Posts Tagged Huckleberry Finn

Fuck Censorship

Words.  Words are an interesting things.  They’re combinations of letters and related sounds (or sounds and their related letters) that have been given, in many cases, largely arbitrary meaning behind them.  Anyone who has sat and repeated a word over and over until it’s lost meaning knows the odd sensation of suddenly realizing just how arbitrary the connection between words and meanings can be.  Is there any specific reason that the letters c-o-w and their related sounds should refer to a grass munching delicious quadruped?  Or that r-o-s-e should refer to fancy sweet smelling flowers.  Shakespeare understood this.

And there are some words that have more incendiary meanings.  String the letters f-u-c-k together and the result is one of the most versatile words in the english language, and also one considered the most vulgar.  And when you string the letters n-i-g-g-e-r together, well, things can get a little more hairy.  The word has been given an undeniably ugly meaning, and has a very profound history within American race relationships.

Some would argue, with a certain validity, that the word has superseded fuck, or even cunt, to become the most vulgar word in the English language.

But the word exists.  It has its history.  And there are times and places when it should exist.  And one of those times and places is in the novel Huckleberry Finn.  However, there’s a new push to censor the word nigger out of Huck Finn (as well as the word injun, which is getting less press).  I could not be more against the move.  It’s not because I like the word, but because I like English literature.  And because I like the idea that thoughts might not be censored.

Do not misunderstand, while there are people looking to defend this move with the idea that it puts the book into more students hands, it is a move of absolute cowardice.  It is a move that does nothing but emphasize the power of the word as a word to hate, as it puts it in a special place as the word that gets censored out of our literature.  When I went to high school, I read on assignment Huck Finn.  I also read several novels as assigned that included the word fuck.  If the existence of the word nigger is taking the book out of the hands of students, the solution is not through an act of censorship, it’s through an examination of what we let school children read and why.  At what point does the potential discomfort of a subject invalidates it as a subject that should be taught in schools?

Ignoring words doesn’t make them not exist.  Talking about language, talking about how the history of the word and race relations in the United States are shown through the use of the word, that makes it valid as a word within context and as a teaching tool.

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