Did this School Teacher Really Defend His Right to Use the N-Word to a Black Kid?

By Francesca

 

Six letters. Two syllables. So why do people get so twisted over such a small word?

Nearly ten years ago, an old white dude at Alabama-based publisher NewSouth Books decided to edit out the epithet “nigger” from the Mark Twain classic The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. He said this “pre-emptive censorship” was an attempt to counter schools dropping this tale of slavery era America from curricula. You’d think this was insignificant news, but y’all know as well as I do that white people love them some Twain – about as much as they love Tupperware parties and having their dogs lick them in the face. Now, while some of y’all might think this a compassionate gesture, I mean…c’mon. Y’all can’t tell me with a straight face that when these folks at NewSouth Books debated “pre-emptive censorship” they were deeply concerned about how this word would hurt Black kids or desensitize white kids? This is America after all. Cotton, err I mean, capital are KING.

Okay, let me be blunter: a publisher is in the business of selling books, not a moral high ground. And I’m willing to bet that even if they thought about how lethal the N-Word is, they didn’t take pause to think about the racial violence that comes with whitewashing Huck Finn’s world. I mean, ya’ll do realize that Huck lived when African Americans were NOT EVEN CONSIDERED HUMAN right? They were on par with Massa’s chair or toaster. This is pure madness. And y’all know that when you trying to save the kids from this foolishness, it’s for you—not them. Ain’t nobody feel good when they talk or teach this Fu*&ery. But we got to do it. Just like when it’s time for that yearly physical. That shit is mad uncomfortable, but it’s for your own damn good.

Truth is, erasing words in a book can’t erase a despicable history. Though, I guess we could give white people points for trying (Kanye shrug). So if y’all liberals want to do everyone a real solid, try not to run away from the task of teaching this word’s history. Cause censorship under the guise of racial sensitivity is ERASURE. And this is not the Price is Right. You don’t get a chance to spin the wheel a second time when you f’ed up. I know, it’s unfair when things don’t go your way. But as French colonizers once said, c’est la vie.

Now, let’s add to this problem that in these contemporary streets we got kids of every creed and color repeating the N-Word in Rap lyrics or using it as a term of endearment thanks to the “good” folks at record labels and the Lil’ Yactys and Young Thugs of the world. Face palm. I mean, when NWA were telling the police to go F themselves, kids still had context and grandparents to proverbially slap the sense into ‘em. Not to mention that young rap fans still knew that when white people used the word, it wasn’t cause they wanted to chill with them over a beer.

And so we arrive at the present tense, when the long-term effect of flipping and reversing “nigger” into “nigga” has been a dangerous level of amnesia about the N-Word’s meaning. And when coupled with liberals who want to LITERALLY erase the word, this equals a generation of dabbing dummies —black, white or otherwise—who lack the 411 on the power and pain the N-Word carries.

Though, we can’t even entirely blame the youngins. I mean, kids generally don’t know better. That’s why us old folks are constantly telling them not to touch the hot stove, or have a friend hold their head over the toilet when they are throwing up all the vodka they drank at Tommy’s party. They don’t want all that nastiness in their hair, and they definitely don’t need the injury of this word’s history. So, how can these mumble-Rap-loving teens do better if we don’t instruct in teaching moments?

The realest 411: we are to blame if we whitewash American history, and fail to keep it 100 on the meanings, uses and changing nuances of the word. I don’t care how many times Drake utters it like a soft-nothing in your ear – the N-Word has a violent history, and when used out of context (and especially by white people) recalls a history of power that dehumanizes.

 

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