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There are indeed important historical and social lessons to be learned from Huck Finn; the plot centers on a boy coming to terms with the racism that is endemic in his society. To argue that changing “N” to “slave” erases racism from American history is to say that every teacher and reader of Huck Finn will suddenly become ignorant of the racism that has clouded our nation’s past. The word “slave” still gives insight into the inferior societal position that blacks held at the time. Its use simply encourages more people to read the story, as ”slave” is not as loaded as “N” and thus is slightly more tolerable to read aloud or silently.
Even today, we still must be careful how we treat race relations. It is important to discuss the history of race in literature and society, but it is a topic that must be handled delicately. In an interview with Oprah, hip-hop artist Jay-Z argued that our generation “…disarmed the word. We took the fire pin out of the grenade.” Jay-Z spoke of an ideal world, but certainly not the one that exists today. In her book “Seeing a Color-Blind Future,” race theorist Patricia J. Williams accurately describes how, as much as we all might wish to ignore race, the ability to ignore racial differences and stereotypes is tied to a position of white privilege. Currently, Huck Finn is the fourth-most banned book in the United States, and few teachers are able or comfortable enough to teach it to their students. The publication of a modified version of the text will allow more teachers to present the material in a comfortable way to their students.