Professor suspended for using “n word”—as written by James Baldwin

From Inside Higher Ed (click on screenshot below), we have a white professor being suspended—and going on medical leave because of the resultant stress—because he used the “n-word” in a discussion of James Baldwin’s famous book The Fire Next Time. If you’ve read that 1963 book (I have), you’ll know it as a powerful and antiracist work that had immense influence on many. Baldwin, of course, was black. And the suspended white professor, Philip Adamo of Augsburg College (an Evangelical Lutheran school in Minneapolis), has received an award as “Minnesota Professor of the Year” and asserts that he’s been active in “recruiting and retaining students of color.”

But it didn’t matter. Read the story (it’s at https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2019/02/01/professor-suspended-using-n-word-class-discussion-language-james-baldwin-essay; I forgot the link when I first posted this):

We all know what the “n-word” is, and in fact even saying “n-word” makes you automatically hear the entire word in your head. Nevertheless, I’ll not use the whole thing here because it’s not necessary. When it is necessary, or at least useful, is when you’re quoting a work of literature that uses that word—in this case, Baldwin’s book.  But you can also get into trouble by assigning works of literature that contain the word if written by a white man, or if the word is used by a white character, as in Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn. On those grounds alone the book has been banned in several places. There are even redacted editions of Twain’s work that replace the n-word with terms like “slave.”

The idea, I guess, is that it’s okay for black people to use the word, as they often do in intra-ethnic discourse or in rap songs, but when the word is uttered by a white person, even as part of literature, it becomes both taboo and a trigger.  I recognize that the n-word is horribly racist and should never be used in a non-academic way by whites; but I also think that if blacks continue to use it in rap or normal discourse, it’s going to make the word harder to eliminate in general. After all, when whites sing along with rap songs containing that word, they’re supposed to shut up rather than sing it. Is that fair?

But academic discourse is different, and to be “triggered” by a word when you’re simply reading the works of James Baldwin or Mark Twain, is a form of hypersensitivity that I can’t get behind. Nor did Augsburg College, for they came down hard on Adamo. Here’s what happened (you can consult the links):

In an honors seminar called the Scholar Citizen, Adamo introduced Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time.In Adamo’s retelling, a student in the class quoted this sentence from early in the book: “You can really only be destroyed by believing that you really are what the white world calls a n—–.” (Baldwin uses the full word, as did the student in class.) Students were shocked, Adamo said, and he asked whether, in an academic context, quoting from an author’s work, “it was appropriate to use the word if the author had used it.” In so doing, he used the word, not the euphemism.

Class discussion lasted about 40 minutes, he said, and ended in consensus that the word was too fraught to use going forward.

A similar discussion happened in a section of the course later in the day, Adamo said. After class, he sent all students a short email with links to two essays that he said pertained to the day’s talk. The first, by Andre Perry, David M. Rubenstein Fellow at the Brookings Institution, says to “choose to only use the N-word judiciously, reminding ourselves of its gravity by not using it loosely.” The second essay, by Ta-Nehisi Coates, formerly of The Atlantic, appeared in The New York Times in 2013, and has what Adamo called a “provocative title” — “In Defense of a Loaded Word.” But it concludes that “N—– the border, the signpost that reminds us that the old crimes don’t disappear. It tells white people that, for all their guns and all their gold, there will always be places they can never go.”

Adamo said some students told him that they interpreted the email as “forcing” his opinion on them. Then, he said, several nonenrolled students attended the next class session, saying they were there to observe, as leaders within the honors program. Students in the class then asked Adamo to leave to discuss the situation. Adamo suggested there was work to do, but he eventually agreed to step outside. One of the nonenrolled students began to film him discussing the word with students. That recording, which is mostly audio, was shared online under the title, “Phil Adamo Justifying Use of N-Word.” Adamo’s tone throughout is deferential to students.

Adamo was forced into a public recantation, which is how these things go. He shouldn’t have had to suffer this kind of public humiliation:

After class, Adamo informed his provost what had happened. She suggested that he write a note to the students in the honors program, he said. That letter says, in part, that the classroom “is a place where any and every topic can be explored, even those topics considered to be taboo. This is how I understand academic freedom, which is a precious thing to me and other professors. It is the currency that allows us to speak truth to power.”

Yet, Adamo continued, “I also understand that this point of view is available to me because of my privileged position. I am now struggling to understand how it may be better not to explore some taboo topics, and to weigh the consequences of absolute academic freedom versus outcomes that lead to hurt, racial trauma, and loss of trust.”

Adamo wrote a separate email to the honors student leaders. Praising them for their defense of the program’s values, he also noted his concern about their “methods,” including showing up to class unannounced and filming him without permission.

It didn’t matter. Adamo was removed from teaching and his work as an honors supervisor at Augsburg. The American Association of University Professors have defended him, while his colleagues have both defended and attacked him (see the Inside Higher Ed piece for links). The University President even issued a statement praising the students for complaining about his use of the n-word:

“We know that the work of fostering an inclusive learning environment is ongoing, and we are fully committed to it,” said President Paul C. Pribbenow. “We are grateful to the students, faculty and staff who have spoken courageously to raise campus awareness, who have engaged in actively listening to the issues being expressed, and who have called for changes that advance our equity work.” He added, “Augsburg will address this important topic like it has many other critical issues in our 150-year history: we will acknowledge and engage the topic, not shrink from it, and work together to make the university better.

Now I am not black, so you can argue that I fail to grasp how hurtful that word is to African-Americans in any context, but my point is that it should not be hurtful in the way Adamo used it. I’m a Jew, and the equivalent words for me are kike, sheenie, hebe, yid, Hymie, and so on. You’d be hard pressed to claim that those words are not, or should not be, as hurtful to Jews as the n-word is to blacks. Yet I read those words all the time, and have no reaction. Arguably, they should be just as triggering to me as the n-word is for blacks. Yes, I would be upset if somebody called me those names, or if I heard somebody use them to refer to Jews. But in literature (I think they appear in Catcher in the Rye but can’t recall), or in academic discourse of the words’ meaning, I cannot cavil.

Some professors quoted in the article say that the student anger is understandable. I suppose that’s so, but I think it’s also unwarranted, for intent must surely count here. But I will quote one academic who says that intent doesn’t matter:

Jelani Cobb, a professor of journalism at Columbia University who has written about the N-word for The New Yorker, where he is a staff writer, said the short answer to the N-word in the classroom question is no.

“I’ve taught courses on hip-hop where the word is ubiquitous, and it’s always a stumbling block,” he said in a Twitter message. “By using the term, even in a quote, you’re essentially asking students, particularly black students, to take it on faith that this is not a vicarious thrill or a kind of ventriloquism that allows access to an otherwise forbidden term.”

In many instances, he said, “it will not be. In some instances it will.” Either way, the student is “almost always going to puzzle over that moment like a Rorschach test.”

So while it’s important question to debate, Cobb added, “the potential downsides of actually saying it are large enough, and the likelihood of derailing conversation high enough, that it’s not worth saying even if you have the most purely pedagogical motives.”

Here Cobb is defending a form of hypersensitivity in which words become equivalent to rocks or bullets. I’ve read Cobb’s piece and I don’t see a good case that the n-word should never be used, even when you’re quoting a black man who wrote it, or an old work of literature in which it appears. There are good pedagogical motives for saying it, and dare I venture to add that blacks and whites might even have a productive discussion about the word? Or is that going too far?

My own position is clear: the word should never be used in a way that could be construed as racist, but there are times, mostly involving academic discourse, when it’s justified. And, at any rate, everyone hears the entire word anyway when you say the “n-word.”

But readers may feel otherwise. Should it never be used by whites? How about by blacks: is it okay to use it in rap music, or in friendly discourse between African-Americans? (I have to add here that I never call my Jewish friends “hebes” or “kikes”.)

 

156 Comments

  1. GBJames
    Posted February 1, 2019 at 10:52 am | Permalink

    sub

  2. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted February 1, 2019 at 10:57 am | Permalink

    It’s so easy isn’t it – find the bad word, find the bad person.

  3. DrBrydon
    Posted February 1, 2019 at 11:01 am | Permalink

    I am reading Nick Cohen’s You Can’t Read This Book, and while he does not address this specific issue (that I have seen, yet), it strikes me that this is a case of blasphemy. We made this word taboo, and now, if you use it, you can be made a pariah. I think we’ve made a mistake in adopting the euphemism of “n-word” because it sets a precedent for banning words, as well as punishing their use. It reminds me of the old days when books printed d*** instead of damn. Other usage aside, it is perfectly reasonable to use the word when quoting literature or historic texts.

    • Posted February 1, 2019 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

      I also reminded the word for “G*d” that was forbidden to be said, and a more recent and relevant case – a British teacher in Sudan who got in trouble when her students named a teddy bear “Mohammed”.
      This is crazy.

      • another fred
        Posted February 1, 2019 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

        Be certain about one thing. It is about power.

        • DrBeydon
          Posted February 1, 2019 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

          Controlling language always is.

  4. Posted February 1, 2019 at 11:05 am | Permalink

    I’m a little confused by this passage:

    “to be ‘triggered’ by a word when you’re simply reading the works of James Baldwin or Mark Twain, is a form of hypersensitivity that I can’t get behind. Nor did Augsburg College, for they came down hard on Adamo.”

    It looks like you’re saying that you cant get behind the hypersensitivity and neither did the College, but in fact they did get get behind it by punishing the teacher.

    I get the gist of your post, but that part seemed a little unclear, or is it just me?

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted February 1, 2019 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

      No that puzzled me too. I lost track of which side they were supposed to be on.

      cr

      • Jenny Haniver
        Posted February 1, 2019 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

        Ditto.

  5. Posted February 1, 2019 at 11:07 am | Permalink

    I wish George Carlin were still alive.

  6. Dave137
    Posted February 1, 2019 at 11:08 am | Permalink

    I may have posted this before, from George Carlin:

    • Posted February 1, 2019 at 11:58 am | Permalink

      Blasphemey! He said it again.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted February 1, 2019 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

        Interestingly, Life of Brian used a whole bunch of ‘naughty’ words in the ‘Red Sea pedestrian’ passage:
        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GAA9iPb9svw

        I was going to say that’s yet another reason why Life of Brian couldn’t be released today, but then it occurred to me that those are just Jewish racial epiphets and, to do them justice, they don’t seem to be so hypersensitive about mere words.

        (PCC noted “the equivalent words for me are kike, sheenie, hebe, yid, Hymie, and so on. You’d be hard pressed to claim that those words are not, or should not be, as hurtful to Jews as the n-word is to blacks. Yet I read those words all the time, and have no reaction.”

        I can’t say I read those words very often (where does PCC do his reading?) but all credit to him.)

        cr

    • BJ
      Posted February 1, 2019 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

      This is why the social justice crowd came up with the phrase “intent isn’t magic.” It doesn’t matter what you intended, and so long as any context, intent, etc. don’t matter, they can punish you and claim they’re right to do so. On the other side of the coin, they’ll invent a context in which something benign someone has said or done suddenly becomes a punishable offense, like “manspreading.”

  7. Blue
    Posted February 1, 2019 at 11:13 am | Permalink

    bitch
    whore
    stupid – ass heifer
    twat
    cunt
    pussy

    are all of the appellations that I, to my ear and
    to my face ‘ve been called. Repeatedly.
    Routinely in front of my three sons.

    By the man with whom for 12+ years I was
    within a legal union. I have zero memory of
    his ever using my given name at birth. Or my
    surname. Or my title ( BSN, DVM, PhD).
    No memory. Just those specific names.
    Pussy was his most favored one for me.

    Thus ? I used them all, all of them
    repeatedly, within the piece of literature
    that I, then, … … wrote. Thus:
    https://bluemaas.public.iastate.edu .

    in re Professor Adamo ? I do not find this
    “event” at all surprising. Not one bit.

    Blue

    • mikeyc
      Posted February 1, 2019 at 11:21 am | Permalink

      Oh, dear Blue. That’s just…awful. I am glad you’re free of the bastard now.

    • Posted February 1, 2019 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

      Your ex-husband is fortunate that you didn’t Bobbit him. Too many men have and, still do,
      believe that a marriage license entitles you to treat your female spouse in any way you choose. I’m so sorry you experienced this trauma for so long.

      I was unable to access what you shared from iastate.

      But, it reminded me that I once intended to write a poem using all the negative euphemisms my parents (midwesterners) used for people of other colors, races, religions, etc. I couldn’t do it.

  8. Posted February 1, 2019 at 11:16 am | Permalink

    If you can’t use the word itself, you should not be able to refer to it st all. Typing or using “the n word “ should also be banned. The word no longer exists. I don’t even know what the n stands for. It is gone forever.

    • Geoff Toscano
      Posted February 1, 2019 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

      The trouble is wishing it away doesn’t make it so. The word exists historically.

      • Posted February 1, 2019 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

        What word?

  9. Marou
    Posted February 1, 2019 at 11:17 am | Permalink

    We all self-censor or at least I hope we do. Tne n-word is so loaded that to use it in any context will never go unremarked and I’m struggling to think of a context where doing so would be useful. Unless he had a serious point to make Adamo is I think being either naive or disingenuous.
    On a less serious note, I love the idea of people singing along to hip hop – around the piano or a campfire perhaps. And though Jews may not use the words like ‘kike’ about each other, Tottenham Hotspur supporters call themselves ‘Yid Army’ honouring the team’s Jewish fan base, not, it must be said, uncontroversially.

    • Dave137
      Posted February 1, 2019 at 11:30 am | Permalink

      “The n-word is so loaded that to use it in any context will never go unremarked and I’m struggling to think of a context where doing so would be useful.”

      This discussion is a useful context, to name only one example.

    • James
      Posted February 1, 2019 at 11:50 am | Permalink

      “We all self-censor or at least I hope we do.”

      That’s the meat of the issue. SELF-censoring is fine. That’s just basic tact and courtesy.

      But when you alter the work of an author to conform with modern sensibilities you are no longer self-censoring; you’re censoring the author. Mark Twain didn’t name the guy “African-American Jim”. He used a term that was common and uncontroversial at the time. And whether we like it or not, what the author produced needs to be what is presented.

      • Marou
        Posted February 1, 2019 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

        And if n—— were substituted what would be lost?

        • Posted February 1, 2019 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

          Oh, nothing (sarcasm). For that matter, you can ban all Mark Twain and you can replace living languages with newspeaks, and the Earth will continue to revolve. But why make culture and life worse on purpose?

        • Dave137
          Posted February 1, 2019 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

          Marou:

          When you read “n—–––”, what exactly do you think of, in your head?

          The actual word, right? People need to cease advocating the c*nsoring of language, as if words themselves are problematic.

        • James
          Posted February 1, 2019 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

          Historical authenticity, a powerful window into the past, author intent, that sort of thing. Not to mention such virtues as academic integrity, basic honesty, and courage to face our past fully, good and bad alike.

          Beyond that, however: We will have altered the work to fit what we want it to say. That is exceedingly dangerous. Sure, in this case it’s pretty much universally acknowledged that the word is offensive. But it opens the door to making additional changes. How offensive does a word have to be in order to warrant altering historic works? And the instant we ask THAT question, we need to ask the corollary: Who gets to decide?

          If you want to know more, look up why Medieval monks maintained pagan literature, and why the Benedictines included it in their Lenten observances. Censoring the past is, quite literally, going further than what the religious zealots living in a theocratic society considered to be acceptable behavior.

          • Marou
            Posted February 1, 2019 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

            Reminds me of the joke about the woman who answered the phone and, after getting a frenzied description of what the caller would like to do to her, replied “You got all that from ‘Hello’?”. I really don’t think that anyone, much less medieval historians, have anything to fear from this storm in a teacup.

            • James
              Posted February 1, 2019 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

              If you think my point about Medieval monks had anything to do with the effects of censoring historical works on the field of Medieval history, you have not actually read my post.

              To be clear, my point was twofold: First, what you’re advocating is so dangerous that Medieval monks–who had the full power of the state behind them, who lived in a violent theocracy, and who were considered the paragons of what it meant to be Christian (at the time, anyway)–decided not to use it because of the risks involved. When people like that say “This weapon is too dangerous”, it should give us tremendous pause before we pick it up and use it.

              Second, I frankly agree with their arguments, and rather than restate them (probably badly), I will merely reference their superior work.

              • mikeyc
                Posted February 1, 2019 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

                Maybe Marou should read “Name of the Rose” to understand your point.

      • Jenny Haniver
        Posted February 1, 2019 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

        I agree wholeheartedly.

      • mikeyc
        Posted February 1, 2019 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

        +1e^9

    • Taz
      Posted February 1, 2019 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

      From the story, I believe Adamo was making a serious point. Are you claiming he wasn’t?

      • Marou
        Posted February 1, 2019 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

        Yup

        • Taz
          Posted February 1, 2019 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

          If quoting James Baldwin and sparking a forty minute discussion isn’t a serious use, can I ask what you think would be?

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted February 1, 2019 at 5:21 pm | Permalink

      “Tne n-word is so loaded that to use it in any context will never go unremarked ”

      Except, try typing it (or ‘niggah’) into the Youtube search box and count the pages of rap videos…

      cr

  10. CJColucci
    Posted February 1, 2019 at 11:19 am | Permalink

    I do a lot of discrimination cases, and part of that involves testimony about people throwing around racists slurs. I can’t tell you how many times someone has testified, in effect,
    A: “I heard Smith call Jones the N-word.”
    Q: “Just to be clear did Smith say, quote, N-word, close quote, or did he say the actual N-word?”
    A: “He said the N-word.”
    Q: “Did Smith say the phrase N-word or did he use the actual word N-word.”
    A: “I’m sorry, I don’t understand.”
    Q: “I know you don’t want to say this yourself, but Smith called Jones a nigger, didn’t he?”
    A: “Yes.”
    That’s technically leading, but permissible under the circumstances.

  11. CJColucci
    Posted February 1, 2019 at 11:23 am | Permalink

    I do a lot of discrimination cases, and part of that involves testimony about people throwing around racists slurs. I can’t tell you how many times someone has testified, in effect,
    A: “I heard Smith call Jones the N-word.”
    Q: “Just to be clear did Smith say, quote, N-word, close quote, or did he say the actual N-word?”
    A: “He said the N-word.”
    Q: “Did Smith say the phrase N-word or did he use the actual N-word?”
    A: “I’m sorry, I don’t understand.”
    Q: “I know you don’t want to say this yourself, but Smith called Jones a nigger, didn’t he?”
    A: “Yes.”
    That’s technically leading, but permissible under the circumstances.

  12. CJColucci
    Posted February 1, 2019 at 11:24 am | Permalink

    Sorry for the double post.

  13. mikeyc
    Posted February 1, 2019 at 11:25 am | Permalink

    I’m not a big fan of Ta’Nehesi Coates; he’s an excellent writer but deeply racist.

    Nevertheless, I have to say this;

    “N—– the border, the signpost that reminds us that the old crimes don’t disappear. It tells white people that, for all their guns and all their gold, there will always be places they can never go.”

    is just perfect.

    • Posted February 1, 2019 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

      Yes, it takes a shameless racist like him to say as openly that the whole storm-in-a teapot about the N-word is to bully white people for being white and to intimidate them into submission.

      • mikeyc
        Posted February 1, 2019 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

        That’s one way to look at it, as Coates is about as racist anyone can get. Nevertheless, he encapsulates the feeling behind the n-word use quite accurately (and, I think you’ll agree) and the passage is a masterful use of the English language.

        • mikeyc
          Posted February 1, 2019 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

          oh, for an edit button.

        • Posted February 1, 2019 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

          Yes, he is intelligent and very cultured. It’s a pity that he has chosen (sorry determinists!) to apply his qualities in such a harmful way.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted February 1, 2019 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

      Mr. Coates has a way with belletristic prose, Mikey, no doubt about it. But some of his stuff lately lays it on a little thick for my tastes (and my tastes tend to run toward making me a sucker for that stuff).

      Agree with you, though, about the quoted passage.

  14. bonetired
    Posted February 1, 2019 at 11:50 am | Permalink

    I have just re-read James McPherson’s magnificent “Battle Cry of Freedom” which is one of the best, if not the very best, single volumes histories of the United States in the Civil War era (1850-1865). In the book he uses the “N” word a number of times but he is, in my view, completely justified in doing so. How on earth can you describe the build up to the Civil War, the culture of the Antebellum South with its roots in the evils of slavery, without showing the deep prejudices prevalent at that time and how human beings were debased by the, among many other things, use of that particular word?

    • bonetired
      Posted February 1, 2019 at 11:53 am | Permalink

      I should add that he is quoting people when he uses that word.

    • Historian
      Posted February 1, 2019 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

      Battle of Cry was published in 1988. If McPherson were writing the book today, he might hesitate using the word.

  15. Posted February 1, 2019 at 11:53 am | Permalink

    I can’t think of a better way to divide a people than to make them speak different languages. One word is not a language, true–but it is highly symbolic.
    If a word is too disgusting to use–then let’s not use it. Lets not half use it, or hint at it. To not use it in a historical context is absurd–like putting fig leaves over statues. But in a modern context, to say “these people can use it and these people can’t” is to emphasize an unbridgeable divide. Now, maybe that divide is unbridgeable, but that’s a counsel of despair.
    Of course the divide here is the gulf in acceptance of what North America did during the mid-atlantic slave trade, but more particularly, what it did in terms of a two-tier society thereafter. Those wounds haven’t been healed. I dont know how to heal them. Some have talked of reparations but I cant think of ways of divvying up the money that would not be even more divisive. Say I have a great great great grandparent who was a slave (which is highly likely for lots of people in the US and further). Do I get 1/32 of a handout? Have 31/32 of myself pay reparations to the remaining 1/32? There may be ways of instituting positive discrimination programs. Maybe. But America is still in love with the idea that jesus shows his love for you by making you wealthy on earth, and I dont see much sign of that changing.

  16. Posted February 1, 2019 at 11:55 am | Permalink

    This all reminds me of the whole “he who must not be named” nonsense in the Harry Potter universe. Making a word – which is just a made up thing with no inherent power – taboo just makes it more powerful, not less. I applaud the fact that rappers et al use it freely, and as a term of respect in many ways…but this use means that they have to accept that whites are going to use the word when singing along with a song they like. I’ll be damned if I’m going to censor myself while singing along to a song that someone wrote and recorded to make money by having people pay to play.

    • Steve Gerrard
      Posted February 1, 2019 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

      This is the problem. It is similar to the Streisand Effect, in that the word is built up to be the worst thing a person can say, giving it more power than it should have. Joe Biden can say “this is a big fucking deal” and it’s mainly amusing to us. He could not get away with the N-word.

      It has not happened with the slur words for Jews, or any other racial slurs, for that matter. They are all still slurs, but not like this one. I don’t think it is a good thing for future race relations that the worst thing you can call someone is a word designating a particular race.

      • Jenny Haniver
        Posted February 1, 2019 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

        Could one call it the Y-H or the G-D effect? Granted, those are ‘holy’ names, but it’s the power (positive or negative) that the words have been invested with that makes them taboo. I recall being in the company of some young people who had Down Syndrome. They were calling each other and their parents “Bucko!” as a slur when they didn’t like something someone had done or said. Because they’d invested the word with connotations of hostility and stupidity, their parents banned them from using that word, then they really liked using it.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted February 1, 2019 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

      Dick Gregory gave his autobiography the title Nigger, dedicated it to his momma, told her should she ever hear that word again, she should remember they were advertising his book.

      That was back in ’64.

  17. Randall Schenck
    Posted February 1, 2019 at 11:59 am | Permalink

    Yes, we should become so offended by the use of the word that we turn to salt if it is used anywhere near us. I am old enough to remember when we used the words colored people. Do you get fired or jail time for that one today. To say people of color is just fine but colored people – criminal.

    It is kind of like thinking all the slaves were free as soon as that 13th amendment was ratified. If you think that, better go back and read some history.

    • mikeyc
      Posted February 1, 2019 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

      No one gets jailed for saying “colored people”. Not even for saying the n-word. Neither are criminal offenses in the US. They are offenses to taste and good manners, for sure, but it is not criminal.

      • Randall Schenck
        Posted February 1, 2019 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

        Seriously Mikeyc. Thanks for your invaluable information. Don’t know what I would do without it.

        • mikeyc
          Posted February 1, 2019 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

          Glad to be of assistance.

      • Filippo
        Posted February 1, 2019 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

        Persons “of color” implies the existence of persons not of color (an uncolored person?). I wonder if the latter locution somehow offends delicate sensibilities.

        Also wonder whether one can yet discuss the countries of Nigeria and Niger without evoking opprobrium.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted February 1, 2019 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

        I am absolutely baffled as to how “people of color” (which is a stupidly clunky and stilted phrase anyway) is in the slightest degree different from “colored people”.

        (Not that either phrase makes any literal sense, but then neither does ‘black’ or ‘white’, taken literally).

        cr

        • Posted February 1, 2019 at 6:40 pm | Permalink

          One of the ways to demonstrate your power over others is to force them to talk like fools, and to look at you with respect when you talk like a fool.

  18. Posted February 1, 2019 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

    If black people can use the n-word and white people cannot, what about mixed race people?

    How long will it be before “n-word” is also banned? What will we replace it with? The “m-word”?

    Can one deliberately misspell the word to avoid causing offense? If so, how close do you have to get to the correct spelling before offense is taken? I’m reminded of Monty Python’s “Funniest Joke in the World” which features a joke used by British troops during World War II as a weapon. Just reciting it caused enemy snipers to fall dead. It had to be translated into German by a team since it would cause instant death if anyone heard the whole thing.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Funniest_Joke_in_the_World

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted February 1, 2019 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

      There’s nothin’ like weapons-grade humor — though I’ve never handled anything more lethal than a petard myself.

      • Filippo
        Posted February 1, 2019 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

        I wonder if the North Korean dictator has contemplated using a petard on a dotard.

    • Filippo
      Posted February 1, 2019 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

      Maybe the locution “Between M & O Word” is a possible replacement.

    • Posted February 1, 2019 at 4:57 pm | Permalink

      I suggest “nigger” be replaced with “tigger”. Or any other letter of the alphabet other than “n”. Another possibility is to drop the “n” and write *igger. I’m sure there are many more possibilities for replacements with the potential for humor or ridicule.

      My take is that no word should be unsayable or unwriteable, particularly when used in a historical context.

      I never censored the language of my children. But, I taught them to be certain they knew what a word they used meant and, if they chose to use that word in a context/social setting that found the word objectionable, that they be understanding of and willing to accept the consequences.

  19. Posted February 1, 2019 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

    Philosophers of language call this the “use/ mention distinction”
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Use%E2%80%93mention_distinction
    I think its a useful distinction. If I use a word then it has certain contexts, like calling someone a rude epithet. If I mention a word (typically in inverted commas) then I am refering to another’s use of the word. This weird halfway house (“The ‘N’ Word” in which I am mentioning “”The N-Word”” rather than saying “The ‘N’ word” and yes that is the right number of inverted commas) shows that humans have vestigial beliefs that words have magical powers.

  20. Diana MacPherson
    Posted February 1, 2019 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

    That’s terrible what happened to the professor. How can one get in trouble for quoting someone else? Intent matters. When someone called me a “cunt” because they didn’t want to pay $5 to get into a park I was working at as a student, that is different and has a different effect on me than reading a passage in a book that calls a woman a “cunt”.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted February 1, 2019 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

      I’m sure they meant simply that you were warm and deep, Diana.

  21. Geoff Toscano
    Posted February 1, 2019 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

    How can we teach kids, indeed anybody, that certain things are wrong, in differing circumstances, if we can’t refer to the offending action, in this case a word. Yes, the word is totally unacceptable now, but how is it possible to explain the background to that lack of acceptability if we cannot use it in its historical context? Imagine trying to teach the horror of Hitler and the Nazis without being able to mention Auschwitz.

    I’m beginning to think that the term ‘snowflake’ resonates well in this sort of discussion.

  22. Posted February 1, 2019 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

    Some may be offended to hear the word, even in this context. Quelle horreur! But some I believe are just exercising power, as if to say “See what I can do to you.”

  23. Ken Kukec
    Posted February 1, 2019 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

    The best thing I’ve read on the use of the “N-word,” so-called, is a thin volume written nearly two decades ago by Harvard law professor Randall Kennedy (himself black), entitled nigger: The Strange Career of a Troublesome Word.

  24. Posted February 1, 2019 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

    The Regressive Left enrages in a form of magical thinking, whereby words — incantations, as it were — can alter reality. Thus, just saying a particular word can in itself inflict tangible ‘violence’, while chanting other phrases — ‘a trans woman is a woman, period’, for example — can make it so.
    (cf. The Charm of Making; The Lords Who Say “Niii”)

    • Historian
      Posted February 1, 2019 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

      Yes, magical thinking in the use of words reminds me of Trump, pretty much every word that comes out of his mouth.

  25. Jimbo
    Posted February 1, 2019 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

    It seems to me, this eventually goes one of two ways: only black teachers can teach black history or non-black teachers should simply stop teaching black history. It would be a travesty and a glaring omission but maybe students should just learn that subject at home.

    Secondly, is reading the N-word (or hearing it in rap songs as PCC pointed out) also a problem if the author is not black like Baldwin? What about “Black Like Me” by Griffin (who was white)? If just the word is so distasteful and no one cares to establish the intent of the speaker (i.e. saying it vs quoting it) then what do the students protesting against hearing it from non-black people suggest as a solution?

  26. Randall Schenck
    Posted February 1, 2019 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

    If people did not fear trouble for what they say, where would anonymous be today.

    • Dave137
      Posted February 1, 2019 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

      Randall:

      Not in all cases.

      To invoke a random example, Thomas Paine first published “Common Sense” anonymously, intentionally, so his words received all the attention and not the person uttering them. Anonymity therefore can be a sword, and not simply a shield.

      • Randall Schenck
        Posted February 1, 2019 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

        I know that lots of people used anonymous or fake names in those days, often Hamilton, Jefferson and Madison just to name a few. I did not know that Paine had done so. He should have continued this use much later when he attacked George Washington much later during Washington’s second term. I think his reputation started down hill after this. He actually celebrated Washington’s departure from office, praying for his imminent death, and other nasty comments. Yes, Paine was sometimes not so bright.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted February 1, 2019 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

          “Publius” — that’s what two of your three (along with John Jay) used in writing “The Federalist Papers.”

          I think there’s a distinction between a famous author using a pen name because they don’t want their notoriety to influence the acceptance vel non of their ideas (as was the case regarding the above) and the use of a pseudonym to shield one’s identity, as is rampant today on the internet (either out of a legitimate fear regarding reprisals or simply to avoid accountability for one’s words).

          • Randall Schenck
            Posted February 1, 2019 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

            You are correct to a point on that but Jefferson was often one sneaky guy even when still secretary of state getting Madison to write in opposition to Washington policies and Madison doing the same as he flipped from a once Federalist friend to an outright enemy in the Jefferson camp. Jefferson paid an opposition paper to put out the Republican party ideology to counter Hamilton. After Jefferson quit as Sec. of State and went back to Monticello he eventually went so far as to say Washington was in effect, becoming senile and wrote these thoughts to Philip Mazzei, which was leaked to the press. Eventually, Washington renounced Jefferson as a duplicitous scoundrel. Politics was just as bad in the beginning as it is now.

      • GBJames
        Posted February 1, 2019 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

        I don’t think so, Dave. Common Sense was treasonous at the time. He was hiding his identity from the British, not from the public he hoped to influence. Anonymity was a means of self protection for American revolutionaries at the time.

  27. Posted February 1, 2019 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

    A professor suspended and forced to repent publicly over a word is not the same as a director stabbed to death over a movie or cartoonists shot dead over cartoons, but it is a dangerous step in this direction.

    In both situations, an aggressive minority keeps the majority in submission by attacking a majority member who is not submissive enough.

  28. Posted February 1, 2019 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

    As a middle aged black man, what annoys me the most about this manner of hypersensitivity is that the people complaining about the use of the n-word are the ones who have been called the n-word out in the wild the least.

  29. rustybrown
    Posted February 1, 2019 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

    I agree with Professor Coyne’s position. The world would be a much better place if we would all just relax about this type of thing. Unfortunately, the authoritarian left, and increasingly the mainstream Democratic party, is not about to let us relax. They’re all about cynically exploiting identity politics.

    • Historian
      Posted February 1, 2019 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

      Just like Trump and white identity politics. Isn’t it odd that the right wing forgets about this?

      • rustybrown
        Posted February 1, 2019 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

        Name me a single time Trump has addressed “white” America. Just one.

        • mikeyc
          Posted February 1, 2019 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

          Well, here’s one that will make the top hit selection of Trumps’ “Dog Whistles to White people”;

          “I think there is blame on both sides”

          • rustybrown
            Posted February 1, 2019 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

            Fake news. Trump was clearly referring to people on both sides of the statue issue, not to white supremacists or neo-Nazis, whom he explicitly condemned. Here’s a transcript:

            https://www.latimes.com/politics/la-na-pol-trump-charlottesville-transcript-20170815-story.html

            • Posted February 1, 2019 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

              He might have gotten a pass if this kind of thing only happened once. Perhaps the strongest evidence for Trump being a racist is that racists think he is. As they say, it takes one to know one.

              The game Trump plays is the same one many racists play. They scrupulously avoid using explicit racism, such as using the n-word, at least in public. IMHO, the only people that are taken in by this are people who want to be taken in. In other words, Trump implicitly gives them permission to let their racist feeling fly.

            • mikeyc
              Posted February 1, 2019 at 5:04 pm | Permalink

              Fake news? Chugged that kool-aid, didn’t you rusty? Did you use a funnel or did you pour straight out of the pitcher?

              • rustybrown
                Posted February 1, 2019 at 5:24 pm | Permalink

                Good grief. I’ve supplied the friggin transcript mikeyc. Now explain to me how the ’very fine people’ he’s referring to are white supremacists after having just explicitly and repeatedly condemned them as vile. And I’m the kool-aid drinker?

              • mikeyc
                Posted February 1, 2019 at 5:43 pm | Permalink

                I think maybe you’re not old enough to remember “plausible deniability”. It didn’t fly then and it doesn’t now.

                Having said that, there IS something to Trump’s complaints about the news. We see complaints here on WEIT too when the media distorts (or gets completely wrong) scientific findings. I have almost as little faith in the honesty of journalists as I do in politicians.

                But it is disingenuous to pretend that Trump wasn’t sending a message to his racist supporters (not all – not even a majority- are!) that they have found a place in his party. It beggars belief that he was then -and in many other instances- only being fair.

                You are quick to find and point out fault among Democrats. They not hard to find and I am not fan of that (mostly) useless party. But you seem to have blind spot with Trump. He *is* hated here (at least by me) so as a supporter of him, I can understand coming to his defense. But you really should take a more realistic view of him and his party.

              • rustybrown
                Posted February 1, 2019 at 6:55 pm | Permalink

                Sorry mikeyc, I guess we’ll just have to disagree. I sincerely disagree that Trump was sending out any kind of dog whistle at Charlottesville and in his own imprecise way I think that his statements were heartfelt, even moving at times. If you read them you may see it so; just imagine Obama saying the same words in his calm, measured cadence. Now look, he’s imprecise, he’s brash, he’s a weird guy. And he was combating a corrupt, bloodthirsty press that was looking for any way to pin the events of Charlottseville on him. When they couldn’t find it they just made shit up.

                I fully understand that I may have some blind spots regarding Trump; it’s impossible for us to spot all of our own biases yet it’s a certainty we all have them. I think I’m likely to give Trump the benefit of the doubt because I’ve observed how blazingly unfair the media has been to him since his campaign, and I have a large antiestablishment streak in me.

                Just so you all know, I’m a lifelong liberal who’s never voted Republican before Trump. So I respect you all and I think I know where you’re coming from in a general sense. I just that the divide between my classic liberal values and the Left the seems to become wider by the day.

              • rustybrown
                Posted February 1, 2019 at 6:58 pm | Permalink

                “It’s just that…”

              • Mikeyc
                Posted February 1, 2019 at 7:08 pm | Permalink

                Fair enough. Thanks for a civil discussion. I mean that.

              • Mikeyc
                Posted February 1, 2019 at 7:08 pm | Permalink

                Fair enough. Thanks for a civil discussion. I mean that.

              • Posted February 1, 2019 at 7:44 pm | Permalink

                Hey, let’s knock off this kind of invective, okay. This is uncivil and adds nothing to the discussion; you’re just insulting another commenter.

        • Historian
          Posted February 1, 2019 at 6:08 pm | Permalink

          He’s addressed white America at every one of his rallies and every one of his speeches. To be more precise, he plays to all their fears and anxieties. What do you think the Wall is about?

      • Posted February 1, 2019 at 7:01 pm | Permalink

        When a weapon is effective, both sides are expected to use it.
        Unless there is some “convention” not to.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted February 1, 2019 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

      Explain “Birtherism” for us, Mr. rustybrown — just a reasonable disagreement among people of good will?

      As of just a year ago, 51% of Republicans (and 57% of Trump supporters) still subscribed to it.

      • rustybrown
        Posted February 1, 2019 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

        In my opinion, Trump was trolling with the Birthirism theory. It has nothing to do with race and everything to do with getting attention. To be clear, I’ve never subscribed to any kind of Birthirism nonsense; I thought the whole thing was silly and I thought he was silly for pursuing it. But I could also see it for what it was: trolling and making headlines as someone who was thinking about running for President (not only has Trump not trafficked in Birtherism since declaring his candidacy, he’s specifically conceded the theory is false).

        Fun fact: H. Clinton supporters (if not the Hillary campaign itself, plausible deniability is their lifeblood) trafficked in Birtherism long before Trump got into the act!

        • mikeyc
          Posted February 1, 2019 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

          You’re right about Clinton and it was a sorry (and telling) episode in her campaign.

          However, Ken was responding to your claim that Democrats play the identity politics game (you’re right about that) by pointing out that Republicans do it too. You give Trump a pass (it was all just in fun, amirite?) but neglected to address this;

          “As of just a year ago, 51% of Republicans (and 57% of Trump supporters) still subscribed to it.”

          So do you concede that the right can play that game too?

          • Ken Kukec
            Posted February 1, 2019 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

            Race anxiety and resentment is the electric current that powers today’s GOP — and Trump is the transform the boosts the voltage to potentially lethal levels.

            Birtherism was an appeal to racism, against this nation’s first African-American president, pure and simple. The alt-right types Trump brought into the GOP with him from his birtherism days form his hardcore base, the one’s who wouldn’t disown him if he shoot someone in cold-blood on Fifth Avenue. It’s what gave him his initial toe-hold in American politics.

            The GOP has been playing this depraved game for nearly a half century now — from Nixon’s “southern strategy,” to Reagan’s kicking off his campaign with a “states’ rights” speech at the site of the lynching of civil-rights workers in Mississippi, to Poppy Bush’s Willie Horton ad, to the Tea Party, to Trump’s birtherism. It is what will eventually tear the Republican Party apart, mark my words.

            • Ken Kukec
              Posted February 1, 2019 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

              “the transformer that boosts”

            • rustybrown
              Posted February 1, 2019 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

              Nonsense. If questioning Obamas birthplace was racist, was it racist when he questioned Ted Cruz’s eligibility based on his Canadian roots?

              • Ken Kukec
                Posted February 1, 2019 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

                Chrissake, man. Ted Cruz was born in Canada; the only issue was whether that made him legally ineligible to be US president. The situations are hardly comparable. Don’t be obtuse.

              • rustybrown
                Posted February 1, 2019 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

                What’s obtuse? Both cases question a politicians eligibility to be President based on their birthplace. That one is a fact and the other speculation is a distinction without a difference. You still haven’t explained how Birtherism is racist. I know that’s the mantra from the Left but is it possible that’s an interpretation intentionally pushed in a similar way to how they see everything as racist?

              • Posted February 1, 2019 at 4:57 pm | Permalink

                I suspect by your definition, virtually no one is a racist unless they actually say, “I’m a racist.”

              • rustybrown
                Posted February 1, 2019 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

                No Paul. But they have to do or say a lot more than what you guys are putting forth. As I implied at the outset, I find this hypersensitivity to perceived racism just plain weird and I think everybody would be better off without it.

              • Ken Kukec
                Posted February 1, 2019 at 5:34 pm | Permalink

                Fifty-seven percent of your fellow Trump supporters believe to this day — despite the complete debunking that’s been available for the better part of a decade and the production of his long-form birth certificate — that Barack Obama is a Kenyan-born Muslim. But that’s got nothing</i< to do with the man's race, right, rusty?

                And of the 289 people in the Republican congressional delegation, two of ’em are black (and both of them have found meed to disassociate themselves from Donald Trump on issues regarding race). I suppose that’s just a coincidence, too, huh?

              • Posted February 1, 2019 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

                Yes, Trump made it very clear that his birtherism wasn’t motivated by an honest doubt about where Obama was born. A normal person who doubted this would leave it up to the media or even the FBI to ascertain Obama’s true birthplace. Instead, Trump was like a schoolyard bully calling another kid “gay” over and over, ignoring all evidence to the contrary and desiring only to give the kid as hard a time as possible. He’s a despicable human being. Or is the right word “deplorable”?

              • rustybrown
                Posted February 1, 2019 at 8:53 pm | Permalink

                Uh, yeah, Islam is not a race Ken. And unlike you I’m not at all concerned with what a single poll has to say about a certain percentage of Trump supporters nearly two ago. What does that have to do with me? Or whether Birtherism is racist or not? Hey, the DNC and the media have been screaming over and over for two years that Birthism is racist and you’ve bought it. Maybe that’s why you can’t explain it.

                And why did the only two black Republican delegates feel compelled to disassociate themselves from Trump? I dunno. Maybe it’s because Trump’s a racist or maybe it’s because black polls pay close attention to identity politics and know what their base expects of them.

              • rustybrown
                Posted February 1, 2019 at 8:54 pm | Permalink

                er, two “years” ago…

            • Historian
              Posted February 1, 2019 at 6:11 pm | Permalink

              The lesson from all this is that it is impossible to debate with a Trump true believer. It’s a good thing Trump hasn’t shot anybody on Fifth Avenue.

          • rustybrown
            Posted February 1, 2019 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

            Well, I certainly don’t think this is a good case of identity politics on the right. As I pointed out, Birtherism had been around long before Trump and it’s not necessarily racist. That a significant amount of people should believe a falsehood about their political opponent that’s been in the news for years doesn’t strike me as identity politics.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted February 1, 2019 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

          Fun fact: H. Clinton supporters (if not the Hillary campaign itself …

          That’s more bullshit peddled by Donald Trump. Some people in the Clinton campaign kicked around the idea of portraying Obama as an “exotic” — born in Hawaii, raised for a time in Indonesia, etc. Had they done it, it would’ve constituted nasty, hardball politics.

          But there’s a world of difference between THAT and trying to de-legitimatize this nation’s first African-American president by raising completely spurious claims that he’s not even a US citizen, claims Trump continually lied through his teeth about having evidence in support of. (Trump didn’t renounce that claim until shortly before the first presidential debate in September 2016, when his people told him he had to, or he would face questions about it that he had no answers for from the debate moderators. And Trump went right back to casting aspersions on Obama’s citizenship just as soon as the debates were over.)

          I don’t get people who think it’s somehow ok if (despite copious evidence to the contrary) Trump himself isn’t a racist, but he plays to the racism of his supporters.

          • rustybrown
            Posted February 1, 2019 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

            This from Politico, not really a right wing venue:

            “Numerous fact checks, reports and interviews — in 2008 and 2011, when Trump revived the controversy — revealed that although some Clinton supporters circulated rumors about Obama’s citizenship, the campaign and Clinton herself never trafficked in it.”

            “Some hardcore Clinton backers circulated the rumors in 2008, but the campaign itself steered clear.”

            …and the caveats are coming from Buzzfeed, hardly covering themselves in journalistic glory these days. Oh, and her press secretary says she didn’t circulate it. There you go then.

            https://www.politico.com/story/2016/09/birther-movement-founder-trump-clinton-228304

      • GBJames
        Posted February 1, 2019 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

        Trump enthusiasts are a wonder to behold.

        • mikeyc
          Posted February 1, 2019 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

          Amazing, isn’t it?

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted February 1, 2019 at 6:02 pm | Permalink

          You’ve got to admire their ability to look reality in the eye … and deny it.

          • Historian
            Posted February 1, 2019 at 6:15 pm | Permalink

            Oh, Ken, get off your high horse. Isn’t it time you just admitted it that Trump is Making America Great Again?😎 It is scurrilous to think that he has a racist bone in his body. It isn’t his fault that every racist in the country adores him. It is a complete mystery to me why this is.

            • rustybrown
              Posted February 1, 2019 at 8:55 pm | Permalink

              Cute. Beats having an argument, I guess.

  30. Taz
    Posted February 1, 2019 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

    Whatever you think about this issue, the actions of Augsburg’s administration are gutless.

  31. Posted February 1, 2019 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

    Perhaps the only cure for this sort of insanity is having a sense of humour……

    • GBJames
      Posted February 1, 2019 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

      That’s very good.

    • BJ
      Posted February 1, 2019 at 5:52 pm | Permalink

      Love that one. Tim Minchin is the closes thing to a cross between a comedian and a rock star.

  32. Alex Zukerman
    Posted February 1, 2019 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

    If a person clearly understands that the n-word is used in academic context then I wonder why he would be triggered/insulted by it. Only if he/she has a previous traumatic experience of being verbally harassed (using the n-word or similar terms), then I can understand the person’s sensitivity to it. But then it might be useful to discuss what these experiences were and why these young people has experienced such a traumatic racial harassment. If they haven’t experienced it, then their over-sensitivity is simply fake and is just a pretext for virtue signalling.

  33. peteraknz
    Posted February 1, 2019 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

    I am reminded of the “Draw Mohammed day” activity. The justification behind this is that the time to do something as apparently trivial as drawing a figure, is when you are told you cannot do it by someone who holds a vested interest in that activity.

    I wonder how black someone has to be to be immune to negative reaction ?

    Giving words such power over us can prevent us seeing the real problems causing real threats to wellbeing.

    We only notice our chains when we try to move.

    • Filippo
      Posted February 1, 2019 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

      I think there should be a “Draw NOT Mohammed Day.” Those prone to offense would have to consider the possibility that Mohammed was still being drawn.

  34. peteraknz
    Posted February 1, 2019 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

    Then there is this:

    Surely the issue is intent.

    The prof in this case was engaging in analysis, discussion, in other words usual academic discourse.

    Lennon was making music, art, protest.

    What people find most problematic is invective.

  35. Posted February 1, 2019 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

    I am going to here interpret what the triggered are really doing in regard to ‘the word’. They are not triggered or offended in the manner that it was used here. There is no reasonable way in which they can be offended by it in the manner it was used. They only think that they should be offended or triggered. So they are pretending to be.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted February 1, 2019 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

      +1000!

      They’re showing how virtuous and woke (ugh!) they are.

      cr

    • ubernez
      Posted February 2, 2019 at 3:02 am | Permalink

      100% agree.
      Even out of this academic context…there is the ‘expectation’ of offence.
      Maybe (speculation) there is peer pressure, and you are ‘not a true scotsman’ unless you demonstrate your offended-ness.

  36. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted February 1, 2019 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

    “The idea, I guess, is that it’s okay for black people to use the word, as they often do in intra-ethnic discourse or in rap songs, but when the word is uttered by a white person, even as part of literature, it becomes both taboo and a trigger.”

    I can’t think of anything more ludicrous than a word that is okay to be used by some people and not others.

    It’s also idiotic to ban using any word. Deprecate it, maybe, but when it’s turned into a capital offence to even mention it, ridiculous consequences ensue. (Like saying ‘Jehovah’ in Brian’s time, do I need the link? 😉 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SYkbqzWVHZI

    And then we get everyone on this page prudishly saying ‘the n-word’ and everybody knows perfectly well exactly which word we’re talking about. As if it was like one of those old magic voodoo words that you said and the demon would suddenly appear. Actually, it’s exactly like that – say ‘n—–‘ and hordes of woke SJW’s will magically appear and torment you to death. 😦

    cr

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted February 1, 2019 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

      I see HelenaHandbasket beat me to the link…

      cr

  37. CAS
    Posted February 1, 2019 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

    So many books that need to be censored (maybe burned) to keep students safe. So will they start with The Fire Next Time?

  38. BJ
    Posted February 1, 2019 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

    What’s really sad is that this censorship has only given more power to the word. When I look back ten or fifteen years ago, the word “nigger” (I refuse to use “n-word” in a serious discussion about the word) didn’t have nearly the power it does. Now, after years of forcing people to say “n-word,” the word has taken on a power unmatched by any other. It has become the atomic bomb of words, and all this time, the people who forced this censorship thought they were doing something good.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted February 1, 2019 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

      “I refuse to use “n-word” in a serious discussion about the word”

      I was going to use ‘the word’ itself in my comment, then I thought I’d defer to PCC’s usage (or rather, non-usage) of it in his post. As he notes, everyone hears the entire word anyway.

      It’s an interesting quandary.

      (Maybe nannyware picks up on it and causes this page to be banned in Boston 🙂

      cr

    • Vaal
      Posted February 1, 2019 at 5:50 pm | Permalink

      My thoughts are generally in line with Jerry’s.

      Though I would add some sympathy to what you have just written, BJ.

      Words are not objective entities. They have the meaning and power we give them.

      I’ve long thought that giving a word this, as you put it, atom-bomb power, is a dubious direction to take.

      It seems to have absurd consequences. As in there could be a group of black people causally referring to each other with the n-word, but a white person walks up and uses it in exactly the same way, with the same kindly intent, and they suddenly fall to the ground howling in horror and triggered pain.

      That is a very strange thought.

      This would seem to be an exaggeration…but in the context of the story and the reaction to the use-in-context of the n-word in this thread, in a way it seems apt.

      How much time have we spent decrying the increasing coddling of sensitivity in the liberal spaces? Haven’t we been arguing over and over, as Jonathan Haidt does so eloquently, that it seems a self-defeating and dangerous path to choose to increase feelings of offense and pain from the words of others, rather than growing a thicker skin?

      The question is why would this not apply to the issue of the n-word? Clearly black people aren’t responsible for the horrible history of slavery and racism. But in terms of best routes forward…I wonder how it could be good for black people themselves to have played their part in catastrophizing reactions to the n-word – to give it so much power? As Jerry points out, it’s not like one has no say at all in how one reacts to words, and he can choose to not be psychologically undone by hearing a racist name for a Jew.

      It certainly makes sense to encourage strong disagreement with racism, but I wonder about the wisdom of having given the n-word the status it has achieved….ESPECIALLY when it raises the many tricky questions Jerry and others have raise. E.g..given the spectrum of race, how “black” do you have to be until this word is supposed to traumatize you?

      And as Jerry said (and I’ve mentioned before), if the word is THAT toxic, it doesn’t help the cause of reducing it’s influence in society for black people to keep using it (though many do not, I know), especially in the case of many of the world’s most popular entertainers (i.e. Rappers, the biggest category in popular music).

      My son’s favorite music is Rap. Rappers are exposing him continually, every day, using the word in music meant to catch his and millions of people’s ears. Rappers are teaching my son a word I would NEVER have said around him myself, and making it sound cool. I’m sorry, but I can’t help but see this as participating in the problem.

      • BJ
        Posted February 1, 2019 at 6:28 pm | Permalink

        Nicely put.

  39. JB
    Posted February 1, 2019 at 10:36 pm | Permalink

    Anyone remember the setup when a black rapper invited a white woman to the stage to sing along with him… and as soon as she said “niggah” as part of the lyrics, he stopped the song to call her out.

    This is where we’re at now… sigh…

    • BJ
      Posted February 1, 2019 at 11:12 pm | Permalink

      And then, of course, the media, social media, etc. all jumped on the bandwagon. Their two minutes of hate, all set up intentionally, all to shame and humiliate one innocent person so they could get their red meat.

  40. Lee
    Posted February 1, 2019 at 10:53 pm | Permalink

    Before the last presidential election, an older brother who listens to right wing conspiracy radio and loves to trigger me would constantly talk approvingly about Trump. Seeing the disaster that was heading toward my country and all I care about, I often became so angry I would argue, shout him down and finally walk away.

    Since then we’ve largely worked through that. We still meet weekly at the gym or for dinner. He no longer talks about Trump and actually will say insightful things like how badly people are treated under authoritarian regimes.

    One of the real dangers of the anti-science, anti-liberal, mob-like Regressive Left is how, after reading Prof Cat’s post, I find myself preferring the company of erstwhile Trump supporters to the crybabies and rageaholics on the Left. I can believe that there are other well intentioned people who would rather listen to Sarah Huckabee Sanders than the student mobs arguing about the vacuity of intention or the dogma of intersectionality, or raging against people who commit cultural appropriation. I can almost understand the internet trolls who like to “trigger Libruls”.

    And that scares me; that I of all people, who loathe Trump, Trumpism, Roger Stone and Fox news, could begin to prefer the company of someone like Sanders to that of pampered and entitled social justice warriors. If this is true of me, how many others? How much unearned credibility are the warriors handing to the people really doing harm to our nation?

    It feels like Scylla and Charybdis.

    • Posted February 2, 2019 at 1:05 am | Permalink

      I have only one thought. Sarah Sanders? Really? Was it the Smoke Eyes, or whatever they’re called?

    • rustybrown
      Posted February 3, 2019 at 9:55 am | Permalink

      Lee, Sounds like you’re feeling some of the cognitive dissonance I went through in 2016. As you probably know, CD is a very disorienting, uncomfortable experience but in fact it’s a great opportunity for learning and growth. cognitive dissonance is a good indication that you’re harboring some faulty thinking or a false narrative. In my case, I realized (admitted) that the Democrats ideas, rhetoric and candidate that was being presented to me in no way matched my ideals, and the man they were portraying as a monster was not nearly as malicious as they were portraying him, at least not in ways that would automatically disqualify him for President. I started to think for myself and take in news and information from different sources while doing deeper dives on individual incidents and…it was revealing.

      Take the above for example. Nearly everybody on the Left still believe that Trump called Neo-Nazis and white supremacists “very fine people” at Charlottesville. That’s almost entirely because the Left still repeats the lie to this day and it fits in with anti-trumper worldview and therefore comforts the Faithful. The problem is it never happened. It’s a media-born smear that’s turned into a near-religious delusion. I presented the transcript of the quote in context where a fair reading clearly shows it didn’t happen and yet the deluded still insist it did and that I’m the one who’s hallucinating.

      A couple of journalists I recommend to read once in a while are Michael Tracey and Glenn Greenwald. I don’t agree with everything they write but they offer interesting counter-narrative perspectives. Both are very liberal yet haven’t succumbed to the mainstream anti-Trump propaganda.

      • Posted February 3, 2019 at 10:57 am | Permalink

        I will agree with one thing. This is a “deeper dive” alright. We all were listening during the Charlottesville episode and know what we heard and what we didn’t hear. You can spin Trump’s words as you are doing but we know this is likely exactly what Trump intended his supporters to do. He’s a master at this. What he didn’t do immediately is condemn the white supremacists and condemn the killing that only “one side” did. After his words were “misinterpreted” by the media, he didn’t immediately correct them indignantly and thoroughly as a normal person would. He didn’t want to step on his dog whistle.

        • rustybrown
          Posted February 3, 2019 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

          You’re completely wrong. I provided the transcript. You can google it all and watch it for yourself. It’s your side that’s spinning President Trump’s words, not mine. I’ll ask again: explain to me how the ’very fine people’ he’s referring to are white supremacists after having just explicitly and repeatedly condemned them as vile. That makes no sense.

          You heard what you wanted to hear and your bias has been incessantly confirmed by the the media.

          Other things you’re wrong about:

          He DID condemn the white supremacists
          He DID condemn the killing
          When asked to clarify his thoughts he DID so thoroughly.

          These are all ironclad facts. I know cognitive dissonance is making you resist them, but they remain facts that you can look up. Start with the transcript above.

          • Posted February 3, 2019 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

            Most of the country doesn’t agree with you. Even the racists don’t agree with you!

            I have nothing more to add on this subject.

            • rustybrown
              Posted February 3, 2019 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

              I can show you the door out of the bubble but I can’t make you walk through it…

              • Posted February 3, 2019 at 9:48 pm | Permalink

                It must be hard to tell which side of the bubble you’re on from where you stand.

              • rustybrown
                Posted February 3, 2019 at 11:03 pm | Permalink

                Not at all Paul. I’ve been on both sides, your side for about 95% of my life. It gives one good perspective. Look at my recent post under the “Should The Governor Resign” post. I extensively quote from the transcript to prove my point since it seems many here are not keen on doing their own research.

  41. Wunold
    Posted February 2, 2019 at 2:41 am | Permalink

    Another example of “the N-word” used in a non-racist context (I normally wouldn’t care to use it in a non-insulting context, but I’m following PCC’s example here) is the song of the same name from the swedish metal band Clawfinger.

    The song is against the use of the word by non-racist people, especially black rappers. But I think it plays with the triggering effect such a title (screamed repeatedly in the refrain) has on the easily-offended – and that in the early nineties, long before today’s offence-madness.

    I won’t link to it so that no one can accuse this site for the link. Just search your favourite video portal for the band’s name and the real meaning of “the N-Word”.

    Besides all that, I can recommend Clawfinger in general if you like rap metal. 🙂

  42. pablo
    Posted February 2, 2019 at 9:31 am | Permalink

    Looking forward to coming historical dramas wherein the “n word” is deployed.

  43. Nicolaas Stempels
    Posted February 2, 2019 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

    There was another ‘n word’, ‘negro’ (literally: black), that is not to be used anymore, although it never had the intent of being insulting.

  44. gravelinspector-Aidan
    Posted February 3, 2019 at 7:11 pm | Permalink

    Somewhat off to one side,

    Adamo informed his provost what had happened.

    The impression I’d got was that a provost is an administrator with some disciplinary power over the student body – and it wasn’t a title used at all in any university I’ve had dealings with. But now … discipline over faculty too?
    I suspect that it’s another difference between British and American practice and terminology. Or perhaps a difference between one university and another with nationality irrelevant?
    Confused now. Well, more confused – the whole thing about being afraid of words just doesn’t strike me as relevant for someone who has passed potty training.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted February 3, 2019 at 9:06 pm | Permalink

      The provost is the boss of the faculty. Think of it as a C level executive in a corporation.


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