Uncle Remus' Heritage: Protest, Creativity, Story Line, Song, Poetry, TRANSLATIONS

Uncle Remus' Heritage: Protest, Creativity, Story Line, Song, Poetry, TRANSLATIONS

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Hands off Remus. Uses of "Nigger". Alien ideologues, keep off.

1.  Huckleberry Finn is under attack, for its language, its use of the N-word.  Make no such changes. The work can be taught, with the original words, in a historical context, and with full discussion of how meaning can morph based on intent and predisposition of hearer, not the writer.

Will Uncle Remus be next.  Never, if we can help it. Hear its uses with Julian Curry at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wD-UpHlB9no/.  Try Kamal Supreme at http://www.vimeo.com/230593. or Reginald Doc Williams at  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l99_0gSNf4U/  Language use is not for any group to decide.  It belongs to those who experience it.

2.  Let the culture decide.
  • Some matters are for history and the culture to decide. It is not the word.  It is the time, place, and manner of usage that constitutes education/ 
  • So with Mark Twain, and Remus.  Not for bureaucrats, ideologues. 
  • Teach the context of the time, the options, the choices, the mindsets.  Compare to today.  Do a timeline of meanings for "nigger."  Restore dignity not by denial of a past, but by showing how fake it was in its ascribing of inequality. Make a whole language arts and social studies curriculum around how language shapes and perpetuates stereotypes.  People even stop thinking about it.  Huck just was part of his times. 
Schools.  Teach it as it is.  Have students try to recreate a tale like Huck's without use of the common term of the time.  Slave?  Never.  Slavery differed with each culture, each set of restrictions, some were temporary, full persons in servitude for a while, others defined slaves -- as we did -- as less than people.  Make the curriculum a comparison of slavery contexts over time.  Scots enslaved and sent to the Caribbean, as they were. Look at the Scots surnames of blacks there.

Find uses of "nigger" in literature at http://www.stagger.net/books/nword.htm.  Find there numerous books where "nigger" was used to communicate an element necessary to the tale, a reality, like it or not. Find constructive, mutual relationships, solid and with growth on both sides, despite a social inequality.

Teach it as it was in the Civil War era, see N Word Essay at http://www.civilwarliterature.com/01Introduction/TheNWord.htm/  It has its own etymological history.
Do your own search for uses of nigger in literature.  Remus?  Hands off.  Hands off Uncle Remus.  You hear? Disney almost killed him off anyway with the pap that passes for "tales" as they really were.

4.  Are we to delete Carl Sandburg:

This  poem, I am the Nigger,  is all over the internet. How can it be copyrighted? I have no idea.  This is an old poem, see http://carl-sandburg.com/nigger.htm

Is this how it was, is, for those identified with the word. Should we not know. Here is our rough retype, spacing added to highlight the images: how does a mere retyping create copyright?  We retype our own, here. No claim to copyright our version. Fair use, we think, of a totality of works by Sandburg. Sandburg is for the ages. A little different format at http://www.americanpoems.com/poets/carlsandburg/12689

I am the nigger.
Singer of songs,

Softer than fluff of cotton…
Harder than dark earth
Roads beaten in the sun
By the bare feet of slaves…
Foam of teeth … breaking crash of laughter…
Red love of the blood of woman,
White love of the tumbling pickaninnies…
Lazy love of the banjo thrum…
Sweated and driven for the harvest-wage,
Loud laughter with hands like hams,
Fists toughened on the handles,
Smiling the slumber dreams of old jungles,
Crazy as the sun and dew and dripping, heaving life of the jungle,
Brooding and muttering with memories of shackles:
     I am the nigger.
     Look at me.
     I am the nigger

Carl Sandburg -- now, go see the original spacing, for impact.

And I recall that college lecture where the professor (a revered Professor, Mr. Denbeaux, freshman year) began the discussion by declaring that women were society's niggers.  I have never forgotten.  It is true. The concept goes beyond the origination.