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Farewell Dear Larry: You are the sanest man in America! I look forward to your columns because I ALWAYS agree with your answers. Great work! Thanks for speaking the simple truth about all issues — racial, political, parental, common sense, etc. I often …Read more. Hate Groups Dear Larry: I want to forget for a moment that it is their constitutional right, because I detest the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis and all other groups that preach hate. A long time ago, they came into cities across America without any protest. Now …Read more. Troubles With Raising Teenage Son Dear Larry: I am African-American and a single mother with three children, ages 15, 10 and 8. All of them are boys. I am having a lot of problems with them, especially the eldest. He argues with me about almost everything. He thinks he is the man/…Read more. How To Get Race Relations Back on Track Dear Larry: So many of my friends are upset with the way things are going, especially race relations. They are not saying anything openly, but among themselves there is constant complaining and fear. There is something simmering and brewing that …Read more.
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N-word Controversies in the Arts

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Dear Larry: I would appreciate your reaction to a controversy about August Wilson's play "Joe Turner's Come and Gone." This play is about the African-American struggle in 1911 Pittsburgh, Pa. The play's script liberally uses the N-word, and that is the controversy.

A group of high-school students at a performing arts magnet school were given permission to re-enact this play by the school's principal. The play was about to open, when the superintendent of schools overruled the principal, saying it is not appropriate for high-school students.

This overruling was then appealed to the school board, and a public meeting with a packed house ensued. Many people had something to say on the subject. One person said, "You should not sugarcoat history by stopping the play." Another said that the younger people do not feel the sting of the word like the older people and that they should be allowed to go on with the play.

The school board did not take a vote, and somehow that non-vote allowed the play to take place.

Your comments would be a great addition to the opinion of my group. — Jennifer

Dear Jennifer: I believe the right decision is to allow the play to take place unedited, with the N-word intact.

I also believe we are giving too much attention to the word and giving it more power than it deserves. I remember when the word "pig" was used against the police in the 1960s. It was a hot-button word that caused the police to react with frenzy.

All of a sudden, law enforcement started embracing the word.

One town had an annual football game in which the local police and sheriff's deputies would battle it out. That game was called the annual "Pig Bowl." It was not long before the word "pig" lost its sting.

When I was growing up in California's Central Valley, if you used the word "Okie" with the wrong person, "those were fighting words." Now the word is used as a term of endearment.

The same thing will happen with the N-word once we stop reacting in the negative.

Read on for another perspective on the use of words.

From Lee: The intent and meaning of words change through history. In my lifetime, the words "gay," "hippie," "communist," "revolutionary" and even "liberal" — which were benign or even complimentary years ago — have been transitioned to be insulting and depreciating. The same is true of the N-word.

You recently wrote about the controversy regarding Mark Twain's book "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn." Some people think the N-word should be censored from it when it is read by schoolchildren. But in the 1880s, when that book was written, the N-word only referred to ethnicity. It was not insulting or considered to be demeaning. This idea needs to be understood by not only our children but also adults.

Mark Twain consistently stood for ethnic equality. He had a long record of defending the rights of minorities.

To find out more about Larry G. Meeks and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

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Comments

2 Comments | Post Comment
If it is true that "Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it" then an ancillary truism might well be "those who would sanitize history cannot possibly learn from it." Why cannot these spineless "educators" and parents, rather than either removing words they personally find difficult or uncomfortable simply use their use in literature and the arts as teachable moments, opportunities to explain to children and teens how the word(s) was used in context, what it meant at that point in history, and why it is no longer used? There are many uncomfortable truths to be found in human and American history, but most assuredly simply white-washing (caucasian-washing??) them without explanation will not make the future a better place.
Comment: #1
Posted by: Kyla Jones
Sat Jan 22, 2011 9:03 AM
Kyla Jones-Caucasian-washing...LOL!!! I love it!!

Good stuff today.
Comment: #2
Posted by: LibraryKat
Sat Jan 22, 2011 4:14 PM
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