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I hate to admit that I was annoyed by Drew's concern, and then, somewhat annoyed that I was annoyed. In the end, though, I was thrilled by Bausch's brilliant and thoughtful, fantastic, and considerate response.
I was delighted to see Drew's candid question and Richard’s direct response. This question comes up often in the classroom (perhaps more with undergraduate than graduate students) and extends beyond language that is offensive by current standards, to language that is misinterpreted and contexts that are poorly understood. Without conversation and reflection, there is no hope for insight.
Thank you, Mr. Bausch, for your candid reply to Drew's question. And, Drew, I commend you for having the courage to not only ask the question, but to find someone worthy of providing an unbiased answer. I don't believe an instructor (or any person in a position of authority) should laugh at or scorn an honest question.
The fact that you are offended by the language and callous sentiments of the documented time frame shows how far our nation has come in indoctrinating our citizens against such atrocities.
This question, or it's like, has come up in my own Cross Cultural Studies classes. I understand Drew's reluctance to perpetuate racism and racist terminology, but as Mr. Bausch points out, young people do seem to have problems accepting the "norms" of past society, while indifferently ignoring the often violent and sexually exploitative literature (and media of video games, movies, graphic novels, and music) of modern society. Reading literature--fiction or non-fiction--of the past does not mean you condone the practices. One must keep in mind, however, that societies present sentiments are shaped by the past; by those speaking out against, agreeing with, or meticulously reporting the news of the day. To say such outdated sentiments should not be allowed on the shelves (canonized, as Drew puts it) in our times would be censorship, and society would learn nothing of past generations. Can you imagine, in 20, 50, or 100 years from now when the current war on tobacco and alcohol is won, not allowing people to read books or articles written from this time period that depict people smoking or drinking in them? Can you imagine in the year 2209 writing a historical novel that does not allow the word "God" to be written because the lobbyists were successful in our present time to pull out any religious reference that might offend the secular public?