RE: [SACC-L] Where is Bill?
on censuring Twain by John L. Jackson, who wrote Race and the Media in AnthroNotes.
From: SACC-L@yahoogroups.com [mailto:SACC-L@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of lauratgonzalez
Sent: Monday, August 15, 2011 10:40 AM
Subject: [SACC-L] Where is Bill?
As you know, our long-time friend and colleague, Bill Fairbanks, is walking across America.
He has just taken a ferry across the Mississipi River and visited the Mark Twain museum. He reflects on Huckleberry Finn:
"To celebrate my victory over the mighty Mississippi we walked to Java Jive, a coffee shop on Main Street where we relaxed and I worked on my Updates. As I walked over the Mississippi and through the Mark Twain District of Hannibal I thought about some comments I heard from elementary school teachers about their students reading Huckleberry Finn. Some told me they were not allowed to recommend the book because of Twain's use of the word "nigger." Again it seems Americans have a desire to recast history to reflect the ideological commitments of the present. The word nigger seemingly was routinely used to refer people today would called African-Americans. When I was a child I was taught not to use the word nigger, that it was a term that by that, although once commonly used had become derogative term. I suppose thee are a couple of takes on this. If history is sanitized by not allowing students to read literature in which the word nigger is used, students could t hen ask, well then what was the civil rights movement all about? Times change as does appropriate terms. I first learned to call African-Americans Negroes. It was then the respectful term and was used during that period of our history. For example, when Tom Potter walked with me in Kansas City we went through the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. Later colored and to be the respectful word, and was used in the NAACP. This in turn was followed by Black in the late 1960s and 1970s, reflecting a period of Black pride and now African-American. Which denotes place of origin as do say Italian-Americans, rather than skin color. History is complex and is layered, perhaps as the strata of archaeological sites. To understand it and learn from it it must be dealt with, the good with the bad. If literature can be rearranged to suit present ideologues one would suppose that soon we can expect Moby Dick to be rewritten to in such a way as Captain Ahab's mission was not to kill Moby Dick, but to tag him so the movements of albino male sperm whales could be better understood. People who believe the art of the past should should conform to the ideology of the present should support the 2001 decision of the Taliban to destroy the Bamiyan Buddhas in Afghanistan."
To read more of Bill's thoughts as he crosses the country on foot, go to http://ccanthro.blogspot.com/
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