Friday, January 14, 2011

Don’t call me whitey...

I feel a little inhibited about commenting on the news that Professor Alan Gribben has brought out a new edition of Huckleberry Finn with the word “nigger” removed; or that the Canadian Broadcasting Standards Council has banned the Dire Straits song ‘Money For Nothing’ because it includes the word “faggot”. I became even more reticent after the movie critic Roger Ebert was digitally roasted for expressing his opinions on the former controversy. His offence was to tweet that he’d “rather be called a nigger than a slave.” The objection, apparently, is that Ebert “would actually say which word he would rather be called when he will never be called neither [sic].” Actually, if these are the criteria, maybe I am allowed to comment, because I’ve been called a faggot more than once; and I’ve even been called a nigger, although I think my interlocutor on that occasion was trying to call me a nigger-lover, but got a bit lost half-way through an uncharacteristically polysyllabic word.

No, it’s all too sensitive. I don‘t want to get embroiled in this never-ending argument about whether particular words are good or bad or only to be used by qualified individuals with the appropriate genetic makeup. Instead, I’d just like you to consider a scenario. Imagine that a whole load of wise and wonderful scientists and medical workers had announced that they wouldn’t in fact develop and implement vaccination programmes that would save millions of lives; that instead, they’d decided that if they just stopped people from saying those nasty words “smallpox” and “polio”, then everything would turn out OK in the end.

4 comments:

Richard said...

My most abiding memory from reading Huckleberry Finn as a kid were the repeated referrals to "spunk water". This book is obviously a danger to our children and should be burned at once. Vile filth.

If I still smoked I'd be forced to spark up a fag.

Rog said...

Look at them yo-yo's! That's the way to do it!

Annie said...

This makes me think of a brilliant Flannery O'Connor short story called The Artificial Nigger, about a Southerner and his young son, it's a great, subtle analysis of how racism is something that's learned. But would probably offend the US school authorities & get banned because of the title. Tsk.

Tim Footman said...

Richard: I first encountered spunk water when Fungus the Bogeyman was reading Twain to his child. Thought it was some sort of joke, delighted to discover it was real.

Rog: Well, exactly. I'm surprised yo-yo's haven't complained as well.

Annie: There was also a case where a school production of And Then There Were None was banned because it had previously had an offensive title. By which logic, even Gribben's editing can't save Huck Finn...