The Volokh Conspiracy

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Volokh Conspiracy

"The University of York Apologises for Saying 'Negro' in Lecture on Civil Rights Hero's Book Called the Philadelphia Negro"

So reports the Daily Mail (U.K.).


From the Daily Mail article (Julie Henry):

Lecturers were forced to apologise after students attending a class on race complained about quotations from renowned black writers which included the word 'negro'.

Undergraduates at the University of York said they had been left 'distressed' after an academic read out passages which included the word from works by [W.E.B.] Du Bois, an African-American sociologist and civil rights activist, and Frantz Fanon, a French psychiatrist and anti-colonialist – both black academics….

[English Department head Helen] Smith wrote a letter of apology saying that while the term was part of a quotation and was not used 'offensively', she recognised that reading it out had caused 'considerable distress'.

'I am extremely sorry that this happened, and I have written to all staff in the department to make it clear that they should not pronounce racial slurs as part of their teaching and that if those words appear in texts or on PowerPoint slides, they should be prefaced with an appropriate content warning,' she wrote.

A follow-up e-mail to lecturers "asked them to refrain from saying the word, written throughout the email as 'n*gro'."


NEXT: Today in Supreme Court History: December 27, 1771

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  1. "The end of history" takes on a new meaning.

    1. The second item with the dean is petty and he shouldnt have to resign, but you guys cant pretend that the successful instances of right wing outrage at unis is anywhere near comparable in frequency or clout.

      Re; the latina author the kids shouldnt have burned her books as it is bad optics. But their interactions with her were relatively mild.
      She also doesnt have anything novel to offer beyond woke-white bashing that the kids are already used to hearing at college already.

      1. I can pretend whatever I like.

        There is a whole right-wing industry ready to scream about any incident involving liberals, so there's a lot of publicity about them. I'm not convinced we see a random sample.

        If you have a subscription to the Chronicle - I don't - you might check out the article linked in the Alabama story.

        Whatever the Latina author had to say, book-burning is pretty bad behavior.

        1. "Whatever the Latina author had to say, book-burning is pretty bad behavior."

          Meh. People say the same about flag burning. Burn your own book, or burn your own flag, it's still speech.

        2. This is "they are learning to weaponize our tactics against us."

          Probably the most clownish example was Hannity going apoplectic about Colbert's "cockholster" comment as bring anti-gay, trying to get him canceled.

          This is the world the left has built. These are your fires using your machinery.

          Having said that, for millenia the shoe was on the other foot, and anyone espousing gay rights was socially wrecked. It'a mo surprise the power was used when it changed hands.

          1. The 'shoe on the other food' attempt at equivalence shouldn't work with any reader who recognizes that one foot was that of a bigot and the other not.

            For readers who are bigots, though, it should work nicely . . .

    2. "Interesting item."

      You mean the item about the left-wing student demanding that right wing students be punished for what appears to be the protected expressive activity of burning their own copies of books?

    3. Wait, just to be clear - you are mad because people paid this author to get copies of her work, which they then burned?

      Conflating a protest in which people voluntarily burn their own objects with acts where the government or mobs steal other peoples belongings in order to destroy them is pretty dishonest.

    1. So...clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right, here I am, stuck in the middle with you?

      1. That's about it.

        Sorry about the double post. I thought the first one wouldn't go through because it had two links.

        What's the policy on this, anyway?

        1. No one knows for sure. Well, I don't know for sure. The policy sure is not clear.

    2. Supposing a college dean said there was no such thing as invidious discrimination against black students. Should his resignation be accepted?

      1. Oh, and suppose he flew a Confederate battle flag to symbolize "my people."

        1. No.

          Yes, because I think it would interfere with his ability to do his job.

          1. OK, what about someone who tweeted this:

            "“The [American flag emoji] flag represents a systemic history of racism for my people,” Riley wrote in a September 2017 tweet. “Police are a part of that system. Is it that hard to see the correlation?”"


            "“I’m baffled about how the first thing white people say is, ‘That’s not racist!’ when they can’t even experience racism,”"


            Is there a distinction between the actual case and the (presumably white) dean I imagined?

          2. resigning seems intended to interfere with your ability to do a job, bernard

  2. I have no problem with use of the term "Negro" in this context, but I differ from most people, who excoriate some euphemisms yet simultaneously and eagerly embrace others.

    For example, I reject the political correctness associated with enabling bigots to hide behind terms such as "traditional values," "color-blind," and "family values." I believe they should be called bigots. Similarly, referring to Republicans as appeasers of bigotry should be more common in public discourse, although I recognize why conservatives would prefer the euphemism.

    Some people would object to use of the term "childish superstition" interchangeably with "organized religion." Those people are free to wallow in nonsense and political correctness, but competent adults should do better.

    I would wager that Prof. Volokh objects to placing "Negro" off-limits but has far less taste for calling a bigot a bigot these days.

    1. Right on Rev! People who espouse a belief in a color-blind society like your fellow member of the cloth, Rev. King, are just bitter clingers.

      1. A great achievement of our liberal-libertarian alliance during my lifetime is that our remaining bigots no longer wish to be known as bigots, at least not publicly. This is a welcome, important, and substantial change from the America of a half-century or so ago. Today's bigots hide behind terms such as "traditional values" and "color-blind," or claim that superstition somehow improves their bigotry, but those conservatives should not be permitted to dress their bigotry in euphemisms or religion, at least not by decent Americans.

    2. "calling a bigot a bigot these days." If its your broad and self-serving conception of bigotry than his objection would be warranted

    3. In the quixotic hope that you're interested in an actual discussion:

      To the extent that people object to your characterizing their beliefs as bigotry, I strongly suspect it's because they substantively disagree that they are in fact bigoted. I would wager that there are very few people who would object simply because they find hearing (or reading) the word "bigot" itself objectionable, which is the kind of complaint being raised in this story.

      1. Of course they disagree. They know it's no longer cool to be known as a bigot. So they claim that they advocate treating gays like dirt not because they are bigoted against gays but instead because a fairy tale compels them to discriminate against gays. Or they claim that they oppose immigration and immigrants not because they are racists but instead because they are worried about preserving American culture or jobs or something similar.

        They don't like to be known as bigots, not anymore, but they are bigots. And no cover story involving silly fairy tales or ostensible concerns regarding cultural purity can improve that bigotry.

  3. Liberal dipshits plan on asking the letter "n" to be removed from the alphabet in 2020.

    1. You may have a promising future at Fox News, Breitbart, FreeRepublic, Stormfront, Instapundit, RedState, or the Volokh Conspiracy.

      1. Oh fuck off. Liberals find a new word which offends them every month.

        It's beyond ridiculous at this point, and your insinuation that I belong on neo-nazi sites because of my willingness to point this shit out suggests that you're precisely one of the morons who's going to find a new word in January that should be stricken from the history of the world because it upset your precious sensibilities.

        Micro-aggressions, trigger-warnings, 'mis-gendering is violence,' made-up pronouns because thousands of years of human speech is no longer acceptable...

        It's ALL bullshit.

        1. I don't think it's all BS, though I think some of it (e.g. the objections to the "Negro"-containing quotations mentioned in the OP) is.
          When it comes to direct usage (as distinguished from quotations, historical references, or metadiscussions), some words are damaging and it would be better if they were phased out of the language. "Chairman," for instance.
          I was convinced of this by a Douglas Hofstadter essay in which an apologist for the status quo in an alternate Earth (whose English is racist in the same way that *our* Earth's English is sexist) argues that the use of "chairwhite" is innocuous because no one believes thar the suffix "-white" in that context denotes only white people, and similarly for many other words and sayings.

          1. I don't think a deliberate thought experiment is directly comparable to an established practice developed over a long period of time. (Useful as thought experiments can often be in many other cases.) We live in our reality, where "chairman" and similar terms are the result of that long process. I don't think we can simply imagine ourselves into another context where the aspect is not sex but race -- or at least I can't, not with any confidence that my imagining how I would feel is close to how I would actually feel.

        2. "It’s beyond ridiculous at this point, and your insinuation that I belong on neo-nazi sites because of my willingness to point this shit out suggests that you’re precisely one of the morons who’s going to find a new word in January that should be stricken from the history of the world because it upset your precious sensibilities."

          Wrong. You would be popular on bigotry-friendly sites because they love bashing liberals, moderates, libertarians, RINOs, and anyone else who isn't a clinger. One can get along famously on those sites without being a bigot -- appeasing bigotry is all that is required.

          Wrong again. I dislike censorship in general and mentioned earlier that I would not censor the relevant word in this context. This position aligns with with my frequent observation that 'bigots have rights, too.'

          Other than that, though, great comment.

          1. My apologies for misinterpreting your remark, and the subsequent insults.

  4. If I write a check to the "United N*gro College Fund" will it clear?

    1. Sure.
      You don't think humans see checks to check for validity anymore do you? If the United (word withheld to preserve snowflakes) College Fund deposits the check, as long as the scanners can make out the routing numbers, and amount, it will go through.

      1. Even though the word is a "racial slur"? Better think about programming those scanners a little better!

        1. How does the band *The Slants* cash their checks?

          Wait, I've listened to their music, I'm not sure they have any checks to cash.

    2. Look, the United [expletive deleted] College Fund is strictly an American institution, and the English don't cotton [oops] to the kinds of slurs which are routine in America today.

    3. I just donated $100 to the United Negro College Fund because of this stupid nonsense of progressives trying to make the word radioactive. I suggest you do, too.

  5. So I'm guessing they're going to ban Gone with Wind because the guy says "damn"?

    (Ha ha, just kidding, I imagine they've already banned Gone With the Wind and put it in the vault of forbidden works alongside *Tintin in Africa.*)

  6. Here's an interesting part of the article:

    "[The English Department commissar] suggested that if academics were going to quote racial words, they could be prefixed with the statement: ‘I am going to be using quotations which feature racial slurs, in an attempt to fully explore the topic, and in no way to condone the use of such words in other contexts by those who are not members of the specific racial groups who have chosen to reclaim these terms.’"

    Well, in addition to being all censor-y, this statement has another problem, namely, that Du Bois wasn't trying to "reclaim" what was at time the *respectful* way to refer to black Americans.

    I don't think the commissar would want professors using the other word which some black people are *actually* trying to reclaim.

  7. "There'll always be an England, and England shall be woke"

    1. Can you imagine these students fighting at El-Alamein?

      1. I think they have bone spurs.

        1. Ooh, burn, because Trump got a deferment because of bone spurs, you see.

          I can actually think of only one person - Lewis Grizzard - who actually died from the medical condition which kept him out of serving in Vietnam.

          1. Not a burn, just pointing out that right-wingers don't have much business questioning other people's willingness or ability to fight.

            If they want to snark about it I'll snark back.

            1. I suppose a bone-spur joke would be better than trying to prove that these snowflakes would survive in the hot desert sun.

              1. But credit where it's due, at least the young men and women of antifa have the same courage and fighting spirit of the soldiers who stormed the beaches at Normandy...


            2. "Biden attended the Archmere Academy in Claymont[21] where he was a standout halfback/wide receiver on the high school football team; he helped lead a perennially losing team to an undefeated season in his senior year. He played on the baseball team as well.[18]"

              "Biden received student draft deferments during this period, at the peak of the Vietnam War,[36] and in 1968, he was reclassified by the Selective Service System as not available for service due to having had asthma as a teenager.[36][37]"

          2. Donald Trump avoided the draft not because of bone spurs but because of illusory bone spurs, reported by a medical letter arranged by and accepted by people with more money. connections, and selfishness than character. courage, and integrity.

            1. Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland: "...illusory bone spurs..."

              Unsubstantiated rumors. Unless you have direct knowledge of something other than the accusations of people that don't like Trump, you belittle yourself, and become what you despise.

              George McGovern was accused of being a coward because his bomber had mechanical issues and he turned around on a dangerous mission. He was not a coward, and history has proven that.

              George H, W, Bush was accused of be a coward because he was forced to ditch his bomber in the sea. He was not a coward and history has proven that.

              Bill Clinton was accused of being a draft dodger, because he successfully navigated the deferment process until the draft was over. He was not a draft dodger, and history has proven that.

              Al Gore was accused of being protected by his father (was not allowed to serve in forward areas) during his service in Vietnam. Again history provides no evidence.

              George W. Bush was accused of being a draft dodger because he was a fighter pilot in the National Guard (This one makes my head explode).

              John Kerry was accused of being a coward when he served in Vietnam. History has proven he was not.

              Both sides pull this same stuff in virtually every election, and administration. It gets really old.

              FWIW, I am a veteran.

              1. Many sources -- including podiatrists, Trump's lawyer, the children of the podiatrist who wrote the letter -- have questioned or contested the positions advanced by Trump and his supporters in this context, placing themselves in alignment with everyone from Gen. Mattis to Stephen Colbert in mocking the "bone spurs" excuse.

                How many thousands of rounds of golf, or 'rasslin experiences, or tennis photographs, or statements from witnesses, would it take to persuade you that the burden of proof -- proof that could be readily obtained in the form of X-rays -- belongs with those pushing the "bone spurs were legit" position?

                1. JustAnotherFaceInTheCrowd

                  "...Many sources — including podiatrists, Trump’s lawyer, the children of the podiatrist who wrote the letter — have questioned or contested the positions advanced by Trump..."

                  I not sure any sane person would consider a doctors children or a lawyers hearsay statements as a valid source of medical information.

                  As for golf? since you have no knowledge of his medical history since his deferment, any attempt to extrapolate a medical condition from the late 60s to today, just doesn't fly. Heal spurs are not a life long deformity and can be treated given time.

                  Everything you are asserting is either second hand information or supposition based on second/third hand information.

                  1. The doctor's children claim their father wrote the letter as a favor to, or in exchange for concessions from, Trump's father, who also plays the role of that doctor's landlord in this saga.

                    I don't doubt that Trump supporters buy this story -- they are credulous by nature, which explains the taste for superstition, birtherism, and Fox News -- but I wonder how many people would bet on this proposition with real consequences (lots of money, bodily injury) at stake. Trump could have provided the medical evidence but, as is the case with his taxes and his academic record and his testimony, he conceals the record. That, with his record for veracity, is enough to incline the smart money against Trump's version.

                    The race does not always go to the swiftest, nor the struggle to the strongest, nor the debate to the better argument, but that's how competent people operating in the reality-based world bet. My money is on Trump's deferments being based on a father-arranged lie, and I would gladly wager tens of thousands of dollars on it.

  8. Since when has Negro been a slur?

    Oh, I forgot that language is a weapon in the class warfare.

  9. I guess we should note here that the speech of Pres. Lyndon Johnson must now be considered particularly offensive.
    Not only did he frequently use the word, "Negro," but he pronounced it in a strange way that sounded like "Neggra" or Niggra."

    1. Why do conservatives talk voluntarily about race, gender, sexual orientation, or similar issues in public -- other than a striking lack of self-awareness?

      These unforced errors are odd, and telling, and welcome. Keep it up, clingers. Until you are replaced.

    2. "Not only did he frequently use the word, “Negro,” but he pronounced it in a strange way that sounded like “Neggra” or Niggra.”"

      He often pronounced it in an even stranger way.

  10. Negro is a Portuguese word for black.

  11. This is the height of folly and absurdity. A professor makes an academic presentation and uses racial classifications that were on our freakin census forms for a century and somehow this is a problem? Sorry, but this is emblematic of the problem we have today wrt butthurt snowflakes.

    Memo to Americas Snowflakes: Grow the hell up. The world is not particularly solicitous.

    1. I assume you, much like Prof. Volokh, issue an undeserved pass to most of America's snowflakes.

      This is among the reasons you have lost the culture war to your betters.

      1. Kirkland, you are doing the next generation no favors with your progressive-fueled solicitude. And may I add, Reverend Arthur I Kuckland is a much better commenter than you.

        1. America has been rejecting conservative prescriptions for future generations throughout my lifetime, with no end in sight. Each generation brings fewer right-wingers, less superstition, fewer rural residents, less bigotry, fewer whites, fewer people pining for good old days that never existed. This is why America has improved greatly during my lifetime and is continue to improve, with progress shaped against the works and wishes of Republicans and conservatives.

          1. Question-begging noise. Once the snowflakes, whose genitalia you reciprocally tickle, develop into functioning adults, their values and culture morph invariably into grandpop’s/mom’s traditional orbit.

            It’s like clockwork and the setting sun. A few clowns like you might forever wear Che Guevara t-shirts and virtue-signal in the playpen of a statist utopia, but the masses opt for a conservative design, nonetheless.

            That’s why liberalism never goes anywhere, except when the grown-ups tire of your tantrums and throw you a bone.

            Playing pivot man in the circle-jerk of social media might get you through the day-please. Indulge yourself-but it doesn’t shift gravity. Sorry to disappoint.

          2. "America has been rejecting conservative prescriptions for future generations throughout my lifetime, with no end in sight."

            It ended in 2016. Please try to pay attention.

            1. You figure clingers turned the culture war tide in 2016?

              What manifestations of this remarkable shift -- which elements of the Republican-conservative wish list -- should we have observed by now, or are we to expect to see soon?

              Criminalized abortion -- and contraception? Government-prescribed prayers in schools and creationism in science classrooms? Gay-bashing back in vogue (outside the bigoted, deplorable, conservative backwaters, where it never really left)? Obamacare, Social Security, and Medicare repealed? Environmental protections eliminated (and consumer protections). More -- rather than less -- voter suppression and gerrymandering? New Confederate monuments erected?

              Have economic fundamentals been reworked to enable unskilled, uneducated whites in desolate rural and southern backwaters to prosper -- not only that, but to prosper at the expense of accomplished, educated residents of modern, successful communities? Coal coming back? Segregated schools? Mexico paying for the wall? A wall being built?

              Has Hillary Clinton been incarcerated? Has the Trump administration reached three percent growth yet? Are black men averting their gazes in the company of white women?

              I see little evidence that conservatives have become competitive, let alone successful, in the American culture war. Instead, I have observed decade after decade of liberal-libertarian American progress shaped against the preferences of conservatives. In this great American sifting, conservatism not winning; instead, it is retreating into the depleted human residue that remains in America's rural and southern areas after bright flight and failure hollow out those inadequate communities.

      2. Rev you are a fucking dope.

        1. That would explain why right-wingers are so cranky about losing the culture war to people like me.

  12. "asked them to refrain from saying the word, written throughout the email as 'n*gro'."

    "The intellectual purpose of Newspeak is two-fold: (i) the expression of the Ingsoc worldview, and (ii) to make impossible all unorthodox political thought." Wikipedia article Newspeak

    "In the Newspeak vocabulary, the word crimestop denotes the citizen's self-awareness to immediately rid him- or herself of unwanted, incorrect thoughts (personal and political), the discovery of which, by the Thinkpol, would lead to detection and arrest, transport to and interrogation at the Miniluv (Ministry of Love)." Wikipedia article Thoughtcrime

    Some people think Orwell was actually writing an instruction manual.

  13. The upshot here would seem to be that York University faculty are prohibited from presenting most 19th and 20th century black writers, on grounds that such writers use offensive language.

    Is the result really any different than if the University had found the ideas of black equality or racism offensive and didn’t want them presented? How can we be sure what the motives really were, given that the result would be the same?

  14. It’s the UK so they’re a bit confused. Remember that in the UK (as everywhere else outside the USA), “nigger” was not a slur until approximately 1970. It was used in the most polite company, and in public, and nobody thought anything of it. So they may not be entirely on top of the distinction between that and “negro”.

    Americans are very aware of the distinction because “nigger” has been unacceptable in the USA for well over a century, whereas “negro” is still acceptable but old-fashioned.

  15. So it used to be bad to call blacks "colored people". But now "people of color" is OK.

    Negro is actually the proper term just like Caucasian.

    "African-American" is a hoot because there are white people from Africa. Should whites be ow called "Euro-American"?
    This whole thing is just ridiculous.

    1. I'm all for some historical context, but your argument has no limit - it would imply that all change is a ridiculous.
      It's not like just because slavery used to be thought of as normal, that it was okay back then.

      Words have power. Race has power. Is it any wonder that when those two overlap there is flux? Go back to calling blacks 'colored' or asians 'orientals.' Things are ridiculous until they aren't. And then the other side becomes hidebound.

      What the OP describes is indeed silly. It also clearly does not stand for all on the left, based on the comments here alone. But keep half an ear out for when things change for real lest you be left behind and join the types raging at how gay yusta mean happy, dang it!

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