Mark Twain vs. Today’s Rappers

In Books on January 8, 2011 at 4:49 pm

Mark Twain vs. Today's Rappers

Just thought today’s Mike Luckovich editorial cartoon was hilarious.

This is in light of a NewSouth Books’ latest release of a version of Huckleberry Finn that substitutes the word “slave” for the n-word. Mark Twain famously used this word 219 times in this book. The new version is being edited by Alan Gribben, an English and Philosophy professor at Auburn University.

In light of all the criticisms this book is facing, I want to ask you all right now: How many of you have actually READ the book? I know for one I haven’t. It just seems hypocritical for media to be reprimanding Gribben for his actions, when his true intent is to expand the book’s leadership. When we haven’t even read the book, why are we so indignant about deleting the n-word from a “classic”, and so stubborn about deleting the n-word from today’s rap lyrics?

I can’t speak like other older folks who have READ the book in a classroom under white teachers, but I do remember the first time I came across the n-word in a classroom setting. We were reading Mildred D. Taylor’s Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry out loud in my 7th grade English class. One of my classmates, who was African-American, actually said the n-word out loud, and an audible hush fell over the room. Since I’m not used to reading out loud, I was startled by this. Most of the white students in my class just said “n-word” and moved on with the paragraph, but he had said it out loud. It was almost shocking to me.

It’s this kind of resonance that Mr. Gribben will be stealing away from future audiences that read this book in their classrooms. Granted, not many will be reading it out loud, but there’s a difference of intent, tonality and meaning when you say “slave” and when you say the n-word. Mark Twain was NOT throwing the word around like most rappers today are. He realized the importance and meaning the word echoed, and used it 219 times for a reason. As a book that will be read by young and old alike (I’m planning to start working on it as soon as I get back to school myself), I believe that we today have no authority to ‘sanitize’ such strong language that is intended for audience of a certain maturation.

What are your opinions on this? Drop a comment below!

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