"Slave" And "Nigger"

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I hadn't quite formed an opinion about this bowdlerization of Huck Finn - until I read Francine Prose:

...what puzzles me most about the debate I’m not trying to sound willfully naïve is why the word “nigger” should be more freighted, more troubling, the cause of more (to paraphrase the edition's introduction) “resentment” than the word “slave.” Racial epithets are inarguably disgusting, but not nearly so disgusting as an institution that treats human beings as property to be beaten, bought and sold. “Nigger” and “slave” are not synonyms by any stretch of the imagination.

Jim’s problem is not that he is called a “nigger” but that he is chattel who can be freed or returned to his master. Instead of excising the word from the novel, students should be reminded that however uneasy the word makes us, what should make us much more uneasy is the fact that we the United States were a slave-holding society.

Which is something the GOP decided to elide yesterday:

A Goodlatte aide explained that the Constitution will be read in its most modern, amended form. This will prevent lawmakers from having to recite politically uncomfortable portions, notably the provisions on the “three-fifths compromise” under which slaves were counted as three-fifths of a person for the purposes of taxation and representation.

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