Wanting to ban books for various reasons is nothing new, and language is often cited as the reason. Well, those who have sought to ban Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn because of his copious use of the word “nigger” in that novel now have an option. According to the L.A. Times, NewSouth Books is publishing an edition of the work that replaces each instance of the offensive word with the word “slave.”
I understand the power of words to denigrate an entire group of people, to cheapen their worth as individuals and in society. I don’t understand the need to sweep our history of doing so under the verbal rug, especially when the message of the book ultimately contradicts the hatred and ignorance embodied in the word, and a society where it was acceptable.
Unfortunately, racism, sexism, prejudices of all kinds are still alive and well in America, perhaps that is what makes being confronted with these hateful words so difficult. I’m not sure what the answer is, but am doubtful that it is in the rewriting of Mark Twain. I would love to hear his response to such a thing – maybe I’ll have to tackle the new edition of his autobiography to gain some more insight on that…