Thursday, January 06, 2011

More PC Stories: Huck Finn, Tom Sawyer, A Fired TV Reporter & The "N" Word

So we seque from the story about the dismissal of Capt. Honors to another episode in political correctness--in two parts.

A publishing company has decided to reprint Mark Twain's classic "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" and "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" and remove the word "nigger" from the text (WTSP).

"It certainly is controversial and it has been for many years," said Barbara Pickell, the Director of the Clearwater Public Library.

Published in 1885, Mark Twain's, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is known as the America's greatest novel.

However, says Pickell, over the years, many educators have opted out of teaching the childrens' classic because of the offensive language. Specifically, the "N"-word used 219 times.

So, Mark Twain scholar, Alan Gribbons, an Auburn University Professor, decided to make a change to the classic novel through publishing company NewSouth. In February, a version of the classic will replace the "N"-word with the word, "slave."

"It enables us to set this inflammatory racial epithet aside and begin to address
the greatness of Twain's works," Gribbons told CBS News.

Pickell calls the move censorship. "It does take us away from the true literary work and what the author really meant to say in the words that really represented the time and place that he was covering," said Pickell.
It's not just being banned in books. A TV reporter was fired and is suing the station after using the word in a discussion about a 2007 news story (WMAL - The Grandy Group).
U.S. District Judge R. Barclay Surrick has ruled that former Fox29 reporter-anchor Tom Burlington's lawsuit against the station, claiming a double standard and alleging that he was the victim of racial discrimination, may go to trial. However, Surrick denied Burlington's claim of a hostile work environment.

Burlington, who is white, was fired after using the "n" word during a June 2007 staff meeting at which reporters and producers were discussing reporter Robin Taylor's story about the symbolic burial of the word by the Philadelphia Youth Council of the NAACP.
I don't know the context in which Burlington used the word, but he has a point, there is a double standard. Performers of (c)rap "music" use the word almost every other time in their CDs. Not only that, can you believe that it was only 30 odd years ago that these movies were made?

Not to mention being used in the comedy of Chris Rock and Richard Pryor. So what's the point of taking it out of Mark Twain (who used the word to expose racism) when it appears in popular culture?

How about educating youth the context in which Twain used the word? Similarly, how about teaching people it isn't a good idea to use the word, instead of "banning" or "burying" it? The idea of banning words seems too much of a slippery slope for us to go down.

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