Wed, 12 Jan 2011 11:34:59 -0500
Just when I thought business would slow and I'd have a chance to gear up for the centennial of Elizabeth Stuart Phelps Ward's passing (1844-1911) now I'm cross-eyed keeping up with this Huck Finn hullabaloo. I feel like the Undertaker in Life in the Mississippi.
I can add two things to the conversation. One is the link to Jon Stewart's coverage of this controversy on the Daily Show: http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/tue-january-11-2011/mark-twain-controversy
And in case the Daily Show link expires for some reason, a transcript of the coverage: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/1/12/935609/-Daily-Show-on-replacing-the-n-word-in-Huck-Finn
And finally my haypenny of opinion: a few years ago I worked with an African American charter school dedicated to science and technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts. This school made a point to encourage its students to refer to their social ancestors not as "slaves," but as "enslaved peoples." It may sound PC, but their point was similar to the one Larry Wilmore brought up. To be a slave is to describe a position much like a profession--while to be an enslaved person is to remove the active quality of slavery and show that the enslaved had no choice in life and no autonomy in society.
It would be more comical if Prof. Gribben chose to use "enslaved person" instead of slave, let alone nigger. But any euphemism removes some of the stain, and we're all guilty of needing soap and a towel before we (want to) look in the mirror. I'd like to thank the publishers of this new text for bringing the debate to the forefront of popular conversation. As long as they don't remove the socially acceptable violence of Twain's work I don't think they remove Twain's primary thesis.
We're all damned fools.