Following up on my previous post: Randall Kennedy (Harvard) & Eugene Volokh (UCLA), The New Taboo: Quoting Epithets in the Classroom and Beyond, 49 Cap. U. L. Rev. 1 (2021): Chronicle of Higher Education op-ed: Is It Ever OK to Enunciate a Slur in the Classroom?, by Randall Kennedy (Harvard; Author, Say It Loud: On Race, Law, History, and Culture (2021)):
Is it acceptable for pedagogical purposes to enunciate the epithet “[N-word]”?
The question is topical because of a string of incidents in which professors have been condemned, disciplined, even fired for enunciating in full the notorious N-word. Controversies have stemmed from a professor airing the word while discussing language from which courts have withdrawn the protection that the First Amendment typically accords to speech; a teacher mentioning the word while discussing a hate-speech prosecution; a teacher quoting a passage in which the term appears in a Supreme Court opinion; a professor quoting a statement attributed to a founding father who reportedly referred to Blacks as “[N-word]” during debate over the ratification of the Constitution; a teacher reading aloud from James Baldwin.
In my teaching I have done on many occasions the thing that has brought trouble to those and other fellow educators. I do not “use” “[N-word]” in the sense in which “use” is rightly condemned. I do not bandy it about gratuitously, much less to taunt, threaten, demean, or insult anyone. I enunciate “[N-word]” in full, out loud with some purpose in mind. Usually the aim is to drive home to audiences the pervasiveness of anti-Black prejudice and, more specifically, the way in which this troublesome word has been an integral part of the soundtrack of American racism.
Some thoughtful teachers determinedly avoid vocalizing “[N-word].” I think here of the distinguished University of Chicago law professor Geoffrey R. Stone, an eminent scholar of constitutional law and a stalwart champion of academic freedom. ... Stone’s new stance deferred to the proposition that, in these circumstances, a feeling of hurt upon hearing “[N-word]” is a reaction warranting accommodation. I disagree. I am skeptical of some of the claims of hurt. I suspect that some of them are the product of learned strategic ripostes. It is now well known that in certain settings, particularly those that strive to be socially enlightened (like colleges and universities), you can effectively challenge speech to which you object by claiming not only that it is socially abhorrent (racist, sexist, transphobic, etc., etc., etc.) but that it makes you feel insulted, offended, or endangered. ...
September 14, 2021 in Legal Ed Scholarship, Legal Education | Permalink