Huck Finn would think this is bullshit.

5 01 2011

Let me get this out of the way right at the start.

1.    I am not a fan of Mark Twain.  I think his writing is lazy and I think his stories are dull.  I think that if you want to read American fiction by a white fellow about a journey and the South you should read The Wild Palms by Faulkner.

◊  Or anything by Faulkner.
◊  I LOOOOVE Faulkner.

2.     I am not a fan of the word nigger.  I am using it in this post because I think that it is important in the context of the discussion but I don’t use it in polite company.  I don’t use it in impolite company.  I was brought up with a strict “Hit first ask questions later” policy with regard to the word ever being used to describe me.  I do not understand the desire to “reclaim” the word and I cringe when I hear people (of any race) using the “softer” version among themselves – particularly as a term of endearment.

So, you might think that I’d be relieved by the news that, because of the work of  Alan Gribben, a version of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is now being released by NewSouth Books replacing the word with “slave.”

The idea of a more politically correct Finn came to the 69-year-old English professor over years of teaching and outreach, during which he habitually replaced the word with “slave” when reading aloud. Gribben grew up without ever hearing the “n” word (“My mother said it’s only useful to identify [those who use it as] the wrong kind of people”) and became increasingly aware of its jarring effect as he moved South and started a family. “My daughter went to a magnet school and one of her best friends was an African-American girl. She loathed the book, could barely read it.”

My first response to this was an Imperial facepalm.

My second response to this was, well eat an apple and convince me to paint your fence you lazy bastard!

Thankfully  I’m not the only one who feels this way.

Indeed, Twain scholar Thomas Wortham, at UCLA, compared Gribben to Thomas Bowdler (who published expurgated versions of Shakespeare for family reading), telling PW that “a book like Professor Gribben has imagined doesn’t challenge children [and their teachers] to ask, ‘Why would a child like Huck use such reprehensible language?’”

But soon even that academically-supported righteousness wore off and I was left with the hard cold frightened nub of why this move bothers me so.

It important that The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (and, indeed any piece of literature) not be neutered for the sake of ease because – especially –  in this time of political revisionism art is one of the few things that we have to keep us honest.  It is important to keep a record of who are and who we were.

Replacing nigger with slave not only dilutes the text, it dilutes our history.  And that scares me.

Sure, people who were enslaved were referred to as slaves.  But  they were referred to as property, chattel, livestock and (specifically for those who were black and enslaved) nigger(s).   The use of the word is about power and privilege and was applied to all black people regardless of condition.

Because let’s be clear.  Slavery is a condition.  Nigger is a description, a qualifier.  This is an important distinction to me.  Black people all over our country didn’t hear slave as the last word that was said to them before they were lynched or humiliated and dehumanized in other forms.  They heard nigger.

Slavery is something that we abolished.  Something that we “overcame.”  Nigger is not.
In the novel Jim turns out to be a free man.  He won’t be called a slave anymore, but I bet he’ll still be called a nigger.

I accept that it’s difficult for people – especially children – to read novels filled with such an ugly word¹.  I dread having to explain the word to my future child.  But I am committed to doing it because I am committed to honesty.

It is too easy to remove the words and ideas that offend us from art and history.  It is too easy to give in to cowardice and hide our heads and dull our intellects in the sands of political correctness.

It is difficult to accept that our nation with all of its faults and warts and ugliness, its stops and starts  and shudders, is the nation the we love; the nation we make   It is emotionally wrenching and intellectually challenging to acknowledge that ours is a nation that is as much a reflection of its past as it is its hope for the future.
Nigger is a part of who we are.  And that is awful.  That is horrific.  That hurts me.  But that is the truth.

We must  preserve Huckleberry Finn (and other works) as they are to remind us of the work that we have done and to inspire us to do the work that we still have to do.  Especially in these tea-partying days.  We must do so because we are America, land of the brave.





¹I accept that it may have been difficult for some of you to read this post which filled with such an ugly word.  It was hard for me to write.


Come for me, bitches.

25 02 2010

I am pleased (and flattered) to announce that this here post has been cross-posted over at Justine Larbalestier’s blog.

If you are not yet aware of Justine’s awesomeness, hop to it.  You are missing out.

It is Black History Month and boy am I feeling the love.

Just yesterday Rush Limbaugh (or as I like to think of him, the Phantom Menace)  derisively referred to the health care reform bill which is swimming its way upstream through Congress as a “civil rights bill” and “reparations.” To be clear, what he means by using “civil rights bill” and “reparations” as a pejorative is “this health care bill is another attempt by the lowly, lazy, complaining Black folk to take bread from the mouths of hard-working honest White Americans.  First they took February, what’s next?  March?.”

Last week the fine gentlemen of Pi Kappa Alpha decided to throw a party to “honor” Black History Month which included a very helpful how-to for the ladies so that they might properly comport themselves as “Ghetto chicks.”

“Ghetto chicks usually have gold teeth, start fights and drama, and wear cheap clothes – they consider Baby Phat to be high class and expensive couture. They also have short, nappy hair, and usually wear cheap weave, usually in bad colors, such as purple or bright red. They look and act similar to Shenaynay, and speak very loudly, while rolling their neck, and waving their finger in your face. Ghetto chicks have a very limited vocabulary, and attempt to make up for it, by forming new words, such as “constipulated”, or simply cursing persistently, or using other types of vulgarities, and making noises, such as “hmmg!”, or smacking their lips, and making other angry noises,grunts, and faces.”

But it was John Mayer (singer, songwriter, Poor Man’s Stevie Ray Vaughn) that got the month started off right with an interview that he did for Playboy where he proved that he doesn’t have the good sense (or graces) that God gave Kanye West.

MAYER: Star magazine at one point said I was writing a tell-all book for $10 million. On Star’s cover it said what a rat! My entire life I’ve tried to be a nice guy.

PLAYBOY: Do black women throw themselves at you?

MAYER: I don’t think I open myself to it. My dick is sort of like a white supremacist. I’ve got a Benetton heart and a fuckin’ David Duke cock. I’m going to start dating separately from my dick.

PLAYBOY: Let’s put some names out there. Let’s get specific.

MAYER: I always thought Holly Robinson Peete was gorgeous. Every white dude loved Hilary from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. And Kerry Washington. She’s superhot, and she’s also white-girl crazy. Kerry Washington would break your heart like a white girl. Just all of a sudden she’d be like, “Yeah, I sucked his dick. Whatever.” And you’d be like, “What? We weren’t talking about that.”

That’s an official Nice Guy FAIL.

These harbingers of Black History Month can get a girl a little down.
But not me. I am thankful that I have a partner who loves and cherishes me for the supreme delight that I am.

I am also thankful for the amazing strong black women that I have in my life as role-models.
Without my mother, Oprah Winfrey and Barbra Streisand, my confidence in my smokingness (both intellectual and physical)  might have been dimmed by that young-man whose mother must be really ashamed of him right now and who is actually making me sympathize with that Jennifer Aniston person.

But lately I realize that I’ve been leaving out one deserving woman in my SBW list of might:  RuPaul.

Nownownow, I know what you’re saying, “But BPD, RuPaul’s been around since forever how come it’s taken you so long?”   Really, I have no excuse.

From the revelatory, Super Model, with its clarion cry that got me through many a grueling show choir rehearsal (damn you mirrored gym) to the present RuPaul’s Drag Race – which is not about cars [but just… can we all agree that if RuPaul hosted a muscle car show with say Joan Rivers or Tina Turner {that pair would be a mother-fucking wig-off} that show would be ridiculously awesome] – RuPaul has given me the balls to get through the tough times.  RuPaul has made me the man I am today.  And by man, I mean small black lesbian gay-dandy. (2010 is the year of the bow-tie.  Look out people!)

When I’m about to do something that seems super important, I think, “You better work, bitch!”
I chant, “It’s time to lip-synch for your life!” when it’s time for me to move mountains.

Vodpod videos no longer available.            ……….Minute 37 is where the real magic happens.

RuPaul is about knowing who you are and owning your fabulousness.  RuPaul is about ripping people’s faces off with your fierceness and leaping in your stilettos over the shit.  Most importantly RuPaul is not about some trifling mess of a boy that even Ghandi would slap.

With Ru and the other SBW in my life, I know my worth.  I’m not even going to sweat it.  Because I know, that despite how hurtful and how hateful what John Mayer said is, it’s not about me.  It’s not about any other woman of color (or woman, frankly) in the world.  It’s about him and the dick-shrivel that he is.  I’m not waiting for the world to change.  I am the change that I seek in the world.  I am the light that I want to see.  I am fabulous.  I am fierce. I am magnificent.

Come for me bitches.



15 01 2010

God doesn’t like ugly.  Pat Robertson continues his tradition of not getting that memo.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

There’s not much that I have to add to Ambassador Raymond Joseph’s complete schooling¹ of Pat Robertson on Dr. Rachel Maddow’s show.  It was glorious.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

But what really struck me – apart from the blunt force blow of his insensitivity – was the extension of Pat Robertson’s “logic”.  If we follow his statement to its natural conclusion we find that he is making the argument that we should not be moved to great sorrow over the tragedy in Haiti because they brought it on themselves (what with their slave ancestors rising up from brutal bondage to free themselves and defend their freedom against empires) – staying in bondage would have been the Christian thing to do.

This is a despicable thing to believe.
This is a despicable thing to say.
This is an especially despicable thing to say to and about the descendants of a people who were stolen from their home land, language and religion and were forced into conditions and status lower than that of chattal.  Who were, in fact, exhibited, and bought and sold like so much livestock.

The idea that Haitian slaves rejected Pat Robertson’s God and that their descendants are paying for it now wounds me in a place that I didn’t even know existed.

Pat Robertson’s God is almost as dirty a bastard as Pat Robertson is I reject him too.  Wouldn’t you?




¹Honestly, I don’t think that anyone has been schooled this hard since they stopped putting dunce caps on children and making them sit in the middle of the class room while everyone else in the class recited the lesson to the offending idiot.

All of these presents and I don’t even have my tree yet.

8 12 2009

Kwannukahmas time is here.

Time for Christmas trees, Unity and awesome menorahs.


The tree in Rockefeller Center is looking fantastic and my prune-dried soul is filling with Seasonal Feelings of goodwill.

I dedicate this tree to a certain Mr. Charles Brown

After-all, it is the time of giving.

And boy, has the Universe provided.

Yesterday, OOMFPAWWIHFOAMFOY, told me about Glenn Beck’s Christmas Sweater.  The “Glen Beck Experience” in which how he recounts how he was an ungrateful, hateful little asshat of a boy and crushed his poor mother’s heart (on Christmas no less) and then she died.  Now he’s telling his story to illustrate his redemption and his faith and to show us, the great man that he’s become.

This story…

Created this man…

Seems about right.

Last night though, my girlfriend, Rachel Maddow, Ph.D. (Doctor Maddow to you), gave me the best gift of the season.  [Wow, that sounds kind of dirty when you re-read it.  Go ahead, re-read it.  I will wait.]

Anyhoods, there was dancing with shades and a disco ball.  There was insightful news making and there was the sheer and utter delight that is Rachel Maddow.  The whole episode is genius.  But what really brought it home for me was the “I guess I’m racist” ad.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Thank you anti-health reform wingnuts for building this beautiful new toy in your workshops of terror.

You should watch Doctor Maddow’s clip for some very incisive commentary from (my other girlfriend who’s not Ana Marie Cox) Professor Melissa Harris-Lacewell.  [Another gift.]

The whole add for your chortling pleasure.

Here’s the thing.  If I was watching the television, as I am want to do, and I looked up and saw a majority of white faces¹ telling me that they were racist, I’d say, “Of course you are.  Now how do I get back to that other channel, I need to see if the Cowboys are going to win this game?”  “Or.  Okay, I hope you’re not interrupting my Fringe with this mess.  Because if you’re interfering in my deep and meaningful relationship with Olivia Dunham we are going to have words.”

What I mean is that I wouldn’t be surprised.  I’d be annoyed that you were using your white-privilege to disturb my sacred TV time to tell me, but… you’re a racist, you obviously don’t care about the wants and desires of little ol’ X-Files missing me.

In words of my very astute friends: If someone tells you about themselves, believe them.
I believe  you racists.





¹And seriously, two black dudes and dude of Asian Pacific Islander decent.  I know it’s hard finding work as an actor and all, but… did you know what you were signing up for?  I mean, we’ve done our share of bad shows/movies/plays what have you.  But seriously?  We have all done things that are going to get us kicked out of our respective clubs.

I’m just saying… Black Dudes… be on the look out for operatives from SCAN.

I was blind but now I see.

27 10 2009

I am not a movie person.

The actor part of me gets really frustrated when I watch them because they are so clearly the director’s and the cinematographer’s medium.
I am neither.

But I do see a movie now and then.  And when I saw Where the Wild Things Are I paid close attention to the trailers while I was waiting for RHS to come back from the bathroom so that I could guilt her into buying me concession.
Trailers can be teaching moments.

What I learned when I watched the trailer for The Blind Side, the new Sandra Bullock vehicle was very eye-opening.

  1. White people are so good and trusting and kind.
  2. Black people are so big and dumb and slow and poor.
  3. White people have beautiful homes.
  4. Black people don’t have homes.
  5. White people are stable.
  6. Black people are unpredictable.
  7. White people coach football.
  8. Black people play football.
  9. White people are the best thing to ever happen to black people.
  10. Black people are the best pets white people can have.

That trailer has been all over the place lately… teaching.
And when you’ve received the lesson, it’s not that hard to make the leap from black people to people of color in general.

And seems that there are certain boys and girls who are eager to lead the class.  Larry Whitten gets a gold star this week for learning the lesson so well.
Forbidding your employees to speak Spanish in your presence – not, mind you, when they’re dealing with customers, but when they are in the same room as you talking to their co-workers – because you don’t trust them.  A+
[Let’s not get it twisted, the fact that Whitten thought they might be talking about him – and who doesn’t talk about their boss? – directly implies that he doesn’t trust that they’re not.  And he doesn’t trust what they are saying about him.  He doesn’t trust them if he can’t understand them.]

Making  your employees change their names for “the satisfaction of [your] guests because people calling from all over America don’t know the Spanish accents or the Spanish culture or Spanish anything.”  A++
I mean, except for the fact that nearly everyone in the Taos knows something of the OUTLANDISHLY FOREIGN Spanish accents, culture and language.  Also, except for the fact that Martin is pronounced exactly in Spanish as it is in French and the American pronunciation of Martin is a nasty-garish derivative.
Asking someone to whiten up their name while simultaneously belittling their language and culture and ignoring the millions of people in America who are a part of that language an culture earns you this nice, pretty dunce cap Mr. Whitten.

Firing your employees because they didn’t kowtow to your white superiority.  Well that just takes the cape.  You get to graduate Grand Dragon Class Valedictorian.

I hope that you thank Sandra Bullock, Warner Bros. Pictures and Alcon Entertainment in your acceptance speech.

L8r Tr8r

5 10 2009

Do me a favor, if you wouldn’t mind.

Read this.
And then read this, specifically this part:

“Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.”

Now, am I stroking out or is John L. Perry talking treason?

I know that I’m not what one would call a Constitutional scholar, but I can read.  And when I read a man talking about a military coup against the sitting President of the United States of America during a time of war, that just reads to me like John L. Perry might be traitor what with his “adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort.”

Who knows, maybe he’s taking notes from Mr. Please Osama Bin Laden Attack Us Again Michael Scheuer.

I wonder what it will take for this kind of threat against the well-being of America and her President to be taken seriously.

I wonder why this…

Nowhere near the President.

Nowhere near the President. (Not so much treason.)

…is more threatening than this?

Very near the President.

Very near the President. (Smells like teen-treason.)

It’s kind of a beautiful thing I guess that the Constitution protects the freedoms of even the most treasonous among us.  It’s also a beautiful thing the the President of the United States of America, Barack Hussein Obama, respects the Constitution.  That makes Mr. Perry and Mr. Scheuer pretty lucky to be in this America.  They would be wise to remember that and stop plotting against her.

But what’s in a name?

21 09 2009

It’s just High Times over at the Family Research Council Action’s 2009 Values Voter Summit.  Especially when Roy Blunt is at the podium.

How about those values?

Yeah, I think that I’ll puffpuffpass on them too.