Take a hike, Huck
The Mark Twain classic The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is no longer permitted reading for students in Accomack County, Virginia. Huck’s been told to take a hike along with another American classic – To Kill a Mockingbird. This is hardly an isolated incident, as Huck Finn has a long history of being banned from both public and private schools as well as public libraries. CBS News reports that one Virginia mother issued the following complaint:
There’s so much racial slurs and defensive wording in there that you can’t get past that,” the mother said during last month’s school board meeting. “Right now, we are a nation divided as it is.”
While the books haven’t yet officially been banned, Huck and Mockingbird are currently serving a suspended sentence:
WTVR reported that now a “review committee consisting of the principal, the library media specialist, the classroom teacher (if involved), a parent and/or student, and the complaint will convene.”
Without a doubt, the n-word is used quite a bit in both books. Nonetheless, the hypocrisy of this current literary storm is reminiscent of the New Testament verse that speaks of examining the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye while paying no attention to the plank in your own. This scripture comes to mind because the racial slur at issue here is used so loudly and so often by – you guessed it – people of color.
As Screen Actors Guild/American Federation of Television and Radio Artists members, the rank and file are required to watch certain movies in order to vote in the Annual SAG Awards. It’s sort of the Academy Awards by professionals for professionals. Last year, the movie Straight Outta Compton was nominated. As my husband and I screened the compulsory show, we could hardly believe how often black people referred to themselves and each other using the very racial slur that Mark Twain is no longer permitted. Movies are only one genre of American culture where this is predominant. Ever listen to rap music? You’ll find out quickly that every other word sung by these black artists begins with the letter “n.”
So what gives? Anyone who’s read either of these books understands that anti-racial themes are front and center. Are we to believe that context no longer matters?
While our founding fathers so eloquently have spoken of the tyranny of the majority, the tyranny of the minority in America has become almost insufferable. Do not mistake what was just written – it is not the tyranny of “a” minority, but rather tyranny of “the” minority. We’re talking about one single, solitary mother who has issued a complaint, and suddenly hundreds, perhaps thousands, of students in Accomack County, Virginia are forbidden to read two American classics.
As a nation, we’ve become awfully testy about race lately. But this mother is correct about one thing: right now we are a nation divided. Somehow it just doesn’t seem right to blame it on Huckleberry Finn.