Censorship of Huckleberry Finn propagates racism
As if to dash any hope that the state of education might improve in the new decade, NewSouth Books announced recently that it will release a new edition of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn with the word nigger and other "hurtful epithets" replaced with "less offensive words." The reason for this change, they say, is that many school districts today refuse to teach the novel due to parent complaints.What's troubling about this decision isn't just the desecration of a great work or the fact that complaints from illiterate parents can get great books banned in schools, but that any person of even modest education can still bring himself to behave as if there were such a thing as race at all.
What a pathetic spectacle to see people decrying a book which attacks the racist mindset even as they uphold - and "celebrate" - the imaginary racial differences that spawned that mindset in the first place.
And what an embarrassment it is that one can find, among the otherwise intelligent student body of a prestigious university like this, a dozen or more clubs specifically built around this archaic fiction. This is to say nothing of the fact that the university itself considers this fiction in its hiring and promotion decisions, or that it devotes time during its orientation schedule to the fatuous exercise of "diversity training."
These farces have the common goal of polishing the race myth by raising the use of words like nigger to the level of a crime against humanity while leaving the myth itself - and therefore the fragile identities predicated upon it - intact. So it is that "the N-word" ends up censored while the concept goes unassailed by supposedly forward-thinking people.
Any serious person should be deeply repulsed by this nonsense. The desire to sanitize this odious little myth by stifling certain words and leaving only celebration is the desire to bathe a diseased whore: No matter how hard she scrubs or how sweet-smelling a shampoo she uses, she'll be just as infectious after her bath as before - and twice as dangerous to everyone she meets precisely because she no longer looks the part.
All of this is undertaken, as one is constantly reminded, in the pursuit of "progress." What term could possibly be less appropriate? Craven acquiescence to the blustering of ignorant parents is not progress. "Burying" words while advocating "the advancement of colored people" is not progress. Forming silly student racial associations is not progress. Marching doe-eyed freshmen through a doublethink boot camp (affirmation!) is not progress.
No, progress lies not in bathing the whore or finding pretty euphemisms for her sores, but in ditching the whore altogether; not in giving race an upbeat makeover or euphemizing words like nigger, but in rejecting the concept of race itself as a relic of a more primitive time in which humans could offer no better explanation for genetic variation.
The word nigger is invaluable precisely because it serves as a reminder of how barbarically people can be made to act under the delusion that there are different types of humans. Mind you, that's not to say that the word is important because it facilitates discussion of the ugly side of race, as some claim. The concept of race has only one side, and it is uniformly hideous - those who think they can construe it in positive terms are fooling themselves.
Indeed, these people, these pimps to the race myth's whore, are the ones who must be fought. The great danger today comes not from Klansmen or skinheads, but from the vacuous zeitgeist of finding and celebrating racial "identities." Those driving this trend are not the enlightened opposites of the segregationist yokels of the past; they are the segregationist yokels. But unlike those more obvious yokels, these yokels receive almost universally positive press. No matter what they think they are doing, the only achievement of those who push this upbeat spin on race is the prolongation of an absurdity that should long since have gone the way of the flat Earth and the philosopher's stone.
The forthright use of words like nigger is a fine way to begin rolling back this stupidity. And if hearing race discussed in its natural terms is unpleasant to you, good. It's meant to be unpleasant. From its earliest days, it has been used to placate those who thought it immoral to treat humans as property. If strange men from parts unknown aren't quite human - perhaps they're a sort of almost-human animal, or the descendants of the cursed second son of Noah - then how is using them for manual labor any different than using horses or cows?
This type of thinking can never be expunged so long as racial pseudoscience is treated as fact. Who can be a racist that does not first believe there are such things as races? Who can enslave a category of humans that does not first believe that such categories exist? When faced with any such backwardness, remember: The belief in race precedes the racism.
To all of this, the pimps of the upbeat race myth offer an uninspired response: It would be wonderful if race could be dropped, but "we're not ready yet." So they continue describing themselves in colors and using ridiculous euphemisms, and behaving as if nothing were amiss. But it is precisely this sort of intellectual laziness and willful backwardness that allows fiction and pseudoscience to survive their encounters with reality and which ensures that no one will ever be "ready" at all.
Do not count yourself among this sorry bunch. Have some dignity! Forward thinking begins not with banned words and clichés about dark hands shaking light hands, but with a feeling of embarrassment at answering the question "what are you?" with anything other than "human." Embrace that embarrassment, and do your best always to inspire it in others as well.
At Rice, as in the classrooms that will soon teach this bastardized Twain, a dangerous delusion of progress is reinforced every day, and many are being taught to think well of something innately evil. With crackpot publishers like NewSouth and organizations like the Office of Multicultural Affairs pimping a poor man's progress, the prospect of actual advancement slips further out of reach every day. And like the men itching after an encounter with the freshly bathed whore, the students indoctrinated into the anti-thought of this upbeat race myth will lose the most.
Don't be a race pimp.
Eric Harrison is a Wiess College alumnus.
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