Is Mark Twain a Racist?

Topics: Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Slavery, Mark Twain Pages: 5 (2015 words) Published: November 24, 2012
Is Mark Twain A racist?
Many believe certain things about Twain's "Great American novel," makes it a racist book, like the overuse of the word, "nigger," and the given depiction of the black slave, Jim. However, there is a substantial amount of evidence that this book was not written out of hate, but in hope that Twain could change the ideals of skin color of the white people around him. The first and foremost question most people ask when they read the novel is, "was Mark Twain a racist?" There are assumptions that because of Twain's use of edgy language and writing in the point of view of racists, that he was a racist himself. Much of the article is Twain going into detail about the type of environment and adults this young boy has been raised with, and how racism against the Chinese is commonplace. For example, the Chinese are taxed twice as much as all the other races to mine for gold. Also, when they are caught stealing from a mine, they are hung. However, when the same happens to the other races, they are only asked to leave the mining camp (Galaxy). In one part, the narrator shares, "...[the boy] found out that in many districts of the vast Pacific coast, so strong is the wild, free love of justice in the hearts of the people, that whenever any secret and mysterious crime is committed, they say, "Let justice be done, though the heavens fall," and go straightway and swing a Chinaman." (Galaxy) The reason why Twain lists these observations is to show the city of San Francisco that it is not the boy who's at fault, because, "What had the child's education been? How should he suppose it was wrong to stone a Chinaman (Galaxy)?" In fact, in one part of the article, the boy says, ""Ah, there goes a Chinaman! God will not love me if I do not stone him (Galaxy)." With this article, Twain hoped that he could allow the adult of the city to see how foolish they have been acting towards the Chinese and it was not the boy who is acting childish, but it is the men whom the young boy looked up to. This is the same scenario with the controversy surrounding, "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn." In both stories we see a young boy who lives in a society that is racist against a certain race only because they were raised that way. An example of this in, "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn," is one of the first things we hear from Huck's father and his feelings about black people who have done well in the country. He refers to an African-American college professor who wore nice clothes and was intelligent. Also, since the man was from Ohio, he was also allowed to vote. It's interesting how Huck's father says, "It was 'lection day, and I was just about to go and vote myself if I warn't too drunk to get there... (37)". The irony in this is how Huck's father, a man who is obviously morally, financially, socially, and intellectually inferior to the professor he met, believes he is superior to the man because of their difference in skin colors. This confirms that Huck was raised in a racist environment, which means that things Huck says or does probably isn't out of hate, but because that's the way he's been raised in his home and society. Something very risky that Twain did to show others his position on slavery and racism was when he volunteered to help pay for one of the first black student's tuition at Yale University. In his letter do the Dean of the university explaining why he wanted to do this, he said, "We have ground the manhood out of them, and the shame is ours, not theirs, and we should pay for it (Fishkin)." This act and quote shows that Mark Twain felt personally convicted about slavery as a terrible mistake towards the black society and wanted to give something back to those affected. Therefore, with all his negative experiences with slaves and racism, why would this man write a book that goes against the ideals he so boldly defends? This book should not be looked at as an attack against African-Americans, but as another way...
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