The use of the N-word in early literature and its impact on students V.S. its appropriateness for th
Controversy has been a brewing about the the reading curriculum and the involvement of the use of the N-word in certain early 19th and 20th century novels due to its derogatory background.
Both “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” and the novella “Of Mice and Men” contain the N-word, and both are part of the sophomore/junior curriculum at Monroe Township High School.
I was warned by my teacher before the reading of these books about the use of the “N-word,” and we declared as a class that when we do read aloud, that we not say it.
To me, the word has a past of distastefulness, and I personally believe the word should never be used. I see the use of the word in the books and it gives me a funny feeling in my stomach. However, I do believe, for the integrity of the time period in which these books encompass, I believe the word is historically accurate and I could live with the use of the word in books, as long as it is not said aloud.
The background behind this dates all the way back to slavery, as the word “negro” evolved into the N-word. The N-word, of all things, is blatantly disrespectful. It was a demeaning term that slave masters used because they did not care enough to learn their slaves’ names. Not to mention the total disregard of their authentic names that were ignored and “Americanized.”
Then, during the Civil Rights era, the word was continually use to belittle African-Americans.
Junior Shail Desai said, “I believe it is a term from old literature, so we understand the malice behind the word and degradation it provided toward an entire race. However, it is completely unacceptable to use in modern literature, unless the book is referring to pre-emancipation times.”
There has been constant confusion as of recently of the severity of the word. In recent decades, the black community has taken the word and made a new meaning of it; it has became a term of endearment or even a noun, serving as a synonym of “man”. When used in this manner, the word’s ending is replaced with an “a”.
Now because this word is used so prominently in rap-culture, whites are at a stand-still. They are not sure that if it is okay to say. Some say, “Well it’s just lyrics to a song”.
The fact of the matter is, it is not. The fact is that previous generations of whites used this word to demean and belittle my ancestors. Every time that word comes out of the mouth of a white person, it offends me and all black people everywhere.
Junior Alyssa Fleischhauer said, “I personally hate words like that for any race, but it is interesting to see the difference of word choice from old school books to modern day. It shows the evolution of society.”
As time goes on, the conversation will continually re-arise and opinions will change, but at the end of the day, the word has a dark past, will always be offensive, and should never be used.