We Can't Say What You Can't Say


You really can't make this stuff up. Apparently, an employee at the University of Virginia said the following during a staff meeting:

I can't believe in this day and age that there's a sports team in our nation's capital named the Redskins. That is as derogatory to Indians as having a team called Niggers would be to blacks.

Problem is, in the midst of denouncing racism, the staffer mentioned the dreaded N-word, provoking offense and criticism. Yes, really. Apparently, some terms are so offensive that they can't be mentioned even in the course of warning people against using them. I understand that some terms are so charged that they'll grate on some folks even in innocuous contexts—but in the obvious absence of malice, isn't that the kind of thing you just pull someone aside to mention later?

No less a figure than NAACP head Julian Bond said of the incident:

My first impulse is that this should be a dismissible infraction—but free speech protections I hold dear tell me that shouldn't be so.

Because of his enormous regard for free speech, Bond will settle for a public apology and mandatory sensitivity training. Meanwhile, over at Volokh, David Bernstein finds an amusing parallel in Monty Python's Life of Brian.