Auburn University

Don’t Sanitize Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Okay, by removing “nigger” from Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and replacing it with “slave,” the novel has been robbed of its authenticity. Readers should have an opportunity to experience a text exactly how the writer penned it. Additionally, “injun” should not be removed from the work either. When you remove and/or modify words of an author’s work, you are rewriting the work. We don’t want to read the revised version of an editor—we want to read the author’s original version of the text. Professor Alan Gribben, English professor at Auburn University, has elected to remove the words “nigger” and “injun” from the NewSouth edition of this great American classic, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. We don’t need Professor Gribben trying to make this novel more pleasant for us to read. I really think that Professor Gribben eliminated these words to make this classic easier for White K-12 teachers to teach it. It’s not really about hearing and reading the terms “nigger” and “injun”—it’s really about the guilt that many, if not most, White people have when these terms are mentioned, especially nigger.

Since Professor Gribben is an English professor, I’m really stunned that he would tamper with the authenticity of this novel in the first place. One thing that I have learned as an English major and university English instructor is those who critically study literature have a reverence for the original text. Therefore, it is understandable that people remain curious as to why this man is robbing the work of its authenticity. Of course, I understand that editors have to make choices but this is such a substantial revision of the text, considering we are talking about the removal of over 200 words. The fact that Twain mentioned “nigger” over 200 times in the novel signals that this word is crucial to understanding the novel in its totality. You cannot say that you are trying to prevent young students from hearing and reading the word nigger—they already hear and read the word inside and outside of the schools they are situated.

Eliminating nigger and injun gives all K-12 instructors a pass on the serious responsibility they have to engage students in serious discourses and understandings about race and the history of race in America. When nigger and injun are encountered in this classic American novel, teachers have an opportunity to educate students about the history of the words, the context in which they were used, and suggest their significance to what the novel is striving to communicate.

Literature is history. Nigger and injun are terms with unique and important histories that teachers have a responsibility to inform their students about. One of the dominant reasons why schools are not empowering students in the way that they should be is they are committed to giving them a miseducation. When you replace the word “nigger” with the word “slave,” that’s a substantive change you have made. Yeah, there are affinities that the terms share but those terms have their important differences and histories that we must know. We have to love our students enough to give them the truth. We cannot give our students the truth when we hide things from them that we think might be unsettling to them.

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn has the power to unsettle, unnerve, and unhouse us—when we embrace and engage with the text exactly how Twain penned it. Yes, “nigger” and “injun” may unsettle, unnerve, and unhouse some students, but we all need to be unsettled, unnerved, and unhoused so that we can gain true paideia (true education). When we gain true paideia, we begin to surrender misunderstandings and exchange them for true knowledge. Our students need true paideia to help them to realize that they need to embrace the substantial over the superficial.

Don’t sanitize a work of art. When you sanitize a work of art, you crush the work of art. Twain’s novel is a touchstone—don’t touch its originality.

This effort to be post-racial is stupid. America cannot be post-racial right now. Sorry to inform you but the legacies of Jim and Jane Crow, slavery, and postmodern discrimination in sundry forms (both subtle and overt) prevent us from living in a post-racial Utopia—at least right now. The social construction of race has been tremendously damaging. Educators need to inform their students about the harsh economic and social realities of the social construction of race.

If we are to achieve a truly multi-racial democracy, we are going to have to wrestle with serious race matters. We are going to have to have the courage to stare race in the face and expose its good dimensions and its ugly truths.

Dear Professor Gribben, you are not going to stop folk from seeing people as “niggers” and “injuns” by simply removing these words from a work of art. You are not going to make this a more pleasant nation by removing these terms. You have done us more harm than help by removing these terms from this classic American novel. Thanks for letting us know that you are one of the prominent members of the thought police. Again, don’t sanitize Adventures of Huckleberry Finn because America did not sanitize race and racial discrimination for Blacks, Native Americans, and other racial and ethnic minorities in America.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

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Cam Newton Will Inevitably Return the Heisman Trophy

Auburn University quarterback Cameron Newton has had unquestionably one of the most phenomenal seasons in college football history. Without a doubt, Cam Newton has been the best player on the field this year. Unfortunately, the Heisman Trophy is about more than just being the best player on the field. You also have to demonstrate integrity off the field. Cam simply has not evinced integrity off the field. The NCAA has stated that Cecil Newton, Cam’s father, was found guilty of seeking out money in exchange for Cam’s signing with the team willing to offer the most money. He wanted this money to go into his pocket—not for his son’s education. Cam has repeatedly denied knowing that his father was seeking money in exchange for his attendance at the institution willing to give the most money. Please! He has repeatedly expressed how close he is with his father. Cam said that he was not disappointed with what his father did. What? Are you kidding me? The Heisman Trophy Trust still gave Cameron Newton the Heisman Trophy.

The Heisman Trophy Trust should have given the Heisman Trophy to another student-athlete who would have represented it with decency and integrity. Because of the evidence against Cam and more evidence potentially coming forth, the Heisman Trophy Trust should have learned from the Reggie Bush example that Cam should not be awarded the trophy. With all of the attention on Cam, the evidence that links him to knowledge about his father seeking money from schools on his behalf will come forth and other evidence too. Cam will be declared ineligible!

As a serious supporter of Black male college student-athletes, I would have loved to cherish the moment of him winning the Heisman Trophy, but I am not able to do this. The NCAA should have declared Cam ineligible to play and forfeited all of Auburn’s games this season. I have a history of supporting Black male college student-athletes, and have devoted my life to ameliorating the educational experiences and outcomes of Black male student-athletes. I cannot support Cam’s dishonesty and his off the field actions that dishonor the prestige and integrity of the Heisman Trophy. While people, including my mother, love Cam’s disarming smile and his consistent references to God, I can only wish that his smile and references to God would have been thought of when he was off the field engaging in all kinds of illegal actions.

Cecil Newton, you should be ashamed of yourself! You are supposed to be a man of God. You were not an example for your son.

The Heisman Trophy Trust needs to reform its eligibility rules for a student-athlete to be considered for the Heisman Trophy. The Heisman Trophy Trust cannot simply depend on rulings from the NCAA. With Cam Newton receiving the Heisman trophy on yesterday, the honor and prestige that the trophy symbolizes has been significantly diminished. Cam get ready to return the Heisman Trophy in the days to come!

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Cameron Newton is a Fraud

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) should have declared Cameron Newton ineligible to participate in NCAA intercollegiate athletics until a full investigation into various allegations about Cameron Newton could have been conducted. Although Cameron Newton has played phenomenally this season, this should not give him any special privileges. The NCAA has found that Cecil Newton, Cameron Newton’s father, did seek money in exchange for his son’s signing with certain schools, but the NCAA contends that Cameron Newton did not know anything about it and neither did Auburn. Yeah right! Cam Newton claims that he did not know that his father was seeking money in exchange for his signing. Yeah right! If the NCAA does not immediately declare Cameron Newton ineligible and take away all of Auburn’s wins this season, then the NCAA will prove without a shadow of doubt that it is a corrupt cartel.

Now, if I would have interviewed Cameron Newton after he won the Southeastern Conference (SEC) Championship against the South Carolina Gamecocks, the interview would have went tremendously different. Trust me—I would not have allowed his use of a hackneyed biblical scripture to prevent me from asking him probing questions. My first question would have been where’s your daddy? My second question would have been did you commit academic fraud on three papers while a student at the University of Florida? If he answers no to that question, I would then ask him why are credible people associated with the University of Florida who oversee disciplinary issues involving students saying that you did? Next, I would ask him do you really expect for the American people to believe that you did not know that your father was seeking money in exchange for you playing at a certain school? I would finally ask him why is it that you always find yourself surrounded in controversies involving illegal and criminal activities? I would end by telling him that the scripture that he used only refers to those who are saved—he cannot be saved with all of those lies he continues to tell. Repent Cameron Newton! The interview he gave after the SEC Championship game would have certainly went very differently if I was the interviewer—that’s for sure. I’m too intelligent, too skilled of a questioner, and too unsettling of a person to allow him to evade those aforementioned questions that most people want real answers to. I would have asked probing follow-ups to those questions. It would have been a post-game interview to remember!

The NCAA has simply been unfair in how it has treated Cameron Newton in comparison with how wrong they treated A.J. Green of the Georgia Bulldogs. Did A.J. Green and/or Georgia not have enough money to please the NCAA? We need to replace the NCAA with a serious governing body that will be a fair agency to oversee intercollegiate athletics. At the end of the day, Auburn is a fraudulent university and Cameron Newton is a fraudulent student, student-athlete, and person. Oh yeah, Cecil Newton is a fraudulent person and pastor.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison