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  #21  
Old 14 February 2018, 06:52 PM
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Depending on the context, I think the 'What's worse' question is just as bad as the language he used.

Because if the question was implying that language can't be as harmful as a punch to the face, it's offensively simplistic. 'Sticks and stones...' is a nice sentiment to have if you're a literal child.

A punch to the face often heals more quickly and one fist can't punch an entire community of people in the face at once. Which is worse, indeed?

If he wasn't asking rhetorically, then I retract my complaint. He still didn't have to use the n-word, though. It was bound to alienate some of the students and it's completely superfluous when getting the point across that some language is offensive. I do think there is a place for referencing offensive terminology in an educational setting, but if this attempt was cack-handed enough to drive students out then the professor obviously had an education failure.
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  #22  
Old 14 February 2018, 08:18 PM
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BTW, I just took the time to read the article that stated the professor chose to cancel the class. This was not the first time this "Professor Emeritus" (i.e. retired guy teching the course for the hell of it) taught this course in this way, but
Quote:
"This is the first year he got the response he did from the students. This is diagnostic of the level of overt anti-black racism in the country today. Anti-American and anti-Semitic examples did not upset the students, but an example of racism did," [Department Chair Carolyn] Rouse wrote. "This did not happen when Obama was president, when the example seemed less real and seemed to have less power."
Discuss.
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  #23  
Old 14 February 2018, 08:38 PM
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Originally Posted by ChasFink View Post
If a college student signs up for a class called "Cultural Freedoms - Hate Speech, Blasphemy, and Pornography", he or she should expect to be, and consent to be, exposed to examples of all three of these things to a certain extent.
This argument falls about before it even gets to the I-word. The professor didn't seem to think that students automatically consented to being exposed to examples of pornography:

Quote:
before changing the topic of the lecture to pornograhic images, [Professor Rosen] said to students, “I’m going to give you the option of whether you’d like to see them.”
Now to this bit:
Quote:
Anti-American and anti-Semitic examples did not upset the students, but an example of racism did,
The anti-American examples may not have upset the students because it would be an example of punching up. Regarding the anti-Semitic comments, it is possible that Professor Rosen is assumed or known to be Jewish, and therefor his comments would fall under the "it's their word" escape clause.
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  #24  
Old 14 February 2018, 09:58 PM
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Originally Posted by ChasFink View Post
As with any word, the existence of the R-word is not the offense, the directed use of it is. Again, you may disagree, but this is my opinion.
I absolutely disagree with this premise (my bold). I think it's demonstrably wrong.

For hundreds of years this word was used only to enslave, to oppress, to discriminate, and to destroy millions of families and lives. That's why its use alone it considered so offensive. It did not have any other reason to exist until (perhaps because of its repeated use in this way, all the way into the mid-20th century with the excuse that 'gee but the existence of a word an't be bad') it was taken away in an attempt to take back - for themselves some of that meaning. Society in general simply doesn't have the right to use it that way anymore - no matter what the excuse.

(Yet, even if that were not true, it still doesn't mean the word can be used in this way. The existence of the c-word is not necessarily sexist - even though, c'mon, yes, it is - but using it in an example of "what if a man calls all women here ****s?" very well can be, especially if the actual word is used.)

Last edited by ganzfeld; 14 February 2018 at 10:09 PM.
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  #25  
Old 14 February 2018, 10:17 PM
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Originally Posted by ChasFink View Post
The fact that it took me some time to figure out what R-word you were talking about illustrates exactly why actual words do have to be used in academic settings.
We do have to allow that some of the classroom would be from other countries. (Otherwise, no, no one at Princeton needs to be told which n-word.) In any case, it's rather trivial if delicate matter to say the word in the context of "this is what we mean by the replacement" without using it in the context.
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  #26  
Old 15 February 2018, 01:42 AM
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Originally Posted by crocoduck_hunter View Post
I don't know. I've seen a lot of people who keep invoking free speech as a shield from any repercussions after saying something like there's a child sex-trafficking ring in the basement of a pizza place.
Yeah, I’m more or less done with the “But Free Speech!” argument as well, especially since the NFBSKs using it, eagerly long to take away the rights of others. Debate with any of them, is usually something akin to this cartoon. “Free Speech!” is code for “Let me constantly heap abuse on anyone I deem fitting without facing any consequences for it. Dammit, we can’t seem to have a discussion about why large swathes of people are undeserving of even the most basic of rights, without everyone getting all emotional about it.”

Quote:
This is diagnostic of the level of overt anti-black racism in the country today. Anti-American and anti-Semitic examples did not upset the students, but an example of racism did," Rouse wrote.
It’s almost as though having a human dumpster fire who openly despises anyone who isn’t White and can’t bring himself to condemn Nazis as President, is causing them to fear for the safety of friends, family, and fellow citizens and said fear, has caused them to be less able to shrug off incidents of racism, casual or otherwise.
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  #27  
Old 15 February 2018, 01:29 PM
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Originally Posted by GenYus234 View Post
This argument falls about before it even gets to the I-word. The professor didn't seem to think that students automatically consented to being exposed to examples of pornography..
I acknowledged this - that's why I said he still seemed to be teaching the class wrong. Either he should have said "you will be exposed to pornography, blasphemy, and hate speech" or found a way to avoid all three.
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Originally Posted by ganzfeld View Post
For hundreds of years this word was used only to enslave, to oppress, to discriminate, and to destroy millions of families and lives. That's why its use alone it considered so offensive.
I assume you're speaking of the N-word, not the R-word. Are you actually saying that if this word did not exist, the enslavement, oppression, discrimination, and deaths would not have happened? The word was not used to do these things, it was used by the horrible people who did them. If they had constantly referred to their victims by more socially acceptable terms, would the suffering have been any less?

I am old enough to remember a number of White people who considered the N-word simply an alternative to "Negro", "colored person" or "Afro-American" (all acceptable terms in their day) and used it with absolutely no intent of offense or harm. In their experience, the word was not "used only to enslave, to oppress, to discriminate, and to destroy" (my bold). To them it was just a word. You may have a hard time believing this, but it is true, and therefore is also part of the word's linguistic history. (This is not to negate the fact that the word is considered offensive almost universally today. I'm simply saying that the word's history is not entirely one of oppression.)
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  #28  
Old 15 February 2018, 01:53 PM
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Originally Posted by ChasFink View Post
I am old enough to remember a number of White people who considered the N-word simply an alternative to "Negro", "colored person" or "Afro-American" (all acceptable terms in their day) and used it with absolutely no intent of offense or harm. In their experience, the word was not "used only to enslave, to oppress, to discriminate, and to destroy" (my bold). To them it was just a word. You may have a hard time believing this, but it is true, and therefore is also part of the word's linguistic history. (This is not to negate the fact that the word is considered offensive almost universally today. I'm simply saying that the word's history is not entirely one of oppression.)
Certainly though by the '60s the N word was completely unacceptable - or that is my recollection from childhood anyway. With regard to the other words you cite I read a children's book recently that was written in the last few years but was set during the depression in the US. One of the characters was black and was often referred to as "Negro". This was historically accurate (I would think so anyway) but I did wonder how children today would feel reading that. But that said it would have been ridiculous to set a book in an early time and insist on putting contemporary terminology in someone's mouth. Either work around it or use the words that were in common use at the time -- that said no where did I see them use the N word and I think that was done intentionally.
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  #29  
Old 15 February 2018, 02:29 PM
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Originally Posted by Sue View Post
Certainly though by the '60s the N word was completely unacceptable - or that is my recollection from childhood anyway.
Sue, my recollection (I was born in 1958) was that through the mid-1960s it was considered offensive and derogatory, but not much more so than a lot of other words aimed at various ethnicities that were nonetheless used freely with little offense intended or taken. That being said, there were a number of older people, and those who just were culturally inept, that didn't see it as particularly offensive at all.

I think the word grew in its offensiveness from that point onward, concurrent with the progress of the civil rights movement, increased African ethnic pride, etc. You would still hear it occasionally on television (along with those other words) although certainly in the context of an offensive slur. Some of those shows (Sanford and Son, for example) have been sanitized for today's reruns.

By the way, I grew up in suburban Nassau County on Long Island in New York - not too far from a predominantly Black neighborhood. I'm pretty sure the prevalence of people who used the word neutrally was greater in the South - along with the prevalence of people who used it offensively.
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  #30  
Old 15 February 2018, 03:25 PM
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That some used the word without knowing or consciously intending it to be racist does not mean that their use of that word was not oppressive. The fact that the word could even have been viewed as just a neutral word is indicative of the enormous endemic and systemic racism in which the person so-viewing it learned the language.

It's kind of like saying that if the fish don't notice the water, it won't drown you.

Last edited by erwins; 15 February 2018 at 03:49 PM.
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  #31  
Old 15 February 2018, 04:02 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by erwins View Post
That some used the word without knowing or consciously intending it to be racist does not mean that their use of that word was not oppressive. The fact that the word could even have been viewed as just a neutral word is indicative of the enormous endemic and systemic racism in which the person so-viewing it learned the language.
Or, we accept that language is fluid, that meanings change as usage changes and any word's meaning, vulgarity, appropriateness, etc. is determined by those who use it. Let us not forget that the word in question in all likelihood did not start out as a term of derision, but was a variant pronunciation of a word meaning "black". (I sincerely doubt the first person to utter it said "we'll call them X if we're being sympathetic, but call them Y when we're denigrating and dehumanizing them.") It was the attitudes of the people who later used it that made it into an oppressive term, not the other way around.
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  #32  
Old 15 February 2018, 04:10 PM
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Anyone who you knew personally grew up well after the time when it was well established as a hateful and oppressive slur.

And there is no evidence that its first use was simply an alternate term for black people, in fact, Merriam Webster's etymology says:

Quote:
From the earliest usage it was "the term that carries with it all the obloquy and contempt and rejection which whites have inflicted on blacks"
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  #33  
Old 15 February 2018, 04:21 PM
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Originally Posted by ChasFink View Post
The fact that it took me some time to figure out what R-word you were talking about illustrates exactly why actual words do have to be used in academic settings. If I had been in a classroom and the professor said “What is worse, a reporter punching a White House staffer, or a reporter calling a White House staffer the R-word?” I would have no idea what he or she meant.
But that only requires one use of the word (even assuming there's somebody in the class who doesn't understand what "N-word" means); and that use can be clearly definitional.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ChasFink View Post

Quote:
"This is the first year he got the response he did from the students. This is diagnostic of the level of overt anti-black racism in the country today. Anti-American and anti-Semitic examples did not upset the students, but an example of racism did," [Department Chair Carolyn] Rouse wrote. "This did not happen when Obama was president, when the example seemed less real and seemed to have less power."
Discuss.
I'd been thinking about that one too.

While it may be diagnostic of the level of overt racism, I doubt that accounts for the difference, at least not entirely. (And I note there's more overt anti-Semitism, too.)

As to the trampling on the flag examples:
1) A flag is not a person, or any sort of living being. Physically attacking a flag is not equivalent to either physically or verbally attacking a human.
2) As has been pointed out, attacking the USA may well be seen as punching up.
3) He tried that on a room of Princeton college students. If he'd tried it in some other social groups, the results could have been drastically different.

As to the anti-Semitic examples, I can think of multiple reasons, some of which I find pretty unnerving. As there were multiple students in the class, of course, different reasons might have applied to different people.
1) The students might not know much about Jewish history, and might not have understood the strength of the slurs used.
2) The students might (as has been suggested) have given a professor named Rosen a pass, on the grounds that he was or they thought he was a member of the group being insulted.
3) The students might be antiSemitic themselves, and therefore not care if Jews were insulted.
4) The students might not think of themselves as being antiSemitic, but might have nevertheless absorbed antiSemitic false claims that Jews are in charge of nearly everything, and therefore might think of slurs against Jews as punching up.
ETA: 5) The students might care only about slurs against their own group, and not care whether any other group gets insulted; and none of the students with this particular attitude happened to be Jewish.


-- as far as the 'which is worse' part of the question: I suppose it depends on where he meant to go from there in the discussion; but, taken just as itself, the question has a major problem. Of course it's worse to actually lynch somebody than to call them a name, however bad the name. It's worse to actually lynch somebody than to threaten to do so, however credible the threat. It's worse to murder twelve people than to murder one. It's worse to both murder and rape somebody than to rape them and then let them go alive. But none of that makes calling the name, or making the death threat, or committing the single murder, or committing the rape OK! and none of it means that the offense isn't serious.

'The person could have done something even worse' is not a defense.

Last edited by thorny locust; 15 February 2018 at 04:37 PM.
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  #34  
Old 15 February 2018, 06:23 PM
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The history of that word in this country is clear. Its use may initially not have been intended as a personal pejorative toward a particular individual, but it was used from the beginning here to refer to, and distinguish from white people, an enslaved people who were regarded and treated as chattel. It is steeped in that history, cut from that cloth, and it will likely never be divorced from that history -- at least not in my lifetime. There is a reason it carries the weight it does, and it isn't because its meaning has changed.

An early 20th C. example of its impact. http://baltimoreauthors.ubalt.edu/wr...nteecullen.htm
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  #35  
Old 15 February 2018, 06:41 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by crocoduck_hunter View Post
I've seen a lot of people who keep invoking free speech as a shield from any repercussions after saying something like there's a child sex-trafficking ring in the basement of a pizza place.
I’ve seen them too, and it’s manipulative and maddening for them to try to blur the lines between protected speech and speech that incites violence or threatens. But I think the way to fight that is to be very clear about the definitions. You do have a right to be a jerk, and say racist bs, and be an awful person in general. You don’t have the right to, say, publish the home address of abortion providers and their families in the hopes that someone will hurt them (Planned Parenthood of the Columbia/Willamette Inc. v. American Coalition of Life Activists, 290 F.3d 1058 (9th Cir. 2002). Those delineations are extremely important, imo, especially as people try to push the boundaries.
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  #36  
Old 15 February 2018, 07:12 PM
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Originally Posted by GenYus234 View Post
And there is no evidence that its first use was simply an alternate term for black people, in fact, Merriam Webster's etymology says:
Your link is to dictionary.com (which compiles information from numerous sources) and the quote is from the Online Etymology Dictionary, not Merriam-Webster. The Online Etymology Dictionary describes itself thus:
Quote:
This is the creation of an amateur. Great care has been taken and it's as accurate as I can make it. But if you're a professional linguist or a serious student of linguistics, you shouldn't be doing your homework here.
Even so, let's look at more of what it has to say (emphasis mine):
Quote:
1786, earlier neger (1568, Scottish and northern England dialect), from French nègre, from Spanish negro (see Negro). From the earliest usage it was "the term that carries with it all the obloquy and contempt and rejection which whites have inflicted on blacks" [cited in Gowers, 1965, probably Harold R. Isaacs]. But as black inferiority was at one time a near universal assumption in English-speaking lands, the word in some cases could be used without deliberate insult.

The Oxford English Dictionary
, which is where professional linguists and serious students of linguistics do their homework, lists uses "by people who are not black as a relatively neutral (or occasionally positive) term, with no specifically hostile intent" going back to 1577 (1608 if you insist on the current common spelling) but its first use "by people who are not black as a hostile term of abuse or contempt" dates to 1775.

Of course I'm not saying the word was not primarily used as a hostile term from early in its history, nor am I saying it is not today (and for some time prior to today) almost universally considered hostile and offensive. This sideline to the main discussion on this thread comes from my reaction to the claim that the word has been used only to enslave, to oppress, to discriminate, and to destroy. More specifically, I was making the claim that languages - and words - are not static. Since that really isn't the main point of this thread, and I understand that there are valid opinions that differ from mine, I think I've said all I can on this subtopic.
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  #37  
Old 15 February 2018, 07:31 PM
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Are you seriously arguing that it was not offensive when it was used to describe a people who were almost universally regarded as inherently inferior? ETA: Note that the inferiority of black people was often used to justify slavery and suppression of their rights.

Also, notice the very key phrase "deliberate insult". Quite different than saying it could be used without insult.

Also, you clipped the description from Oxford:
Quote:
Used by people who are not black as a relatively neutral (or occasionally positive) term, with no specifically hostile intent.
Quots. 1608, 1788, etc., expressing patronizing views, reflect underlying attitudes rather than a hostile use of the word itself.[bolding mine]
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  #38  
Old 15 February 2018, 09:52 PM
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I think there is a tendency to think that prejudice, bigotry, racism must include hostility. While hostility's often part of it, there's no essential connection. It's perfectly possible to genuinely love somebody, and to think (if sometimes incorrectly) that you're doing your best to see that they live in the best possible situation, while simultanously being convinced they're inferior to you -- many men through history have pulled this trick off with regards to their wives, sisters, and daughters, after all.
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  #39  
Old 15 February 2018, 10:59 PM
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I read a novel from the early sixties once that illustrates thorny locust's most recent point well. In it, a white Southern girl is trying to defend the South from accusations of racism. Her argument basically boils down to "But my family loves our black employees! They wouldn't even be able to make it in the world without my parents looking out for them!" I think that kind of paternalism was pretty common in that era, at least in the South.
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  #40  
Old 15 February 2018, 11:30 PM
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Regardless of the dubious origins supposedly just identifying people (IMO a load of horse manure but whatever), it was used for several centuries as an identity for genocide, enslavement, oppression, discrimination, etc. To deny that is simply to deny history. I know that's what is usually done but, sheesh, can we at least be honest during so-called Black History Month?
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