After publishing yesterday’s blog, I received an email from Ms. Wendy Woods Jackson where she  expressed her concerns with regards to the issue of “re-writing” an author’s work and in some cases re-writing history to make it more palatable in accordance with today’s “politically corrected environment”.  I had made a specific reference to the efforts to re-write Mark Twain‘s stories.  She took issue with the fact that these efforts were being done without the permission of the writer, the artist or the people whose lived these moments, many of which are dead and cannot protest what is being done.  She was most critical of those individuals that stood idly by and did nothing and/or acted like they were somewhat ashamed of who they are, where they came from and what it took to get there.  An excerpt from her email is included below…

“There is still a duty that must be fulfilled by black people and the most essential element of that duty is to keep our minds continuously open to knowledge about ourselves.  I chose to refer to myself as “black” and our community as “black” because it is a choice in pride that I say it, feel it and swell with joy when enunciating from the “b” to the “k”.  Knowledge, not political correctness led me to choose my words that describe me.  Knowledge provides me with choices and the lack of it leaves me with no alternatives.

Duty has strong implications.  It implies that there is a responsibility and accountability factor.  Black American‘s duty to itself has never wavered.  The journey of how we came to be in this country must never be under told.  It must not be filtered.  It must not be restated to the point where we wrap our history in new words of political correctness to ease the harms of being stolen, enslaved, assimilated and filtered.  The richness we should find in inherited pain is the fact that nothing that has ever happened to us historically was politically correct.  It was raw from start to finish.  The way we tell the stories of history in our black culture should articulate the authenticity of its time.  That is knowledge.  That allows me to simmer in the words of the story and understand the idioms and circumstances of that place in time.  It allows me to linger in pockets of history my modern self will never know.  The words of the story will transport me for profound understanding; fore if I know not where I come from how can I have an unguarded appreciation for what is possible?  My history in its rawest of forms does not keep me guessing.  It shows me what was, so that I may embrace the possible.  It is my gauge.

Those who would allow the erasing hand of political correctness to deface the character of stories passed down would be guilty of slaying the griot.  They would be guilty of reducing the pain of our people to a simple sadness instead of what it truly was, a travesty against human beings once counted as livestock in the plantation log books of their massa.

Our duty is to protect the knowledge in its original story form.  We’ve always known that, but uncomfortable generations of “us” choose to waken the stories with wordplay.  This we cannot allow.  We cannot allow their discomfort today to minimize the pain of yesterday.  We cannot allow the watered down versions of re-writes to be the words of our ancestors and their pain.  We must keep our minds “continuously” open to knowledge about ourselves and to teach it responsibly without turning it into a cynical work of art fabricated by those who are not comfortable in their own black skin.”

Wendy Woods Jackson

I believe that Ms. Jackson‘s words speak to more than just “blacks”.  Political correctness will never take the place of the truth.  It is the balm that soothes but doesn’t heal.  No one…black, white, christian, muslim or jew should be asked nor should they be willing to sacrifice their history, their culture or their art in the name of political correctness. 

After Mark Twain, who’s next…Picasso?  Hemingway?  ShakespeareWhat are your thoughts?