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Topic: Huckleberry Finn and To Kill a Mockingbird aren't racist books!, And you're an idiot if you think they are.

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Mega X.exe
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Posted on November 19, 2007 at 20:46:46 [Post link]
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So you know what pisses me off? People who want to ban books like The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and To Kill a Mockingbird because a certain n-word is used in the text. Now, it's not that I think that the word has no negative connotations, but it's a knee-jerk reflex to the word because the context of the word's use as well as the meaning behind the author's choice to use it is being ignored in favor of the catchall "racist" argument.

Firstly, I'm not trying to discount the n-word. As I'm sure we all know, it's a pejorative term that refers to dark-skinned people primarily of African ancestry. Gangsta's often like to use the colloquial version of "nigga" as a synonym with "person" in an effort to claim the word as a part of their culture (which is fairly controversial in it's own right) Interestingly enough, back in the day, it was often meant without any derogatory connotations, but simply to describe someone with dark skin.

So now we get to the two books that are controversial. First, let's start with The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. The American Library Association ranked Huckleberry Finn the fifth most frequently challenged (in the sense of attempting to ban) book in the United States during the 1990s. Why? Well, according to Wikipedia

Quote:
Quoth the Wiki nevermore
  • removed from reading lists due to alleged racism (e.g., in March of 1995 it was removed from the reading list of 10th grade English classes at National Cathedral School in Washington, DC, according to the Washington Post; and a New Haven, Connecticut correspondent to Banned Books Online reports it has been removed from a public school program there as well)
  • removed from school programs at the behest of groups maintaining that its frequent use of the word nigger (212 times overall) implies that the book as a whole is racist, despite what defenders maintain is the overwhelmingly anti-racist plot of the book, its satirical nature, and the anachronism of applying current definitions of polite speech to past times.
  • removed from public and school libraries because of its "racist" plot.


I want to draw attention to the bolded parts. I'll address most of them later on in this post, but for the moment I want to mention the first one, which blatantly states that the very presence of the word constitutes the racist nature of the book, regardless of the context and the intent. Despite what is often popular belief, "Nigger Jim" is not within Twain's text. It was actually used by Albert Bigelow Paine in his 1912 Biography of Mark Twain/Samuel Clemens. It was then later used by several literary critics, including Leslie Fiedler, Norman Mailer, and Russell Baker whom I shall quote.



And what the hell, let's let Ralph Ellison have a go at it too.

[quote] Ralph Ellison
Huckleberry Finn knew, as Mark Twain, that Jim was not only a slave but a human being [and] a symbol of humanity . . . and in freeing Jim, Huck makes a bid to free himself of the conventionalized evil [i.e., slavery] taken for civilization by the town. [/quote]

Going back to the first part which I bolded, let's address the remainder of the points. The quotes above should attest to the anti-racist nature, so that leaves the satirical nature.

The dictionary defines 'satire' as:
1. the use of irony, sarcasm, ridicule, or the like, in exposing, denouncing, or deriding vice, folly, etc.
2. a literary composition, in verse or prose, in which human folly and vice are held up to scorn, derision, or ridicule.
3. a literary genre comprising such compositions.

Let's remember that Twain is making fun of the South's racism. He's trying to present it in such a tongue-in-cheek way that people feel ashamed of being racist because they realize just how ridiculous it is. And it's not like this is the first time he's done this either. He used to write for a paper, and when he tried straightforward stories that didn't get much reading, he went for the satire.

Remember kids, as history will tell you, the best social criticism is often done through humor. That's how the Greeks got away with making fun of political leaders: Satirical plays. If people are laughing, they're also going to be letting in some of your message. Being preachy gets you nowhere. Of course, I can forgive those who condemn Huck Finn to some degree. In the written word sarcasm, satire and irony can be hard to figure out, especially if one is unfamiliar with the context of the author's worldview, world and life.

But when it comes to To Kill a Mockingbird. I have no pity. Mockingbird is not a satirical book. It's clearly upfront about what's going on and about what it's trying to tell you. Guess what? Yes, there are racists in the book. Bu here's the catch: They're the antagonists! They even try to kill the main characters who are just kids!.

The black man in the book is on trial for the accused rape of the villain's daughter--In actuality, he's been framed by her because she's too ashamed to admit that she's been sexually abused by her father. Despite her antagonism, Atticus Finch still claims to pity her for her father's crimes--the father of the two main characters, Atticus Finch, decides to take on the case to prove the man's innocence, despite the fact that the town encourages him not to.

That's right. Atticus is defending a black man, which we can all agree is not a racist action. He's also portrayed as a wise man, a good parental figure, and a role model almost as blameless as Christ himself. So you have the racist villain, and the non-racist Messianic symbol sending a very clear message of tolerance, and somehow the book is racist simply because of a word choice? I'm sorry, but that's just made of Epic Fail.


Edited by Mega X.exe on November 19, 2007 at 20:47:06.

Edited by Mega X.exe on November 19, 2007 at 22:51:20.


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Posted on November 19, 2007 at 20:56:15 [Post link]
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While I can't stand Huck Finn (mainly because I didn't like it the first time and was forced to read it in school four more times afterwards) I have to agree with you there. Its really stupid to ban a book just because of a single word in it.

America is full of stupid people. Amen.


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Posted on November 19, 2007 at 21:10:11 [Post link]
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Agreed, on all points. How people could think To Kill a Mockingbird is racist is beyond me...

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Posted on November 19, 2007 at 22:08:39 [Post link]
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I must agree as well.

I loved those two books. It's hard to imagine someone dense enough to actually want to ban them... You have to wonder if these people even bothered to read them.


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Posted on November 19, 2007 at 23:45:52 [Post link]
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I have to read To Kill a Mockingbird next month. Huck FInn is sophmore material though in my part of the states.

Personally, I wish this arguement would've worked for Don Imus... okay, that's three words...but still!


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Posted on November 20, 2007 at 1:02:04 [Post link]
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Not to drive the topic off-course, but I think Don Imus was a completely different issue, since it seems like he meant that in a completely derogatory way (if you listen to the audio, it's pretty evident).

I think you'd be hard pressed to qualify that as satire. :p

Mega X.exe
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Posted on November 20, 2007 at 1:44:35 [Post link]
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Yeah, he's a shock-jock. He's not being a social critic, he's just being offensive. And while I carry no ill will to people being offensive for its own sake, it's open season on them.


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Posted on November 20, 2007 at 2:32:24 [Post link]
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Posted on November 20, 2007 at 19:04:55 [Post link]
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I'm with you on this. Despite being non-American, I have to say that I find a person's own stupidity not a valid reason to make others ban a child's book just because of one word that supposedly is "bad". It's almost like they are telling to ban biology books because it has dirty words in it.


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Posted on December 23, 2007 at 23:23:05 [Post link]
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lol, X, don't use the "Epic Fail" clsoing argument if you post this on a more serious forum ;P.

Edited by God on December 23, 2007 at 17:23:19.

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Posted on April 3, 2008 at 23:20:49 [Post link]
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I agree that it isn't racism in these books, these books are only showing everyone a glimpse of reality thats all. It isn't wrong to want to know how people ACTUALLY treated each other back in those days. I mean, yea, your teacher could just TALK about it but that would be boring compared to following along to a book on tape such as "To Kill a Mocking Bird". Yea believe it or not, despite the fact I hate reading I'd rather follow along on a book.


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Posted on April 5, 2008 at 1:25:35 [Post link]
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Heh, people can be a bit dense. Sure, the word was once used in a negative way, but that was over a hundred years ago. Times have changed and now people know better. But almost too well. Sure that specific word (honestly I don't feel comfortable saying it) is now not used, but for all the wrong reasons. Ever hear freedom of speech? That word is just a word and really is no worse than some other words in the English dictionary, just depends on how one uses it. In To Kill a Mocking Bird at least (haven't read Huck yet) its used really to help prove a point. The theme behind the book was that discrimination was wrong, a black man was sent to jail unjustly. The word is used to make clear that the white man of that time was indeed very unjustly to the black man. It only proved that discrimination was wrong and not a word.


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Posted on April 5, 2008 at 1:57:28 [Post link]
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Quote:
Originally posted by Blazen
Heh, people can be a bit dense. Sure, the word was once used in a negative way, but that was over a hundred years ago. Times have changed and now people know better. But almost too well. Sure that specific word (honestly I don't feel comfortable saying it) is now not used, but for all the wrong reasons. Ever hear freedom of speech? That word is just a word and really is no worse than some other words in the English dictionary, just depends on how one uses it. In To Kill a Mocking Bird at least (haven't read Huck yet) its used really to help prove a point. The theme behind the book was that discrimination was wrong, a black man was sent to jail unjustly. The word is used to make clear that the white man of that time was indeed very unjustly to the black man. It only proved that discrimination was wrong and not a word.


Ah precisely the thing I was getting at. I just couldn't figure out how to put it. So anyways, eloquently put Blazen, you really know your stuff.


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Posted on April 7, 2008 at 3:18:23 [Post link]
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I remember when we read Mockingbird... The teacher hit all the wrong points, and said some really disturbing things...

"So she's about seven years old, that's the age you first start remembering stuff." *class nods, except me*
That was a WTF moment.

"So Boo Radley saved Scout, but he's still antisocial and creepy."
Yeah... thanks for insulting people who just like to stay inside. Way to discriminate.

Both authors have the right idea about kids though. Scout embodies childhood innocence and ignorance, as she doesn't notice race. It's a common concept among children that you don't really think about such things if you're exposed to them. Twain's child character novels were almost ENTIRELY satirical in nature, making fun of humanity in general. Anything mistaken for racism is just the way things were. It may have been more popular for him to put down blacks, but he didn't, and I don't think he really cared. The human satire is the core, and it doesn't deviate.

Now, as for WHY kids still have to read this stuff, I'm not sure. There are more contemporary classics which would be much more enjoyable. If you're wondering why kids don't read, it's because the old stuff turns them off to it. Yes, there are those of us who get it, but the average kid needs something relevant, as sad as it is. Keeping in mind that the classics were usually popular fiction, there's no valid argument for keeping modern fiction out of things. Throw in some Ray Bradbury aside from Fahrenheit 451, make 1984 required, maybe even Asimov's Foundation series. Inspire the kids, don't bore them.

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Posted on April 7, 2008 at 3:32:58 [Post link]
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Originally posted by Nayus Dante
If you're wondering why kids don't read, it's because the old stuff turns them off to it. Yes, there are those of us who get it, but the average kid needs something relevant, as sad as it is. Keeping in mind that the classics were usually popular fiction, there's no valid argument for keeping modern fiction out of things. Throw in some Ray Bradbury aside from Fahrenheit 451, make 1984 required, maybe even Asimov's Foundation series. Inspire the kids, don't bore them.


No, kids don't like to read these days because it's not a choice. They're not allowed to explore books most of the time. When they do read in school, you can bet your boots it'll be followed by questions and tests, and really, if that's what happens when a child reads, what makes you think that he'll continue to do so? Of course, some kids do this anyway, but most kids I knew in school didn't care about reading something they didn't choose to read.

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Posted on April 7, 2008 at 5:05:57 [Post link]
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Quote:
Originally posted by The Helldragon
Quote:
Originally posted by Nayus Dante
If you're wondering why kids don't read, it's because the old stuff turns them off to it. Yes, there are those of us who get it, but the average kid needs something relevant, as sad as it is. Keeping in mind that the classics were usually popular fiction, there's no valid argument for keeping modern fiction out of things. Throw in some Ray Bradbury aside from Fahrenheit 451, make 1984 required, maybe even Asimov's Foundation series. Inspire the kids, don't bore them.


No, kids don't like to read these days because it's not a choice. They're not allowed to explore books most of the time. When they do read in school, you can bet your boots it'll be followed by questions and tests, and really, if that's what happens when a child reads, what makes you think that he'll continue to do so? Of course, some kids do this anyway, but most kids I knew in school didn't care about reading something they didn't choose to read.


Quoted for truth.

Some people do like reading the old stuff. There are some old books I certainly enjoy reading. Granted, Huck Finn isn't one of them. Then again, I hate that book because I didn't like it the first time around, and was forced to read it four more times.

But yeah, if a person isn't given a choice, they aren't going to enjoy a book if its followed by tests and the like. Give them a choice--even if its a choice of two things they don't like--and they'll make a choice. They'll pick the one they dislike the least of the choices made.


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Posted on April 8, 2008 at 17:36:11 [Post link]
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Quote:
Originally posted by RisingDragon
But yeah, if a person isn't given a choice, they aren't going to enjoy a book if its followed by tests and the like. Give them a choice--even if its a choice of two things they don't like--and they'll make a choice. They'll pick the one they dislike the least of the choices made.


Which is kind of the way things go where I live. Granted, we need to read 17 books for literature in total in 6th year (comparable to US high school 12th grade), but we get to choose which ones. And sure, some of them need to be from certain periods (I read two from the Middle Ages, one from the Renaissance and one from the Romantic Period), but we get to choose.

Because, you know, a free country needs to offer choices. Not too much, not too little, but enough.

That being said, I put 1984 on my list, right next to The Lord of the Flies, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe and Dragons of Summer Flame. All totally different, but I read 'em and loved them (well, LotF was kinda boring and the book smelled, but at least I finished it). The rest of my list I won't mention, since it's hardly relevant and 90% of you will not have ever heard of any of them.

Besides the Discovery of Heaven, perhaps.


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Posted on April 8, 2008 at 17:49:43 [Post link]
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I don't like the way we're forced to read four-hundred pages of dross because some oxford professors of literature consider it "deep" :P

...And Shakespeare pwns Dickens every time :P


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Posted on April 21, 2008 at 10:44:38 [Post link]
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i dunt leik 2 reed srry


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Posted on April 23, 2008 at 21:43:54 [Post link]
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Uhm, that's completely ridiculous. To Kill A Mocking Bird was showing how injustice it was to blame the black man, with no proof. I have not read Huckleberry Finn, but I am pretty sure it's not a raciest book.

The play A Raisin In The Sun was written by a black person and has black characters, and the black characters say the n-word.

I'm guessing if a book said cracker or honkie it wouldn't be raciest, but if the n-word is said, it is automatically raciest.

:/

Plus why is it being banned now? These books were to prove a point back then, that discrimination was wrong, and now they are being labeled as raciest? How stupid. Without books like those, the generations are going to grow up being raciest. People think it doesn't exist anymore. I know people in the KKK, it's all still happening.

And if we ban the material that can help teach our newer generations that it's wrong, it won't stop.

Edited by Kagome_Sakura on April 23, 2008 at 17:49:48.



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Posted on April 23, 2008 at 23:50:59 [Post link]
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If you ask me, America has gotten way too afraid that it's going to offend someone.


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Posted on April 25, 2008 at 2:44:43 [Post link]
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Quote:
Originally posted by RisingDragon
If you ask me, America has gotten way too afraid that it's going to offend someone.


Then you take a look at what's being shown on television.

 

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