefits of this even be?

Anyone offended?  Anyone not??
I've heard how To Kill a Mocking Bird is no longer suitable for classrooms anymore (it's been pulled) - a shame, it's one of my favorite books (and I'm not the big reading type).
EDIT: in fact, I probably would have NOT read it unless I was school.  Just because of the N-word?

Thoughts?
« Last Edit: January 04, 2011, 03:56:10 PM by Dice » Logged

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Mickeymac92
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« Reply #1 on: January 04, 2011, 03:53:43 PM »

Anyone offended?  Anyone not??
I've heard how To Kill a Mocking Bird is no longer suitable for classrooms anymore (it's been pulled) - a shame, it's one of my favorite books (and I'm not the big reading type).

Thoughts?

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« Reply #2 on: January 04, 2011, 03:56:12 PM »

I'm against censoring and editing of any kind. Is the n-word offensive? Yes. But pretending like it doesn't exist or being overly sensitive to its use in a historical context is ridiculous.

I also hate the notion that it's perfectly acceptable for black people to use it in an endearing way, and yes I realize that not all black people feel that way.

In a related story:
http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/niggardly
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« Reply #3 on: January 04, 2011, 04:04:04 PM »

I'm not black nor actually know any black people outside of Internetland (I'm so multi-cultural) so I don't know if my opinion counts.

I don't like the word so I don't use it or like hearing it, but I don't believe censoring books because people get offended. It feels sometimes that people get confused between the use of an offensive word and the intent behind it. A racist dickhead is still a racist dickhead if he used completely PC language.
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Dice
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« Reply #4 on: January 04, 2011, 04:10:53 PM »

I have always hated "book controversies". 
It's as simple as "if a book offends you, don't read it".

I was especially perplexed by the To Kill a Mockingbird case since Atticus is actually defending a black fella...
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« Reply #5 on: January 04, 2011, 04:12:19 PM »

I'm not against censorship (sometimes I think it's a pretty useful tool) but this is just ridiculous. I have plenty of African (and African-American) friends; none of them have ever been offended by the use of the N-word in literature.

I understand that this is a children classic but there are worse ways for kids to learn about historical slavery, racism and relevant derogatory terms than in a classroom studying a book involving multi-racial friendship.
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« Reply #6 on: January 04, 2011, 04:14:56 PM »

Five things:

1) Often this great Twain book gets left off of the list because of the presence of this word. I personally find this silly but if the removal of the word gets the book back into more classrooms then I am all for it. Gribben's (the scholar spearheading this change) motivation here is to get more people to read the book - I highly doubt it is coincidence that he is a professor at Auburn in Alabama. To quote Gribben, who wanted to make the change after talking to a number of teachers: “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," he said. "For a single word to form a barrier, it seems such an unnecessary state of affairs."

http://www.heraldsun.com.au/entertainment/new-editions-of-mark-twain-novels-to-remove-racial-slurs/story-e6frf96f-1225981589323

2) The baggage associated with this word could, in the eyes of new younger readers, simply serve to distract. The counter to this argument from Thomas Wortham (in the above link) is salient - perhaps an opportunity is being lost to discuss Huck's use of the word - but the elimination of the word does not eliminate the important themes of the book.

3) Editions of the book with the word still in it will still exist. This could potentially be regarded as a "radio edit" of sorts of certain music. You can buy a music album with the naughty words removed or you can buy it in all its cussing glory. I don't think more OPTIONS is ever a bad thing. I think we'd be having a different conversation if this was an attempt to replace all existing editions of Huck Finn, but it isn't. It's a version that hopefully will put it in the hands of more kids.

4) To Kill a Mockingbird still gets taught in plenty of schools, and I figure the same thing will happen here - the original Huck Finn with all of the original language will still get taught in plenty of schools also. But in some places where it isn't currently taught because of the presence of one word littered throughout the book, this simply provides a new chance to reintroduce it.

5) Censorship is suppression of speech. Not allowing an alternative version of Huck Finn would be a form of this. However it should be clear which version of the book you are getting when you purchase it.
« Last Edit: January 04, 2011, 04:16:46 PM by dyeager » Logged
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« Reply #7 on: January 04, 2011, 04:21:09 PM »

My English teacher took great delight in saying the N word when we were reading To Kill a Mockingbird in school. I don't think it was a racism thing so much as a legitimate reason to say a forbidden word.
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« Reply #8 on: January 04, 2011, 04:35:03 PM »

I think they should do this but then counter it by releasing a version of the book where EVERY word is replaced with the N-word and then give people the choice which to buy.
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« Reply #9 on: January 04, 2011, 04:45:04 PM »

My English teacher took great delight in saying the N word when we were reading To Kill a Mockingbird in school. I don't think it was a racism thing so much as a legitimate reason to say a forbidden word.

I had an English teacher who said it with excellent enunciation (posh Oxford accent), it didn't even sound right.

Dyeager's points make sense. They're not abolishing versions of the book with the N-word and maybe this way people who wouldn't have read the book will get around to it, to understanding its core themes. It would be nice if this change was unnecessary but it seems like a good choice within the context of the present U.S. education system.

Of all forms of political and government institutions in any one country, it's usually the education ministry that frustrates me the most. I place a very high value on education, especially elementary and secondary schooling-- so it's disappointing to see things go awry in that department.
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« Reply #10 on: January 04, 2011, 04:51:52 PM »

I find the USA often attempt to ignore things instead of facing the problem.

The only thing I know about How To Kill a Mockingbird is this: http://www.albinoblacksheep.com/flash/mockingbird
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« Reply #11 on: January 04, 2011, 05:43:09 PM »

I remember a high school English teacher saying how Catcher in the Rye was banned in many high schools because it had the F word in it.  I think it should be up to the teachers to determine whether their classes are mature enough to handle that kind of content.  My teacher trusted us enough that seeing the F word in a book wasn't going to scar us for life.  And luckily I lived in a school district and time period where parents weren't going to hypersensitively crusade about stuff like that.

I don't believe in censorship of any kind.  In Huck Finn, that was the vernacular of the time.  That's how people spoke, for better or worse.  It's a part of history, albeit a sordid part.  It's like, how can you read a book such as "Black Like Me" without any of the racial/racist content in it?  I got to read that in an English class and it was a great book.  I read that in the same class I read Catcher.  And what's next?  Sanitizing The Scarlet Letter?  How?  That book is about how adultery profoundly affects a colonial woman.  OMG SEX!  OMG ILLIGITIMATE CHILD!

I just feel like "the man" is trying to impose too much horseshit on what kids should and shouldn't learn and forcing teachers into lockstep of "do X in Y way or else!"  We can't keep kids in plastic bubbles forever.  Ahh, more fodder for the dummying down of America.
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« Reply #12 on: January 04, 2011, 06:23:28 PM »

Has there been a rise in racism because of To Kill A Mockingbird recently? Or is this just more paranoia.
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« Reply #13 on: January 04, 2011, 06:55:05 PM »

I don't think too many people are going to disagree that the fact that this is being brought up as an issue is kind of silly. It's probably overly sensitive and I think it is generally a bad idea to mess with art because a lot of times art simply is not supposed to be safe anyway.

But faced with the very real prospect that Huck Finn won't make it back into a classroom because of a word that has accumulated decades of baggage that Twain could not possibly have anticipated, I'd prefer changing it for something else and seeing kids get a chance to read it in school as opposed to not.

There are more important themes that can be explored in Huck Finn aside from just why he uses a certain word, important themes about race, humanity, and relationships that it would be a shame to lose simply because people are unwilling to compromise. It sucks, but my personal opinion is it is a very small price to pay compared to what is lost otherwise.

EDIT: Not that it matters but my guess is Twain would find the entire situation equal parts amusing and depressing, since that's kind of how he regarded most things. :-)
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« Reply #14 on: January 04, 2011, 07:39:13 PM »

It's stupid of course, but hey, this is America.

I remember when I used to live in West Philadelphia (a predominantly black neighborhood where one of the premier institutions of higher education in this country happens to be situated) I was called a n**ga on more than one occasion (I'm white).  Good times.
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