Tuesday, June 23, 2015


N-word in the News Again

It’s a strange thing that you can’t say the word nigger in order to condemn its connotation without getting hit with headlines. Even President Obama can’t. The reaction to that word, regardless of its context, is provocative and electrifying.

No good use for it
We know this word causes pain for blacks. It is racially divisive. For many whites it arouses feelings of guilt about our history, particularly in the South. Anybody using that word in conversation today is saying more about himself that about any African American.

It terrifies publishers
NewSouth Publishing reprinted Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and removed the word nigger so black children won’t feel demeaned by reading it. Presumably NewSouth believes it will improve the lives of African Americans if we eradicate that word not only from our contemporary vocabulary, but from history as well.

There are those who would follow NewSouth’s lead and remove the word from print—take it out of antebellum novels, historic newspapers and magazines, the slave narratives, and antiquarian books. 

Easy Reading
The history of our country, especially the South, is easier to read when we don’t have nigger to remind us that some of us suffered atrocities in slavery and some of us tyrannized our fellowman. At the same time, getting rid of the word will do away with some of the ridicule and scorn whites inflicted and slaves endured in the 19th Century.

Our history is popular reading for many Americans. We can enjoy it more and we can like ourselves better when we have a history we can admire. Is this the kind of history we need?
Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress
An inflammatory history produces inflammatory words
Photo Courtesy of the Library of Congress

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