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john evans <[log in to unmask]>
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Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]>
Sun, 22 Apr 2007 23:22:00 -0400
text/plain (41 lines)
I have been "lurking" on the side, monitoring this discussion on
racism with keen personal interest, waiting for someone to strike a
chord that would resonate with my own questions on this subject. My
father passed away while I was 14 and we never discussed art,
politics, religion, current events, or sports. My only knowledge of
him was through others, and my impression is that he was universally
respected by our smug little community in Eastern PA where we had
very few minorities. In fact, a "mixed" marriage in our town would
have been between an Italian and a Welshman. That was the environment
in which I was raised, but years of travel, reading, education, and
living in the shadow of my father ultimately caused me to commit acts
of extreme liberalism. I've fought for women's rights, protested
wars, supported gay marriage, and championed civil rights.

Recently, we (my sisters and I) discovered over 150 letters that my
father had written to our mother during his service in WW II and
reading them has given me a look at the inner man. I was proud to
discover that his references to African-Americans was limited to
"colored" and "Negro." Reading, education, and travel were, for both
of us, an enlightening experience and easily explains how someone
from a narrow cultural upbringing (for Twain, living amid slavery)
can grow beyond that to accept cultural or racial differences. I
don't think Twain was as much "ahead of his time" as he was,
experientially, "ahead of the rest of human race."

The question of Twain's apparent bigotry against the French interests
me in that in one of my father's letters (the one written on my
birthday, ironically enough) he used a racial slur. It would be
understandable if the slur had been directed at one of the races/
cultures the United States was warring against, but it wasn't. It is
a term I will not share here because it offends me, but my point is
that his use of one racial slur in one letter out of one-hundred and
fifty has cast doubt on the idealized image I would like to have of
my father, much like Twain's comments on the French tarnishes the
idealistic image we would like to preserve of Twain. I guess the fact
of the matter is that no one is perfect. In the meantime, I am
waiting for a post that excuses both Twain and my father for their

John Evans