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Black talk 

To the editor,

I was quite appalled to read Josh Visser's article of June 9, 2007, in the Chronicle-Herald reporting that Cpl. Craig Marshall Smith, a retired RCMP officer, was in effect censored by the Nova Scotia Department of Education and forced to remove the word "nigger" from his autobiographical history of the RCMP, when describing the happenings in 1946 in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia. The author was told by the Department of Education that his book, You Had Better Be White By 06:00am, a history of blacks in the RCMP, would not be accepted in Nova Scotia classrooms unless the word was replaced with asterisks. I addressed the following to the editor of the Herald on June 12, but that newspaper has chosen not to print it.

Would Kevin Finch, the departmental spokesperson quoted in the Herald, have us not know what actually went on in 1946 in Nova Scotia, or the language used then? Would the Department of Education confirm that, by forcing the author to reprint the volume at great expense to abide by the censorship edict of the department, it believes that the children in Nova Scotia classrooms will not learn the word "nigger" as they grow up in our largely white society? Does the department also believe that by protecting our young students by using "n*****" that they do not want our students to understand the pain that this word caused Afro-Acadians in 1946 through to today? Or is this overreaction just a rather clear demonstration that our largely white department of education still has some distance to go itself to understand and to respond to the Afro-Acadian segment of our population? Has the department kept out all books using "wop," "DP," "kike," "paki," "honky," "Newfie"?

I, for one, believe that the cabinet of premier MacDonald should order the departmental bureaucrats to apologize to retired Cpl. Smith, reimburse him with the full cost of the censored reprinting and be required to place both editions (original and censored) in all their schools and all Nova Scotia public libraries, with a note of explanation pasted inside the front title page of the censored edition—perhaps a note best written by Dr. George Elliott Clarke, our noted Afro-Acadian author and poet.

By Alan Ruffman


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