Not only is Ethics Alarms adamantly opposed to the current effort by the rising totalitarian Left to ban words on the grounds that they might be “hurtful,” I have taken a vow on the issue. I artculated it here, concluding,
“My pledge: I will regard all words in the English language as among the tools I have to speak with, write with, argue with, joke with, and most importantly, think with. I will gladly be accountable when I use any words irresponsibly, but I will not submit to efforts to drag me and my society into the world of Big Brother, by accepting efforts to literally eliminate any of my tools, or attempts to decree that some Americans can use certain words, and others cannot. Fuck that.“
That was in November of 2019. The post covered several unethical examples of employees, writers and teachers being punished, even dismissed, for quoting the word “nigger” in circumstances where no one could possibly conclude that the word was being used by the speaker to denigrate anyone. This incidents seemed so self-evidently ridiculous and such obvious incursions on the principle of free speech and expression that I, naive Pollyanna that I am, assumed that they were outliers and aberrations. Instead, such episodes have become more common in the year and a half since, and are given increasing validity as the shadow of The Great Stupid covers the fruited plain.
One can track many of the recent examples using the Ethics Alarms tag, “nigger.” And if you think you are “harmed” by a blog tag, I have some psychiatric facilities I can refer you to.
The latest of these has occurred at Rutgers, already a long-standing nest of woke insanity. A white first-year law student student at Rutgers Law School quoted a line from a 1993 U.S.Supreme Court decision, State v. Bridges, 133 N.J. 447. when discussing a case during a professor’s virtual office hours. The student was recorded, while discussing the circumstances under which a criminal defendant could be held liable for crimes committed by his co-conspirators, reading a quote from a defendant that first appeared in an opinion written by a former State Supreme Court judge, Alan B. Handler. “He said, um — and I’ll use a racial word, but it’s a quote,” the student said, “He says, ‘I’m going to go to Trenton and come back with my niggers.’”
In early April, in response to the incident, a group of Black first-year students at Rutgers Law began circulating a petition calling for the creation of a policy on racial slurs and formal, public apologies from the student and the professor, Vera Bergelson. “At the height of a ‘racial reckoning,’ a responsible adult should know not to use a racial slur regardless of its use in a 1993 opinion,” states the petition, which has been signed by law school students and campus organizations across the country. “We vehemently condemn the use of the N-word by the student and the acquiescence of its usage,” the petition says.
Naturally, the Professor immediately fell into full grovel mode, swearing that she didn’t hear the quote when it was uttered, and would have corrected the student if she had. She’s a disgrace to her profession. It is cringing professors like this who place our freedoms and ability to think at risk by their eagerness to submit to the censorship mobs. On the more hopeful side,
Several Rutgers law professors signed a statement defending Bergelson and the student—not their compelled apologies, but their original conduct. Among them areJohn Farmer Jr., a former New Jersey attorney general, and Ronald K. Chen, the state’s onetime public advocate, bothe former deans of Rutgers Law School.
“Although we all deplore the use of racist epithets,” said Gary L. Francione, another a law professor who signed the statement, “the idea that a faculty member or law student cannot quote a published court decision that itself quotes a racial or other otherwise objectionable word as part of the record of the case is problematic and implicates matters of academic freedom and free speech.”
Ah, “problematic”—the law professor’s favorite weasel word. (I’m looking at you, Prof. Turley!) Still, a weasel word in support of free speech is better than no words at all.
“I don’t think the Law School should have rules that are stricter than the Constitution of the United States,” said Dennis M. Patterson, yet another member of the law faculty. Gee, ya think? I know many readers think I am too certain on some issues, but there should be no wiggle room on this one. No one, regardless of color, context or role in life, should be criticized for quoting a passage from literature, a film, a play, and certainly not judicial opinion or a court transcript, that includes a racial epithet, including “nigger.” I see no legitimate argument to the contrary. The co-deans of the school,
David Lopez and his co-dean, Kimberly Mutcherson, issued a deceitful statement that the discussion underway had nothing to do with “stifling academic freedom, ignoring the First Amendment, or banning words, but was about “how best to create classroom environments in which all of our students feel seen, heard, valued and respected.” Right. ‘We’re not in favor of banning words, just making sure that certain words that might interfere with some students feeling seen, heard, valued and respected never get uttered on campus or in classrooms no matter what the context, and that any students of professors that do utter them are shamed, threatened, shunned and punished.”
The petition circulated by the black students reveals its real purpose up front. Who says there is a “racial reckoning”? That’s Black Lives Matter rhetoric, though many in the media have joind in the propaganda. The scheme to allow a group of activists to dictate what words can be used according to the color of the speaker regardless of context and intent is a political power play, not an expression of a genuine or defensible objection. When I directed a production of the original antislavery “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” stage adaptation a decade ago, the play was attended by many African American families, students and groups. The word “nigger” was spoken in the play many times (my board was terrified). How many complaints did the theater get? None. Zero. One black student I asked directly about whether she felt the word should have been omitted laughed at me. “How could we get a sense of how we were regarded and treated before the Civil War without hearing that word?” she replied.
Were black Americans so much more rational and resilient just a decade ago? Of course not. But many learned the power of contrived offense, and the willingness of guilt-ridden, easily intimidated whites to capitulate to it in order to signal their virtue.
Banning a single word, whatever it is, constitutes the unraveling of freedom of expression, argument and thought. Where and when that unraveling will stop, nobody can tell. Every civil libertarian and all who support democracy have an obligation to fearlessly oppose the censors. By fearlessly, I mean not like the editorial board of the New Jersey Law Journal, which while writing that “Bowdlerized classroom discussion will not properly prepare law students for the world as it is, however much they hope to make it a better place,” also blinked by writing this,
“The decision quoted the murder defendant as declaring, “I’m going back to Trenton to get my [gang].” He did not use the word “gang” but instead, the familiar racial epithet, which was spelled out in full in the opinion. We do not include the epithet here because it is well understood, and an exact quote would add nothing to the discussion.”
What terrified, hypocritical weenies. “Gang” was not the word used, so it is obviously misleading to use it in a quote. If it was spelled out in the opinion, then the word “niggers” should have been included in the quote. It would be funny if it weren’t so ominous: in the same editorial condemning “bowdlerizing” language, the authors of the editorial supporting uncensored speech bowdlerizes language.
This isn’t helping. It signals weakness to the rising totalitarians, and that’s what they crave.
11 thoughts on “How Do We Stop This? Once Again, It’s Word-Banning Time At An Institution That Should Know Better”
A rose by any other name would smell as sweet…
I suppose I should start to get up in arms over “cracker” and “Papist”. Except even were people to stop using those terms, other terms would pop up in their place. Erasing a word doesn’t erase the idea. The idea will just manifest in other ways.
Illegal alien. Illegal immigrant. Undocumented immigrant. None of these make the left happy because they still encapsulate the same idea. As benign as “undocumented immigrant” sounds, it will eventually become detestable because, lo and behold, people will still use a term to describe people who cross the border illegally.
It feels like we have the same problem among blacks. Do we use Negro? Do we use African-American? Do we use Black? Do we use Person of Color? Do we use the acronym BIPOC? When is Negro going to be as bad as nigger? When will African-American be? When will the term black first become the exclusive domain of the black community, and all other references have to use some other term? The underground market. Dark gray cat. Inescapable space vortex. And after then, when will the word black get banned altogether because some people start using it as an epithet?
On a side note, it is amusing thinking about how we try to evade breaking the commandant against taking the name of God in vain. Not many use Yahweh (or Jehovah) when swearing, but we do hear Jesus Christ a lot. People trying to avoid naming him will say “Geez!” or “Jiminy!” People avoiding saying “God” will say “Gosh!” or “Goodness!” It is rather amusing to think about. (And in Googling, I discovered that Walt Disney did indeed use “Jiminy Cricket” as a substitution for “Jesus Christ”, and thus dubbed Pinocchio’s conscience with the name. I learn something new every day.)
In the movie, “The Wizard of Oz,” Dorothy (Judy Garland) also exclaimed “Jiminy Cricket!” when first encountering the gruff Wizard in his chamber of blustery fake power. I didn’t catch that substitution for “Jesus Christ!” until once when I viewed the scene as a teenager.
I am already openly referring to the white-beating lexicon of current times, where it is such a popular fad to be a racist and call all “white” people racists, as “niggerizing” or “niggerization” (alternatively, accusing of “Caucasiphobia” (Kaw-Kay-sih-FOE-bee-ah), with a nod to the champions of sexual minoritarianism who introduced us to “homophobia”).
Heh-heh, you should see the looks I get. You should see the look I give to those lookers, too. When they bring knives, I bring nukes. When they think murder, I think genocide.
The frightening thing about this is that it would be impossible to read *Huckleberry Finn* aloud in any American class in college. As most educated people who had to read this novel know, the purpose of Twain’s racist language was to mock the ignorant individuals that used the N word along with Huckleberry Finn’s sudden realization that Jim in fact was as human as him. Now we throw out a great work of literature because someone black might be triggered by the reading of the novel. Maybe we should just burn all of Twain’s works along with anybody else’s works that used racist language to demonstrate how we have all become woke cowards.
“[W]e have all become woke cowards.” Not me. Call it a death wish, but I fight assholery with assholery. I can, and will, out-asshole those stupid, odious, “woke” fuckless eunuch leftist assholes till they’re the last inert molecules of shit lost in the dingleberries of history.
Perhaps the stupidest part of all this is that The Word Which Must Not Be Spoken, Unless You’re Black, Then It’s Fine was, in the original text of the case being discussed, not used as a racial slur, but as a reference to the defendant’s friends (by the defendant himself). If it wasn’t offensive in his usage, how can it be offensive when quoting him?
And as an editorial point, wouldn’t the defendants have used “niggas” rather than “niggers?”
What a bunch of craven weenies we have running and teaching in the American academy. A catastrophe. The inmates are running the asylum.
Good point. No doubt the court stenographer wasn’t “diverse” enough to capture the nuances of the word.
Hasn’t been a good week at Rutgers.
From Legal Insurrection, the chancellor, I believe, issued a statement condemning antisemitism. A couple days later he issued an apology for that statement, and now the apology has been repudiated.
It wasn’t that long ago that condemning antisemitism was unexceptional and routine.
GAWD, I wish I lived near Rutgers! I would give that university’s wokerati the in-their-faces Maxine Waters beat-down every place I spotted them. I might even bring along my friends.
It was once generally understood that absurdly claiming victimhood in order to gain an advantage was a ploy of sneaks and villains. Nazis scapegoating Jews is perhaps the most horrific real-life example, but the theme has long been a staple of fiction, even cartoons (think the Siamese cats in Disney’s original Lady and the Tramp…Although their initial appearance would, as Jack likes to say, be problematic these days https://youtu.be/Ly_vxI4nllA ).
How far down the rabbit hole we’ve fallen. To pilfer from an already overused source, “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold…”
Jack: I am with you. I can’t believe I missed your 2019 pledge; thanks for re-stating it here.
That said: No Niggardly Principle mental-gymnastics-for-ethics’-sake and walking-on-eggshells-without-crushing-any bullshit for me. It’s “Give me liberty to say ‘nigger’ when I damned well please, or give me death.” I’m not dead yet. And I’m not giving up my liberty, either.