“N-word” vs “Slave,” The Media’s Biased Coverage of Huck Finn

Alan Gribben, a Mark Twain scholar and professor at the University of Montgomery, partnered with NewSouth Books to replace the slur “n***er” with “slave” in “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.” He based his decision on the fact many schools refused to include this book on their mandatory reading list because it contains “n***er” 219 times and “Injun” a few times.  Gribben’s felt that rather than deny students the opportunity to read this “classic” he’d offer “slave” as a viable solution. All he was doing was giving school’s an alternative that would allow “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” entry as part of the curriculum.  This is not literary treason and it gives young readers access to a book that would otherwise be off limits to them in their classrooms.

In January of 2011 the new edition came to the public’s attention and the flood gates burst.  Gribben’s detractors, and they are legion, responded as if he said he was storming libraries everywhere and replacing the book’s original version with the slave edition.  People reacted as if he was revising or excising large chunks of copy from Twain’s work when all Gribben was doing was replacing two words.  That’s it.  People kept screaming this is censorship, but shouldn’t there at least be a three word minimum before we can label something censorship? I’m just sayin’.

The white media was overwhelmingly opposed to the new version and their newscasts strongly reflected that bias.  Mark Strassmann, a CBS reporter, visited Morehouse College and interviewed a suit wearing Black man walking through campus.  We learn that he is David Rice and when asked about the “n***er” vs. “slave” controversy, he said he believes the actual slur helps Americans face the issue of racism.  Rice said the slur makes people “uncomfortable” but this helps teach about the slur.  He said “agitation” makes society move forward and helps us to grow, therefore don’t replace the slur.  The camera zooms in to a close-up of Rice.

That’s all fine and well but WHO IS THIS MAN?  We’re only privy to his name but beyond that Rice is never identified nor are his credentials provided.  Viewers don’t know if he’s a professor, a student, or someone who happens to be strolling through campus.   There are no people in the background during this interview.   Morehouse might have even been on a winter break when the camera crew showed up, after all it is January.  Did CBS deposit Rice here and have him wear a suit to appear authoritative? CBS frames Rice within a prestigious Black academic setting and slyly attempts to pass him off as an academician who represents Morehouse’s position which is clearly CBS’s position.  Also, CBS displayed Twitter responses during this newscast from a few people weighing in on this new edition.  One person even compared it to taking the Holocaust out of “Ann Frank.”  Talk about an extreme comparison.  Slavery and everything else is in tact.  Gribben only changed two words.  Two words.  Besides, many publishers offer the original text.

 CBS deceptively presented the Black man on campus, it displayed Tweets that were only in favor of Twain’s original work and CBS refrained from presenting an opposing viewpoint.   Irresponsible, deceptive journalism?  I think so.  Judge for yourself.


NEXT TOPIC:  “N-word” vs “Slave,” The Media’s Biased Coverage of Huck Finn – Part 2


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