Why Niceness Is Evil
Mark Twain, racism, society, literature I was stunned, but I suppose not surprised, when I heard that a publisher in the U.S. is planning a version of "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" in which the word "nigger" is substituted with the word "slave." The reasoning is that this word is now considered derogatory by people and it may prevent people from reading it.
Perhaps that's true.
There is a reason why Mark Twain used that word 219 times (so I am told). And that is to make the racism more evident. He could have used the word slave but he was clearly making a statement about deeply entrenched racial ideas in the U.S. of the time.
I read "slave" and I don't think of racism. I read "nigger" and the implications are clear.
We need to be aware that attitudes and the emotive content of words change over time. So perhaps "nigger" was less loaded as a term back then, although the offensiveness of the underlying attitudes was still there.
Reading the "nicer" version doesn't cause me to question my own racial stereotypes it just allows me to tut-tut about a phenomenon that is no longer present in our society. But reading the word "nigger" on every other page causes me to think about relationships and ethnicity.
That's why niceness is so evil. We substitute words and cover over the reality of evil thoughts and actions to make us comfortable and in doing so we never have to face up to the sin in us.
I'm not saying that we have to go out of our way to be offensive to people, but we do have to be real about ourselves.
On occasion Jesus said some really shocking things to people. He didn't do that to be nasty, but to point out the evil thoughts in people's hearts so that they could be transformed.
Let's not gloss over sin by calling it something else. Let's not pretend that evil is repressed psychological illness or societal dysfunction.
It might make us feel more comfortable, but it never deals with issues of the heart.