Was Mark Twain A Racist?
“Not to change the subject, but….” Sandy interrupts PP’s gushing rhapsody of her perfect swim: warm water (82), own lane, (rarity) and no air conditioning until the end of her swim. (Sorry to break that parallel structure, but in reality there was no parallel structure, just free form gushing.)
Sandy had been her usual listening self, nodding and agreeing with appropriate "uh huh’s” but she’d had enough. She needed an answer.
“Let me ask you this, Was Mark Twain a Racist?”
PP can’t change gears fast enough, from swimming euphoria to race relations. So she’s glad DL is there, and after a LONG pause, asks, “What do you think, DL?”
DL has the perfect answer, of course. Something about Twain writing about a certain period of history and thus documenting a certain truth of the times; however, on the other hand, in our time, today some might very well perceive his writings as racist.
She said it more eloquently than this, but you get the gist.
“Why do you ask?” PP wants to know. After all it is 9:45 at night in Utopia and everyone’s tired and spaced out from their workouts.
“Well, you know Iris?”
“Yeah, sure,” PP nods.
"Well, she was reading White Oleander....."
”That’s a good book,” PP interrupts wondering how racism fits in to this read. She can’t remember any race relations in it, but her memory is abdominally abysmal.
“Yes, well, it’s okay, but the point is that when I asked her if she’d read Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer and she’d said no, and then when I said oh you must read them another woman butted in and said that oh yeah they made her read those books in school and they were racist and so I was just wondering what you thought. After all N_____ Jim was one of the sweetest, kindest most beloved characters of all time. (PP can’t write the N word out, but bear in mind that Sandy said it, no qualms at all even though African American Princess was sitting in the corner wide eyed listening to the entire discussion.)
PP on the one hand admires Sandy’s nonchalant usage in the context of the discussion, yet on the other side, well…in the context of our times and Utopia it seemed a bit brazen or inappropriate or in any case PP was a bit uncomfortable to say the least and so she blathers in something about Jim being the moral center of the novels (Like she remembers! See note above)
Sandy likes this assessment though and agrees. Then goes on to talk about Thanksgiving and going down to her uncle’s and how he sets a table like Martha Stewart with the turkey centerpieces and fancy flower arrangements and matching china etc. and how everyone asks if he’s gay, and she always laughs and says, “Nah, he’s been married for 26 years and is one of the straightest guys I know.”
AAP is nodding this whole time, taking it all in? She never commented upon Twain, so PP doesn’t know if she was offended or not. But after Sandy’s ‘Gay Story’ PP just comments on how those ‘stereotypes’ are everywhere.
"That they are," AAP pipes in.
And they all laugh, nodding and agreeing.
“What time is it?” Sandy asks.
“9:45,” PP says. “I better get going. I’m so slow.”
Chuckling, Sandy rises and gathers up her towel and water spray bottle and saunters out.
PP follows AAP out who turns and grins at her, “We really got goin in there, didn’t we?” she laughs.
And PP agrees, that yes, they did.
But did they answer Sandy's question, she wonders? Hell, wonder what would Martha say?
Shut up, sit down, and eat the goddamn turkey!