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The Battle Over Vocabulary is a Battle Over Imagination

Last week I wrote about an Auburn University professor who is producing a new edition of Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn that redacts the word “nigger” from the text and replaces it with the word “slave.” One of the people to comment on my post was my friend Ramón. He is, no kidding, one of the smartest and wisest people I know and he lives outside the country and I miss him a lot and his comments raised the IQ of this blog about 50 points. Sigh.

Well, I saw tonight that Ramón has written more about the controversial book on his own blog, Born into Becoming. He says, in part:

The battle over vocabulary is a battle over imagination. If a country where the word nigger could not be used with impunity was imagined and then realized, why not imagine a country where Latino students can critically examine history from a minority perspective without being accused of sedition?

Such imagination cannot be given room to grow, so the solution is to get rid of words and stories that serve as touchstones of communal memory, which in turn is the foundation for communal transformation. There are two main options to be rid of such words and stories. The first option is to co-opt them. Think of how Martin Luther King Day fixes in time the nation’s victory over its own weakness of racism, rather than propagating Dr. King’s radical critique of the military-industrial complex and economic inequality.

Does that whet your appetite? Read the rest here.

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