Commentary

Prof Reportedly Fired for Quoting Racial Slur from Anti-Slavery Mark Twain Book

Left-wing censorship has spiraled so out of control that even teaching fictional stories that preach against slavery and racism can get you fired.

Just ask Hannah Berliner Fischthal, who was an adjunct instructor at St. John’s University in Queens, New York, for the past 20 years.

She got fired on April 29 after quoting the N-word verbatim once during a remote class discussion of the anti-slavery Mark Twain novel “Pudd’nhead Wilson,” the New York Post reported.

Before quoting the N-word from the book during a Feb. 10 video class, Fischthal explained the context of her use of the word and said she hoped no one would get offended.

She explained to the students of her Literature of Satire class beforehand that the use of the word in the 1894 book — which criticizes racism and slavery — was historically accurate for the times it chronicled.

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“Mark Twain was one of the first American writers to use actual dialect,” Fischthal told the Post. “His use of the ‘N-word’ is used only in dialogues as it could have actually been spoken in the South before the Civil War, when the story takes place.”

A day after her class, a female student emailed Fischthal, saying the instructor’s use of the “inappropriate slur” deeply offended her.

“It was unnecessary and very painful to hear,” the student wrote in her email, according to the Post.

Fischthal responded by apologizing to the student via email and even scheduled a private online discussion for her entire class so she could address everyone’s thoughts on the “insensitive language.”

Should St. John's University give this teacher her job back?

“I apologize if I made anyone uncomfortable in the class by using a slur when quoting from and discussing the text,” Fischthal wrote in her reply. “Please do share your thoughts.”

Of the six students who responded, two defended Fischthal, and the other four (including the initial complainant) said the N-word should not have been used.

She then invited the entire class to further discuss the issue, but that never happened because she was called into a human resources meeting on March 3 and suspended on March 5, pending an investigation into claims that she had violated the university’s policy against bias.

On April 29, she was fired.

The veteran teacher said she was shocked that insidious cancel culture had infested her university and that she — the daughter of Holocaust survivors — was accused of racism.

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“I never thought that would happen to me,” Fischthal told the Post. “I’m one of the last people who should be accused of racism. I know where it leads and I know where it ends. In every class I teach the evils of stereotyping.”

She was especially alarmed by the backlash over her teaching of “Pudd’nhead Wilson” because the entire book is a denunciation of racism and slavery.

The novel’s protagonist is a light-skinned slave named Roxy who gives birth to a light-skinned baby boy who resembles her master’s newborn son.

In a bid to save her son from being sold to another slave owner, she switches her son with her master’s baby boy shortly after birth.

Roxy’s biological son is raised in a life of privilege and luxury. However, he grows up to be a selfish, spoiled tyrant, while her adopted son grows into a kind, decent man.

The biological son eventually commits a vicious murder over a money dispute, and that’s when his true identity as the son of a slave is revealed.

Fischthal said the book offers enduring lessons about the evils of slavery and underscores that people are basically the same regardless of race.

“It satirizes the entire evil institution of slavery,” she told the Post. “The point of this novel was that there is no inherent difference between Blacks and Whites.

“Clothes and education are what distinguishes people. Both the boys in the story look exactly the same, even though one is by law a slave, and the other one is a privileged White boy.”



Fischthal’s attorney, who works for the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, wrote to the president of St. John’s University to urge the Catholic school to reinstate her.

“Quoting [Mark Twain’s] work in a class on satire falls squarely within the protection afforded by academic freedom, which gives faculty members the breathing room to determine whether — and how — to discuss material students might find offensive,” the FIRE letter read.

A St. John’s representative claimed that Fischthal wasn’t fired for reading from a novel but for other personnel issues that cannot be publicly discussed.

The person told the Post that “if your assertion is that she was fired for reading aloud from a Mark Twain novel, that is incorrect.”

Meanwhile, Fischthal said she loves teaching and will “miss my students and classes.”

This incident is one in a growing list of left-wing censorship and cancel culture run amok.

Liberals — once fierce proponents of free speech — have devolved into authoritarian dictators who want to brainwash everyone with left-wing propaganda in order to ideologically homogenize the world.

In so doing, they don’t care if they overreach and cancel people of color, whom they claim to champion.

In November, a California school district banned the teaching of five classic American novels, saying they espoused “racism.”

In a farcical irony, one of the banned books was written by Mildred Taylor — a black author who’s the great-granddaughter of a former slave.

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