Ron Powers has a brilliant editorial writing in CNN on the removal of a certain n-word from the new edition of Mark Twain’s classic “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”:
Is Twain’s inspired irony really so hard to grasp? And are today’s public school teachers really so enfeebled and so intimidated that they cannot teach it?
The timing is unfortunate. This year is the 150th anniversary of South Carolina’s secession from the Union, which ignited the Civil War. This anniversary has been marked thus far by elaborate celebrations — balls, parades, theatrical re-enactments — celebrating the great event (“an act of tremendous political courage,” a ball sponsor from the Sons of Confederate Veterans called it) and by even more elaborate denials, contrary to overwhelming historical evidence, that the rebellion had anything whatsoever to do with slavery.
Denials and other lies, amplified enough, congeal into contaminated legitimacy — “fake reality,” in Leo Rosten’s phrase. Whitewash washes white not only its target but, over time, any memory of the target. That is the purpose of whitewash.