My kids won't believe you!
My kids won’t believe you.
I don’t like being forced to take words from anyone. I don’t own them, they belong to anyone and not even the mythical magical black man can take them back or away from anyone. If you don’t feel comfortable with something like a word it isn’t fair to say it belongs to someone else and try to give it to them. It is not very polite to try and make them “Take it back.”
Back in January of this year, on a glorious and righteous Tuesday, publisher The NewSouth broke news it would release a new edition of ‘The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn’ with all 219 instances of the word nigger (it’s ok, don’t run) replaced with the word slave. Pardon me for saying so, but they done lost they damn mind! I was filled with remorse that I’d forgotten why Ebert was fired, and not being more vocal with my agreement with his offending tweet, “I’d rather be a nigger than a slave.” My mom spoke up while I typed this out loud, “Me too!” I turned to her and asked where our Roots VHS was, and told her to put it with all of the other science fiction in the house.
A week ago my girlfriend was told by a woman that she needs to have some more respect for me. The woman had heard my girlfriend saying that she wanted to see her boy. Her boy is me. I am a boy. Boy is one of those words however that she is not allowed to say when referring to a black man. Not everyone is restricted, just in a context where fault is possible, like if you are white. Again, I will not request, or take any steps to have a word to be returned to me. Boy is what my mother, father and sisters call me when they are not talking about one of the girls. In fact when actually was a boy, I was referred to as nigger and boy more so than my actual name. No, not always as term of endearment and someone I don’t know trying to restrict my girl from using it as such is something I have a problem with.
Redd Foxx had a wonderful joke about not being a “boy”. Carlin had a great joke about Pryor being a nigger. Twain wrote a great story about a boy helping a man who lived in a framed world in which the echoes of the N-bomb rang and crashed 219 times. I would rather a teacher not attempt to read the book in their class, and a parent to restrict their child from reading the book than to have any child of mine be exposed to a piece of literature that has been manipulated to change a historical social dynamic into one that better sits with their squeamishness. Any child who reads the original book who doesn’t already have the lights turned on will be blind for a moment but their eyes will adjust. If yours haven’t yet I am very sorry. Huck used the word to refer to Jim, who was indeed a slave, but do not take away the experience of reading The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Do not take away the enlightenment of a child as they travel with Huck. If you leave the book alone it’s the story of a boy traveling with a man who is a slave. The boy knows who Jim is. No matter what the boy calls him.