One of my good friends is a history professor at a local college; in order to preserve anonymity I will not specify which one, but it is a conservative Christian private school in my state. We were discussing some of his curriculum and he mentioned that he is feeling nervous about one of his literary choices, since a paragraph of the document contains one instance of a racially charged word (ne---) and he is not sure if this is appropriate to present to students in the context of an academic discussion. He is not going to read the passage aloud or say or write the word, but the word does exist in the passage and the students are probably going to bring it up. He doesn't want to just not use the passage because it feels wrong to just discard a historical document for that reason alone.
I was intrigued enough by our discussion to ponder what I would do in that situation, since I am hoping to become a professor or educator in my own career, so here is my question:
How does academia treat literary texts that contain offensive/racially charged language? What is the etiquette around presenting texts in class that include these words? Would it be better to simply present the passage in a censored version where the words are modified or removed, or is it better to use the source without any modification but carefully explain it to the students and make sure it is treated in its proper historical context? How would you handle this situation as an educator?