In defense of Mark Twain and the N word.

First, I make no apologies for what I say. I have thought it through, weighed the consequences, and acted accordingly. I believe that I will probably be assailed by the ignorant, superficial, and juvenile; but it is up to them to become informed. It is not up to me to pander to the ignorant. There is a movement afoot to sanitize society by shielding generations from words. Words, thoughts, letters, sentences, and books which express ideas. The works of author, Mark Twain, are mutating into a watered-down platitude of literary sophistry thanks to thought police. Does such a fate await those of us who express ourselves freely in print; for later, or present, stormtroopers of speech to tear asunder?

I am no fan of the word nigger. I have used the word in the past. I have never called a black-person, African-American, person-of-color, negro,….or any of the other “persons” classified and renamed in feigned attempts at political correctness, a “nigger”. As a matter of fact, I’ve never called anybody a nigger. I’ve used the word in conversation, in reference to, anecdotally…. but never in directly addressing another human being. When I did use it, I was speaking out of ignorance. The society in which I grew up afforded me many opportunities to be intimately familiar with many sorts of bigots, racists, and other ignorant persuasions.

Do I apologize for my ignorance and use of the word nigger? No. Of course not. I will apologize for a deliberate act, but not one that arises from not knowing. How did I come by my ignorance? Growing up in the 60’s and 70’s I was afforded access to much of the civil rights unrest. I heard the word nigger used often when referring to unruly and audacious blacks. “How dare those niggers!” was the objection I recall. The unfortunate thing is, many of those people are still with us; possessing the same point of view and harboring hate and disdain for blacks.

There is a huge inequity in that blacks are given a pass at using the word nigger. If the word is so offensive then it is color-blind and not just offensive to blacks. What if the word became a slur against, what is commonly referred to as “white-trash”? If white-trash were referred to as niggers then would the word lose it’s status as a racial slur? I hear blacks refer to each other as “nigger”, “nigga” and “my nigga”. I guess it’s possible that some blacks would be offended at being called nigger even if done so by another black, but I don’t think the same level of outrage and indignation is reached when within the same race.

The puzzling thing is that black people don’t mind being treated like niggers by the government. Following the Civil War and the passage of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States black people were drawn into federal subjection and then bestowed with “civil rights”. Civil rights are created by government, regulated by government, and can be taken away by government. I have never heard anyone in government acknowledge that, not only blacks but all people have natural, unalienable rights that originate with their Creator and are outside the purview of government. Yet, the so-called “civil rights leaders” keep leading the black people by the nose ring in the pursuit of their “civil rights’, and thereby deceiving them into neglecting their natural, unalienable rights. If there is such a thing as a nigger, and I’m referring to the immoral, disingenuous, fraudulent, dishonest, unscrupulous, and vile actions of a person who would rather choose, and lead others to, servitude and subjection, then I’d say that many of the civil rights leaders fit that bill. This is not to vilify those who are pursuing civil rights without knowing the true nature of civil rights and believe them to be striving for all rights.

If someone is going to be offended by the word nigger then they should be equally offended at being treated like one. Nigger is a term of disdain and hate that probably fomented after the Civil War and spread with the black people’s assertion and struggle towards freedom, as opposed to settling for the watered down civil rights. I am not, however, going to ignore the existence of the word because of some self-imposed over-sensitivity. The word is not ugly, it is not hateful and it is not derogatory. It is a word. It is the intent, emotion, context, and inflection applied when using the word that makes it what it is to some people. If nigger is so terrible, then is not the words murder, rape, and hate equally as abhorrent? If we are to look at what a word means, nigger being an ignorant utterance towards black people, then aforesaid words, meaning much more horrible things than just a slur, should be banned as well. If I harbor hate and bigotry in my heart towards a race and extend a sanctimonious hand in feigned friendship, is not whatever word I assign to that gesture, be it friend, neighbor, citizen…. on par with nigger? Yet, we focus on an arrangement of letters in defining hatred as opposed to the actions of men. How unfortunate.

My black friends, of whom I have many, will understand this diatribe. Opportunistic whites will use this to deflect their shortcomings towards my character in hopes of minimizing their failings. Disingenuous blacks will seize my words to further perpetuate more hate and divisiveness. If you are a hateful, narrow-minded bigot then that is your misery. If you are a sanctimonious opportunist looking for a whine factor then that is your problem. For the rational and reasonable who recognize the world, and people, for what they are and refuse to be identified by the hateful, ignorant words of others, then I say welcome! Remember the word “nigger” for what it is. A symptom, a disease, a defect, and identifier of hate and ignorance. We can’t hide from the ugliness in the world, but we can realize it for what it is and choose not to partake in its dehumanizing effects.

By the same token, it is still just a word. The words of Mark Twain possess just as much cultural significance as they do literary significance. His choice of words are like tools in the arsenal of a master craftsman. Many great works from antiquity began with crude tools and oppression. The pyramids derive from hammers, chisels, and slave labor. Why do we not toss a cover over them? Mark Twain presented us with characters from a time in history where bigotry was rampant and atrocities common. I do not focus on the name, “Nigger Jim”, as much as I do the young boy, “Huck Finn”, seeing Jim through eyes not yet clouded with prejudices of the day, and instead, seeing Jim for his humanity. Nigger Jim is the name Mark Twain used to introduce us to the character as viewed through the world’s eyes at the time, and yet, Huck Finn chose to tear that label apart through his compassion and reason. It is the difference between helping the needy, and offering assistance to the temporarily disadvantaged due to pecuniary inconvenience.

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One thought on “In defense of Mark Twain and the N word.

  1. Anonymous says:

    very well said

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