Ignorance Makes the N-Word Even Scarier Unspoken

27 06 2008

Read it and weep.

George Carlin’s seven aren’t the only words so scary we’re taught to officially pretend they don’t exist.
(Here are seven interesting words in coverage of his passing last week: “He was educated by priests and nuns. . .”)

And my shocking blog news today is sadly neither shocking nor even really news; I’ve blogged N-word ignorance before, how our own history revealed in language — in this one reductionist noun particularly — now scares us so much that even in historically “true” fiction on stage and screen, we’d rather rewrite it or just cancel it, than face it honestly and explain it to our children so THEY can understand.

Well, I’ll tell you what scares ME.

“You take that word out of this story and you invalidate my history as an African-American male,” said Perry.

“Do I like the word? No. But to pretend nobody said it is wrong. I wouldn’t even consider doing that,” Perry said. “Context is everything, and it’s not gratuitous, it’s not for shock value.

“How can we learn about our present if we don’t educate people about what happened in our past?”

We did this show here four summers ago.

With Every Single Word and Note. It was stunning, rocked my world and this whole community, nothing short of heart- and record-breaking. I saw it five times, laughed and cried and wrung myself inside out every time. Smash sell-out, universally acclaimed, lines around the building (in the Florida summer sun!) just hoping for standing room at the matinee, people still talk about it!

“I’m just terribly saddened . . .for this to happen in this manner, it’s just disappointing.
I guess the best way to say it is it really reflects the times we’re living in, in relevance to the show, and I think still the work that needs to be done on a lot of levels.”

Forget evolution, Ken Ham’s Creation Museum and the public school science teacher burning crosses into eighth-graders’ flesh for Christmas. Ignorance isn’t just about failing to master the rigors of science and math; ignorance in the liberal arts and humanities might be even more dangerous.

And what I am furious about today isn’t even about school kids and their stupid parents, teachers or principals. This news is about The Racially and Rationally Challenged Real World, out in grown-up free America where all the scary ideas and words and human differences are right there on every street corner and no one is in control of the script.

Dickens (not Darwin) wrote that between Ignorance and Want, Ignorance was more likely to doom mankind. The reason I happen to know and appreciate the true nature of his fanciful fiction isn’t because of science or math but because I am literary, and I mean to use the precise word literary, and not merely literate much less merely [shudder!] literal.

I’ll spare you the whole rant all over again but I suggest you read “School Theatre and Citizen Censorship” in conjunction with this truly ignorant news story. Maybe follow up with this and author/ theatre geek Marc Acito’s “Playing to the Puritans.”

I guess no school budget ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of its kids or community. Here are two of these very backward stories, and there are others. The only apparent good news here is that the Catholic school is apparently less repressive than the public school!

ERIE, Pa. (AP) – Cathedral Prep high school in Erie must try to sell tickets to its upcoming school play without referring to its title — “Urinetown: The Musical.”

Erie Catholic Bishop Donald Trautman does not object to the play itself — but a diocesan spokesman says the bishop is concerned with the title “Urinetown” being connected publicly to the all-male Catholic high school.

Because altering the name of the Broadway show is illegal, the priest that is directing the play — Father Michael DeMartinis — says he has the unenviable task of producing tickets, posters and programs that don’t use the play’s name. . .

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18 responses

27 06 2008
JJ

The park district honcho who made this incredibly ignorant decision says he wants instead light-hearted, upbeat musicals like:
“Hello Dolly
Showboat
State Fair.”

Have you ever seen Showboat all the way through?? Has HE??
As our esteemed director put it earlier today, “Hmm, “Show Boat”. Race relations, miscegenation, gambling, alcoholism, wife
and child abandonment. Yep, that’s lighthearted. . .”

And clearly this man’s ignorance doesn’t stop there. Hello Dolly was originally entitled “Dolly, A Damned Exasperating Woman” — that’s not one of Carlin’s jokes, nope, look it up for yourself, that is HISTORY.

27 06 2008
JJ

Wonder if he’s seen Hairspray all the way through? — that’s gonna be a shock some summer soon unless he studies up!

27 06 2008
Meg

LOL – you remind me of the reaction of some homeschoolers here had to
Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure.

IU was doing a FREE performance and we reserved tickets. A lot of people heard free Shakespeare and jumped on the tickets. Then the theater released a statement to the schools about how they were doing the opening scene at what they would consider to be a pg-13 by modern movie standards.

You never saw so many people back peddling about going.

27 06 2008
27 06 2008
JJ

Hi Meg, that’s it exactly, thanks for that.

Did you ever wonder if maybe this actually *IS* an alternate universe that just barely overlaps with the reality all those other folks inhabit, and we just don’t know it so we get frustrated with each other’s seeming misfittedness? Many things would make more sense to me if that were so . . . 😉

And then maybe I could relax and find it all intriguing rather than incensing?

Btw, I am hearing rave reviews from my knowledgeable theatre people here about the animated (Pixar) movie opening today, WALL-E. They say it will be fun for kids but really it’s very much a smart adult movie. Wanna have a virtual movie party? — we can see it this week and then treat it with the respect it deserves?

And another thing, did I never get you added to Snook’s blogroll? — doing that right now.

28 06 2008
Nance Confer

My theory? I think a lot of people, hsers included, read things like Shakespeare as children, too young to understand much of it themselves but required to read some sonnet or play or other in some English class or other, and “know” it is a sign of good breeding and therefore seek to impose it on their own children. Who will be equally clueless without anything in their young lives to make any of it relevant.

But Mom and Dad will get to brag at the next PTA meeting or hsing support group meeting that the family went to a Shakespeare play last weekend and aren’t we good parents.

If your child really wants to see or read this stuff, when they are old enough to wonder about it, they will. If you give them the choice.

And by then they might be able to understand it well enough to have it actually stick.

Otherwise, it’s just a waste and a trial for all involved.

Good luck with the 3-year-old, Meg.:)

Nance

28 06 2008
JJ Ross

That reminds me of another rant. We did a few homeschool support things when the kids were younger, a couple of park days and a firehouse tour etc. Once we went to the civic symphony at the university auditorium. Two moms with several children between them came in, sat in the velvet-covered seats right in front of us and started unpacking a full picnic lunch! FavD and I first tsk-tsked to each other, then frowned, then stared in horror as they passed fistfuls of crunchy crackers back and forth, took out Tupperware and plastic utensils to eat salads, after opening packets of dressing to drizzle over them and then toss. Un-effin-believable. (To use the word I think captures it best even if it offends someone.)

2 07 2008
JJ

Meg – I thought of your story when I heard Nigel Cliff, author of a theatre history called “The Shakespeare Riots” (in which 25 people died) interviewed on NPR this morning.

It reminded me theatre and politics have a lot in common, even for the um, “common man?” Maybe this park superintendent wasn’t so *completely* ignorant then — at least he realizes theatre can lead to riots!

At the center of this fascinating story is the star-crossed friendship of Forrest and Macready, the foremost actors of the day. . . the stresses of stardom forced the two actors into an increasingly bitter rivalry.

Forrest followed his rival around America, doing the same plays, like a “truth squad” in a political campaign. So much jingoism had been whipped up that when he staged his “Macbeth” in New York simultaneously with Macready’s, violence was entirely possible. Anti-English rabble-rousers, in the press and on the streets, made it inevitable.

As the Astor Place riot demonstrates, culture wars are nothing new on the American scene. What’s striking is that Shakespeare could be the catalyst.

Shakespeare in America 150 years ago was anything but academic, refined, and suitable for young children. It was much more like Clintonian cable commentary during the Lewinsky impeachment drama: sexy, smarmy, tragic, outrageous, politically dirty, riveting, escapist and fraught with peril all at the same time.

Cliff. . .relishes the surprising details of stage life in the 19th century, from the makeshift theatrical barges working the Ohio and Mississippi rivers to the “alleys, bagnios, and brothels” of London’s Covent Garden.

Oh, and to loop back to the original post’s theme about respecting (or not) the complex power of words and all the ways they matter, note how this review of a book about that very thing, criticizes the author’s “verbiage!” 😉

Occasionally, one wishes Cliff would rein in his verbiage. . . An honest tale speeds best, being plainly told.

Them’s FIGHTIN’ words to me!

2 07 2008
JJ

Dana posted on tabloid-juiced popular ignorance today.

20 07 2008
JJ

More racist ignorance mistaking education, history and art FOR racist ignorance:

“By first finding Sampson guilty of racial harassment simply for reading a book in the break room, then refusing to admit the gross impropriety of such a finding, IUPUI makes a mockery of its legal and moral obligations as a public institution of higher learning” . . .

Seems like “public institutions of higher learning” are doing that a whole lot lately, kinda kills the mystique imo.

27 09 2008
It’s Banned Books Week — Read Something Shocking! « Cocking A Snook!

[…] Ignorance Makes the N-Word Even Scarier […]

23 10 2008
JJ

Ana Marie Cox on Rachel Maddow this week made an unexpected analogy, said the McCain-Palin ticket is playing out as Shakespearian tragedy but its candidates are in two different plays.

McCain is old King Lear, defeated and discouraged by how life turned out and you feel sad for him, and don’t want him to leave the stage. And Sarah Palin is in Titus Andronicus, with its “lurid violence and uninspired prose” and so we want her offstage asap, no sympathy or regrets or long goodbyes!

8 06 2009
Never Mind Jews, Blacks, Immigrants, Gays: Kill the Pagans! « Cocking A Snook!

[…] woke up this morning thinking I might blog the latest faith-based fear-mongering incitement of the Ignorant from history professor Newt Gingrich, that real Americans are “surrounded by paganism” […]

13 06 2010
1 09 2010
Banned Books Week: Think for Yourself, Let Others Do the Same « Cocking A Snook!

[…] in Brampton, Ontario, Canada (2009) because a parent objected to language used in the novel, including the word “nigger.” Source: Nov2009, pp. […]

6 11 2010
JJ

News of Florida late 2010, a place and time by which nothing has changed except as it’s gotten even worse:

November 5, 2010
PALM COAST, Fla. — A Florida school committee has canceled a high school production of “To Kill a Mockingbird” because of offensive language in the play.

The theater director at Flagler Palm Coast High School, Ed Koczergo, says the problem is the N-word. Koczergo says the word can’t be removed from the script because of copyright laws.

Principal Jacob Oliva says parents, students and community members began complaining about it during the third week of rehearsals. The production was scheduled to open Nov. 12.

Most Flagler County ninth-graders read the novel dealing with racism in a fictional Depression-era Alabama town as part of their course work. Oliva says the guidance teachers give in the classroom about controversial material isn’t available to community members coming to the play.

My question on this one is: How useless is this public education leader, to make it all worse by in effect arguing that her community’s members didn’t get freshman literature the first time around (ninth grade is within the compulsory attendance age ) or that it was so ineffective it’s worn off and now they’re ignorant savages again? And that the solution is to pander to that!

6 11 2010
JJ

Pointing out this is the 50th anniversary — a half-century — of To Kill a Mockingbird! So if some impossibly ignorant and hopelessly hidebound “parents and community members” haven’t gotten its message by now, they never will.

15 11 2010
Private Power of Story in Censorship « Cocking A Snook!

[…] Ignorance makes the N-word Even Scarier Unspoken […]

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