Alan Gribben is the English professor at Auburn University at Montgomery who suggested that NewSouth Books replace the word “nigger” with “slave” and the word “injun” with “Indian” in a new edition of “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.” Mr. Gribben is quoted to have said, “even at the level of college and graduate school, students are capable of resenting textual encounters with this racial appellative.”
First, a word on advice: know who you’re getting it from. I’m sure Auburn is a great school, but check this out:
Auburn’s top-ranked football team, which is preparing to play Oregon in Glendale, Ariz., for the national title on Monday, has tumbled in the N.C.A.A.’s most important academic measurement to No. 85 from No. 4 among the 120 major college football programs.
I have no respect for schools that place athletic achievement above educational endeavors, and its looking like Auburn sacrifices standards and principles to win football games – so maybe they’re not the first school to run to when you have questions about American Literature Classics. I’m also suspicious anytime a southern school has anything to do with ‘whitewashing’ American history.
Secondly, a word on Mark Twain: he’s the greatest. Haley’s Comet adhered to the man’s wishes… the man literally commanded the heavens:
“I came in with Halley’s Comet in 1835. It is coming again next year, and I expect to go out with it… The Almighty has said, no doubt: ‘Now here are these two unaccountable freaks; they came in together, they must go out together.'”
He died in April – it swung by to pick him up in May. Oh, and he’s also generally regarded as the father of American Literature, so you can’t fuck with his words. Changing Twain’s text is akin to saying you know better than Twain, and Mr. Gribben, lets not embarrass ourselves… I doubt you have half of Twain’s intellectual powers on your best day. Can anyone imagine Twain suggesting that some text from another excellent historical author should be changed? Not likely.
Finally, “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” is about RACISM. How can you take the racial slurs out of a book about racism? Isn’t racial slurs a large part of the point? “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” helps contemporary Americans see where we were, how far we’ve come, and how very far we still have to go. Modifying the text is as bad as selling teeth whitener that removes the enamel along with the stain… it’s the kind of thing that will get you ridden out of town on a rail, tarred and feathered.
Don’t buy the modified version of “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn;” it’d be like denying your past. We’re Americans, and we are who we are. We never stop growing or changing; sure, sometimes folks come along who try to retard the process, but we’re smarter than them – sometimes you need to swab the knuckleheads off the deck of your river boat.