“Scholar Alan Gribben and NewSouth Books plan to release a version of Huckleberry Finn, in a single volume with The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, that does away with the “n” word”, I read with stupefaction in today’s Washington Post. What the f-word? , I thought. Mark Twain’s chef-d’œuvre is a honest look at, amongst other sociological observations, race relations. It is not a pretty read. It is not an easy read. But it’s a must and part of Americana, like it or not.
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn has been banned from schools because of the “N-word” when in fact it should be mandatory reading in both history & English classes. Students should be taught why back in the day, Huck Finn practically used the “N-word” as a salutation and why today, using such a word is a sure sign that one is not only ignorant but also a racist – despite what Oprah says. (Note: On a recent show where Mark Furhman of the O.J. Simpson trial was a guest, Oprah said: “It is my belief that using the “N-word” doesn’t necessarily make you a racist”. Sorry, sister. If you’re not Black, it does.)
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a testament of how far the United States have come and how far they still need to go. I have a 4-year old nephew. It would be easy to explain to him, without defending it, the usage of the “N-word” in Mark Twain’s book while it is still impossible to explain to him and to defend the usage of the “N-word” in Kanye West & Jay-Z songs: two artists he absolutely loves. As do I.