Huckleberry Finn and “Muslim” Jim

Lee  Culpepper
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Posted: Nov 04, 2007 7:46 PM

The latest politically correct attempt to feign offense over The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (which unleashes Mark Twain’s piercing wit and bitter criticism of society) is currently smoldering in North Richland Hills, Texas. Ibrahim Mohamed, a 17-year-old junior at Richland High School, claims that his teacher’s reluctance to replace the hateful word “nigger” on the blackboard with the “N-Word” was “cruel” and demonstrated “bad judgment.” Mohamed was the only black student in his class. He has since been transferred to a different English class with another teacher.

Mohamed’s mother (who has never read the entire text) has aligned with local black and Muslim leaders and claims to be outraged, too. The mother, Tonya Mohamed, wants Huck Finn banned. She also thinks teachers should have to undergo sensitivity training in order to present touchy issues. Backed by the Coalition to Stop the N-word, the Mohameds also want a written apology from the teacher. Apparently, teaching students to think critically by examining uncomfortable history fails the PC test of self-esteem. Perhaps encouraging students to feel like victims is more worthwhile.

Twain’s 1884 classic opens with a warning to the readers who attempt to find a “motive, a moral, or a plot” to the story. The key word in Twain’s sentence is “attempting.” Clearly, the readers who fail to find all three elements are the mentally encumbered to whom Twain refers when he states that he would just as well see those readers “prosecuted, banished, or shot.” To miss these literary elements in the book would require tremendous effort.

In our politically correct, multi-cultural, intolerant-tolerant, and over-sensitive society, children are fortunate if they ever have the opportunity to read this historically controversial book. Today most of the controversy surrounds the repugnance of the dreaded word that is a degrading brand suggesting a human being is not a human being. At least that’s what it once meant before rap music enslaved the term to cultivate its “art.”

To defend including the novel in a school curriculum, some teachers suggest looking past the word because of its historical context. Other educators candy-coat the issue by replacing the word with PC terms like “African-American” or the “N-word.” Students often giggle or grimace and then usually struggle through the rest of Huck’s humorous yet unsettling narrative.

But since the story demonstrates how an uneducated white boy unlearns everything white society has ever taught him about blacks -- thanks to a black, truly human character named Nigger Jim -- wasn’t Twain’s point to offend us? If one character in the entire story seems incapable of being human it is Pap, Huck’s father. Pap is a child abuser, a drunk, a racist, and a thief.

While many lessons saturate the book, a primary theme addresses the racial division of America fueled by one incredibly vile word. Nevertheless, Twain scolds the entire human race, not any ethnic race in particular. Today, however, our PC disciples claim to be improving the world through all their multi-cultural psychobabble -- but only when their drivel furthers their agenda of creating victims. Unfortunately, the hypocrisy of their foolish doctrine only inflames greater division among all racial groups, but that fact should not be surprising; it is painfully obvious to anyone with common sense.

However, because these weak-stomached, PC zealots have often succeeded in censoring Twain’s novel in the name of “tolerance” and “sensitivity,” far too many Americans (note the absence of racial adjectives before the noun) have never learned how Huck and Jim’s relationship serves to teach us an important life lesson: People are people. And all of us fall short of being truly good. We all struggle with our own humiliating blemishes.

Targeting Huck for censorship is really old news though. Demands for censorship might be preferred to what could possibly occur if students like Ibrahim Mohamed learned factual history about slavery in the world. For instance, at the time Huck Finn was published -- thirty years after slavery had been abolished in America -- Muslims were still enslaving Africans. Oddly enough, Jim masquerades as a sick Arab during one of Huck’s adventures.

Factual history, however, rarely furthers the PC agenda or serves to condemn America enough.

In case a reader is merely attempting to find my motive, I will have to spell it out: Teaching critical thinking skills and examining painful history should take precedent to self-esteem and feelings. Accurate historical context often helps to show what makes America a great country. Factual history should also teach us to learn from our mistakes.

On the other hand, political correctness buries facts and cripples students’ ability to think.

We need to quit censoring uncomfortable truths. Twain would have reveled in the sniveling of PC believers, or he might have preferred to order them shot. Twain’s disdain for irresponsible do-gooders and common idiots stemmed from his desire to protect America from further harm that their foolish ideology inflicts on a troubled civilization (ironically a synonym for today’s choice word: culture).

Now, is it really any wonder why Huck hated going to school?