Letters to the Editor

Don't sanitize history; learn from it

An open letter to Issac Bailey:

I am not surprised that you managed to slip into your Jan. 16 column on Gov. Nikki Haley, "Haley a step forward for S.C.," a reference to the Confederate flag holding us back and distorting our national image. I would love to hear a thorough and logical explanation as to how the Confederate flag "holds us back and distorts our national image." What exactly is our "national image" supposed to be - some predetermined, single-minded, unilaterally agreed-upon concept? Anything in our history that is deemed unsuitable to certain Americans' overly sensitive natures apparently should be relegated to the dung heap. The latest attempt to politically sanitize our history is to remove the n-word from "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn." Well, we might as well remove it from all of Richard Wright's great works, including "Native Son" and "Black Boy." And while we are in the sanitizing process, let's remove any such questionable language from Lorraine Hansberry's "Raisin in the Sun" and from all those classical black poets like Langston Hughes, Claude McKay, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Robert Hayden, Countee Cullen, Gwendolyn Brooks, Nikki Giovanni, Margaret Walker and others. These are some of America's best authors. My honest opinion is that, for the most part, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is a relic of the past, but it will presumably continue to exist, even with its foolish and counterproductive boycott of the great state of South Carolina. It has become a divisive and provocative group that tends to do more fomenting and agitating than anything which might be truly constructive for positive good in our nation. Why should there be an organization that even has such a name, "advancement of colored people"? What does that really mean, and how does it fit into the notion that every American, regardless of color or creed or sex or religion, deserves "advancement"? Who exactly falls into the category of "colored people"? Again, I welcome a logical explanation.

I truly believe Americans should accept our history, the good and the bad, not try to purge it from our textbooks and our landscape, just teach it as it should be taught, with truth and integrity. Runaway Jim, in "Huck Finn," is dehumanized by slavery. That is a given. Yet in spite of all his dehumanization, he has more common sense than almost anybody else we see in the book, especially guys like the Duke and the King, and the feuding families along the river. The fact that Jim is proud of the fact that he is worth $600 is sad, but oh how revealing of what slavery really meant and what effect it had on a human being. The casual and frequent use of the n-word in the book provides a great teaching tool for a good teacher. The subject has to be handled delicately, I admit, but it can be done, just as with any other book. Jim is a man, albeit dehumanized, who has more integrity and worthy character than anyone else in the book. We can not continue to purge American history with politically correct nonsense. We can no more purge "Huck Finn" than we can purge "Catcher in the Rye" with its [expletives] on every page. It is not in anyone's best interest, especially that of our young people, to not know from whence we came. While I know that the Confederate flag is offensive to some, perhaps to you and to many blacks and whites as well, it is not at all offensive to many other Americans, and in fact a source of legitimate pride to many, not because it represents any defense or championing of slavery, but because it represents the honor and courage of many soldiers who fought proudly under its banner. Every regimental flag was a great source of pride and nobility of spirit, regardless of which regiment, North or South, was carrying that flag into battle.

The writer lives in Myrtle Beach.

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