Free Speech

Race-Based Speech Restrictions

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One facet of the demands that people stop quoting the word "nigger"—even when they are quoting Supreme Court opinions or discussing other real-world incidents—is that the calls are sometimes (though not always) expressly race-based. In one example that I've seen, some law student groups distributed a flyer with the heading "Can I say the n-word?," and responded,

  • if you're "black or mixed with black," "Do what you want," but
  • if you're "white" or "a person of color but not black," "Nope[,] never."

I think this is wrong as a matter of manners and ethics, and would be illegal if turned into an official university rule.

[1.] To begin with, like many unsound ideas, there is a kernel of good sense at its root. Words mean different things in different contexts (which is part of my core argument that mentioning a word isn't the same as using it), and the speaker's identity can be a part of the context in which an ambiguous statement is interpreted.

The classic example is ethnic jokes. People often enjoy jokes that laugh at their own group's familiar foibles, but only if they think the joke is said with affection, rather than out of genuine hostility. If I tell a typical Jewish joke to someone who knows I'm Jewish, it's unlikely to be perceived as anti-Semitic. (Of course, much depends on the joke.) But if the speaker isn't known to be Jewish, listeners, especially Jews, might wonder whether the joke is said out of real hostility (again, depending on the joke and depending on how well they know the speaker). The same is likely true of people using pejoratives to greet each other.

And it's true of written communication as well as oral communication. Indeed, the identity of the speaker might become more important in interpreting ambiguous statements in writing because some of the other contextual factors that might convey the speaker's intentions (is it said with a smile?) are missing.

But that applies to humor and similar matters where the meaning of the statement may be ambiguous; it doesn't apply to serious discussions in which facts are being quoted. If someone is talking about this very debate, and asks, "Should professors be allowed to say 'nigger' in class when discussing cases or novels or films or songs in which the word appears?," that has a pretty clear, precise meaning, quite apart from the speaker's identity.

Likewise, two Supreme Court opinions in Tharpe v. Sellers (2018) say that juror Gattie's affidavit stated,

that, in Gattie's view, "there are two types of black people: 1. Black folks and 2. Niggers."

That statement has basically the same meaning—and not a racist meaning—in the per curiam majority (which had the votes of five white Justices and one Hispanic Justice) as in the dissent (which was written by a black Justice and joined by two white Justices). The statement by the juror might have had a non-racist meaning (or perhaps a differently racist meaning) if the juror had been black rather than white. But not so for the quote by the Justices.

So our sense that the speaker's race may indicate whether jokes and greetings should be interpreted as having a pejorative meaning, I think, doesn't apply to quotations in the context of substantive discussions. And for reasons I expressed in my earlier post, I don't think that anyone should feel constrained from accurately quoting such statements a university, in the classroom or out (or of course in a court opinion).

[2.] Note also the extra dimension that the race-based rule would add. Say that you have people discussing or debating a particular matter—in a conversation, on a panel, in a moot court argument, in a classroom discussion, or otherwise. They would then literally have to use different words in the same conversation depending on their race: Black parties to the debate would be able to accurately discuss the details. White, Hispanic, Asian, or American Indian students would have to expurgate those very same details. A pretty pernicious result, it seems to me.

[3.] Now to the legal point—if implemented as policy by a university, or some other employer, such a race-based speech restriction would violate various bans on discrimination:

  • Title VII of the Civil Rights Act for employees,
  • Title VI for students,
  • state laws banning discrimination in employment and education, and,
  • in a public university, the rules under the Equal Protection Clause.

Those laws ban treating people differently, including as to the "terms and conditions of employment" and not just as to hiring or firing, based on race. And the one case I know of that squarely confronted race-based speech restrictions made clear that they were covered (Burlington v. News Corp. (E.D. Pa. 2010) (emphasis added)):

We begin by addressing an issue that does not appear to have been decided by the federal courts: can an employer be held liable under Title VII for enforcing or condoning the social norm that it is acceptable for African Americans to say "nigger" but not whites? The text of the statute is the starting point for our analysis. Title VII makes it unlawful for an employer to "discharge any individual, or otherwise to discriminate against any individual … because of such individual's race." It is well settled that Title VII's prohibition of race-based discrimination protects white employees as well as minority employees. McDonald v. Santa Fe Trail Transp. Co. (1976) (stating that Title VII is "not limited to discrimination against members of any particular race"). As the law by its terms outlaws treating employees of one race differently from another race, the question becomes is there some justification for treating the white employee who says the word differently from the African American employee who says the word.

In Towne v. Eisner (1918), Justice Holmes observed that "[a] word is not a crystal, transparent and unchanged, it is the skin of a living thought and may vary greatly in color and content according to the circumstances and the time in which it is used." This is certainly so with this particular word. Merriam-Webster notes in the usage section of its definition of the word that "[i]ts use by and among blacks is not always intended or taken as offensive, but … it is otherwise a word expressive of racial hatred and bigotry." Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary 837 (11th ed. 2005); see also Randall Kennedy, Nigger: The Strange Career of a Troublesome Word 105-08 (First Vintage Books ed. 2003). Professor Kennedy, an African American, made the observation that "many people, white and black alike, disapprove of a white person saying 'nigger' under virtually any circumstance. 'When we call each other `nigger' it means no harm,' [rapper] Ice Cube remarks. 'But if a white person uses it, it's something different, it's a racist word.' Professor Michael Eric Dyson likewise asserts that whites must know and stay in their racial place when it comes to saying 'nigger.' He writes that 'most white folk attracted to black culture know better than to cross a line drawn in the sand of racial history. Nigger has never been cool when spit from white lips.'"

Historically, African Americans' use of the word has been ironic, satirical, or even affectionate. Too often, however, the word has been used by whites as a tool to belittle, oppress, or dehumanize African Americans. When viewed in its historical context, one can see how people in general, and African Americans in particular, might react differently when a white person uses the word than if an African American uses it.

Nevertheless, we are unable to conclude that this is a justifiable reason for permitting the Station to draw race-based distinctions between employees. It is no answer to say that we are interpreting Title VII in accord with prevailing social norms. Title VII was enacted to counter social norms that supported widespread discrimination against African Americans. To conclude that the Station may act in accordance with the social norm that it is permissible for African Americans to use the word but not whites would require a determination that this is a "good" race-based social norm that justifies a departure from the text of Title VII. Neither the text of Title VII, the legislative history, nor the caselaw permits such a departure from Title VII's command that employers refrain from "discriminat[ing] against any individual … because of such individual's race."

UPDATE [June 14, 2020, 12:51 pm]: Some good words, I think, from Prof. Randall Kennedy (Harvard Law, the same one quoted in the opinion above), in a CNN interview; Prof. Kennedy explain why he opposes the attempts to suppress quoting of the word "nigger," and adds:

SMERCONISH: A quick final question. I think I know the answer, based on what you've said, but I want to hear you say it. Is the race of the speaker, in the context you've identified, irrelevant?

KENNEDY: I think so. If you're making a good point, you're making a good point, whether you're white, black, red, doesn't matter, brown. A good point is a good point. And it would be a terrible thing in American culture if you erected a race line with respect to who can say what.

NEXT: The Art of the Troll

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  1. For those who have never seen the Chris Rock stand up routine, the juror in the Supreme Court case, when referencing two types of black people, was just probably copying the thesis of said routine. That is there are two types of that particular minority. One is just a normal type of every day person and the other one is less desirable.

    1. there are two types of that particular minority. One is just a normal type of every day person and the other one is less desirable. Um. I think that’s true of every group of people, including even Danes. That you choose to describe blacks specifically that way, and echo the juror’s thinking, is interesting.

      1. Also interesting: That juror explained that after studying the Bible and praying on it a spell, he was troubled by the prospect that God did not equip black people with souls. I continue to marvel at the lack of self-awareness that enables conservatives to speak publicly and voluntarily about blacks, gays, agnostics, Muslims, women, Jews, and the other targets of their stale thinking. (This site doesn’t permit multiple links, but trust me — the examples of clingers expressing their old-timey thinking would be hilarious.)

      2. That he chose to describe blacks specifically that way in an article entirely about how different people describe blacks is not interesting at all. It is, on the contrary, normal and expected conversational convention.

        Your complaint says a lot more about you and your preconceptions than it does about Jimmy.

    2. “For those who have never seen the Chris Rock stand up routine, the juror in the Supreme Court case, when referencing two types of black people, was just probably copying the thesis of said routine.” Sure. I mean, the juror was probably copying the thesis of the routine when he also said, “After studying the Bible, I have wondered if black people even have souls.” It’s so fun when people just speculate and make stuff up. (Checks user name). Oh yeah! Did I say fun? I meant unsurprising.

    3. I know African Americans who will question the motives of anyone who is not a person of color who uses that word for any reason. When I finally get them to respond to an extreme abuse of the system, they will grudgingly say that the complainant is being too sensitive. But they refuse to believe this is a wide spread problem.
      I think have too big of a chip on their shoulder and refuse to have the grace to admit that there is a problem. They are angry about past wrongs and don’t have too much of a problem of “two wrongs making a right.”

  2. Obviously Prof. Volokh is right about the legal argument. Whatever rules informally guide social interactions, a government entity saying “black people may say this but white people cannot” would pretty clearly be a discriminatory restriction on free speech. As for the rest of this. I don’t say the word. I basically adhere to the white half of that slogan. I don’t worry about what black people say or don’t say. Of course, I am not a law professor, and if I were in Prof. Volokh’s position I probably would say the word when teaching cases where it is an important part of the facts, and if I were in F. Lee Bailey’s situation where I had to say the word because it was an issue in a court case, I would also say the word. But I listen to a lot of rap music and I never sing along when the n-word is being used, I don’t re-tell Chris Rock or Richard Pryor jokes or repeat, uncensored, lines from Blazing Saddles, and if I were writing these blog posts (which I largely agree with on the merits), I would use “n-word” and not spell it out. The one thing I will say about that flyer: I have had a lot of black friends and acquaintances over the years, and while some of them are cool with throwing around the n-word, a number of them were not. I once had a black co-worker who was felt very badly hurt by what she felt was black men using the word in a very misogynistic way and without regard to other people’s feelings. The notion that black people can or should say the word is actually quite controversial within that community, and I think some student activist types blow right past that debate. But as I said, at the end of the day it is not for me to say. At bottom, my agreement with Prof. Volokh is this: law school involves some cases involving despicable human conduct, because the practice of law involves such cases as well. None of us want to read or hear the n-word, any more than we want to hear slurs against other groups, or gruesome murder descriptions, or gruesome rapes. But we have to be able to deal with them, professionally, and doing so is part of being a lawyer. At any rate, for the contrary view, here’s Above the Law, which hates Prof. Volokh’s position: https://abovethelaw.com/2020/04/ucla-law-school-calls-for-tolerance-so-obviously-professor-blows-that-up-with-childish-racist-tirade/

    1. This guy could use a class in Persuasive Writing 101. It is obvious his audience is partisan hacks, but he does himself no favors here: “his forum with Reason magazine — America’s foremost publication to jerk off to if you’re a 15-year-old white suburban kid with deep thoughts about affirmative action ” This is when I stopped reading and believe most people would also, even those who might be in mild agreement with his thesis statement.

      1. Fortunately, we live in America here, and your rights entitle you to be wrong as fuck with your little ole feelz.

        1. I just find it funny in this article that tries to be “anti-racist” the author feels the need to be just a little bit racist by throwing in a completely unnecessary “white suburban kid” pejorative.

          1. That’s better than “cracker”

            1. We prefer “Saltine Americans”.

          2. “White” itself has taken on the role of an insult in an increasing number of corners. If a certain institution or occupation is adjudged to have too many white people it is deemed to be problematic. the “unbearable whiteness” of craft beer.

      2. He lost me when he called Professor Volokh a racist. As noted below, I think Professor Volokh is wrong here (not on the law and, like his Dean does, agree that he has a right to say what he says) and is standing on principle for principle’s sake. The small benefits of use the actual word over “n-word” are so substantially outweighed by the fact that the word, especially when uttered by a white man, is extremely hurtful and, very often, triggers feelings of terror that persons of color have experienced when the word has been uttered against them in the past. The Professor is very smart and I cannot imagine that he could not understand that this if he were to fully think it through. But, again, I suspect he is standing on principle for principle’s sake right now. In time, I also suspect, he will stop using the word so frequently, if at all, in class.

        1. Terror? Really? You’re verging uncomfortably close to infantilizing blacks with this comment. At the very least, the statement reeks of condescension.

          1. I disagree as I know for a fact that the word does indeed engender some level of terror in some black people. As a Jew, when I see the Nazi flag, it definitely induces some level of terror, and the anti-Semitic comments I’ve received pale in comparison to what many (most) black people hear.

        2. If this professor teaches in a way that my own Con Law II professor did, he probably uses the word in a max 2 or 3 classes. (Unless a student happened to bring it up herself, which we all agree a professor can’t control.) And any usage happens in a class FULL OF ONLY LAW STUDENTS. (I think that can’t be emphasized enough…this is grad school, for God’s sake.) And I would bet dollars to donuts that the word in question has never appeared in any of his law school final exams.

        3. Well, if you’re not willing to stand on principle for principle’s sake, it’s not much of a principle, is it? In fact, isn’t that how principles vanish? By people not being willing to stand on them?

          1. Really? I believe that the First Amendment protects people from punishment if they wear a red swastika band on their arm just below their shoulder (a la Hitler). Yet I will never do that myself. And if someone were punished for doing so, I might very well fight that punishment but I sure as hell would never wear a swastika on my arm.

            1. Well, I would certainly not wear a swastika on my armband, for many reasons! But then again I wouldn’t actually call someone a “nigger,” either (or lots of other words).

              The more apt question, I think, is: Do you think professors should have an ethical obligation to avoid talking about swastikas in their classes (or at school outside class), or displaying images of swastikas in class materials? I do include a swastika on one of my slides, and have aa problem in the Title VII religious accommodations section of my casebook about hypothetical employees wearing swastikas.

              1. Obviously. I was responding to the comment by using an extreme example to point out that, contrary to the comment, standing on principle for principle’s sake is not always a good idea.

                Re swastikas, talking about them is not a good analogy as the word itself is of little power and simply describing the symbol is more akin to saying “n-word” (or somesuch) to describe the actual n-word.

                The better example is displaying the swastika and, although I do think many Jewish people have a certain reaction to it, it is very different than the n-word. First, the swastika was a symbol of Germany, and the utter terror visited by it upon many Jews (and others of course), so a non-German showing it in an academic setting outside of Germany is quite different. Second, those actually terrorized by the swastika, are unlikely to be in your class. Compare to the n-word.
                The n-word was used for centuries in the United States by white people as part of a caste/apartheid system that treated black people as property and then as third-class citizens. It still is used by some to try to return to that type of system and glorify it. It is almost certain that black people in your class will have heard it used in this way against them personally many times in their lives. I recognize that you have no connection personally or familially to the white Americans who have historically used the word to terrorize black people. But for better-or-worse, you are still a white American (I get that you are Jewish and were not born here but that is pedantry here).

                These are all things of degree and the law is not suited to differentiate between them. And luckily, unlike many of other countries, the law is not allowed to differentiate between them (because of the First Amendment). But the question here is manners, not law, so I am not concerned about slippery slopes. As your Dean said, you have every right to make your decision on what words you want to use in class.

                1. I would certainly hope that a history prof teaching WWII would say many things, and show many images, that people of all nationalities and creeds would find deeply disturbing. One of many examples would be the piles of emaciated bodies in concentration camps. Those things happened, and should not be sugarcoated no matter how disturbing they are to people, lest we let down our guard about preventing a recurrence.

                  IANAL, but I was a juror in a murder trial, and would pay good money to be able to forget the crime scene photos and the medical examiner’s testimony. I hope that law students are exposed to some of that, so that they will have the opportunity to focus their classes on tax law or something if they don’t have the stomach for such things.

              2. Remember that swastikas were Native American holy symbols long before Hitler. There are public buildings with swastikas that long predate Hitler that no one knows what to do with — there is a town hall on Cape Cod that has them in the flooring. They covered them with carpet, but…

                And what is now the Boy Scouts’ “Order of the Arrow” was once the “Order of the White Swastika.”

                Things get complicated….

        4. Well… Professor Volokh doesn’t think people should be treated differently, at least in this context, based on their race. That seems like a textbook example of racism to me.

          1. Really?!? To me, that belief (that people should not be treated differently, based on their race) sounds like a textbook example of NON racism. Can you explain how you came to your conclusion? It seems counter-intuitive, based on your first-sentence premise.

            1. Is explanation really needed? Based on my comment, isn’t it clear that either I’m a moron or I was being sarcastic?

              I suppose it’s also possible that someone who would agree with my comment if it weren’t sarcastic would think that my sarcasm was moronic.

              1. Poe’s law strikes again.

      3. His writing needs paragraph breaks, how about that.

        1. Nevermind, down thread I see that there was a glitch in the commenting software.

    2. Here’s a different ATL article on the same topic that illustrated one of the problems with their position. They post a statement on the topic from Prof. V, and censor the word “nigger” but leave in “kikes”, “fags”, and “slants”.

      1. This is an even lamer argument that basically says since someone asked him nicely not to say it he should have just not said it.

        1. The ATL people think it is some brilliant point to say “hey, why don’t we just murder someone in Crim Law class to demonstrate murder”. But that misses the pedagogical point. Lawyers (hopefully!) don’t have to witness murders or become murder victims as part of their work. What they do have to do, especially in some very important sub-fields, is discuss brutal murders. So good criminal law professors don’t demonstrate murders, but they do initiate discussions with students where the facts of gruesome murder cases might be discussed. Discussions of racial slurs are similar to this. Now, as I said, I would have said “n-word” in these posts, and I would probably not say the actual n-word in a class unless it was central to the case. So it’s not that being nice to the students is irrelevant. I would also not discuss the gruesome details of a rape case if the issue being taught was the statute of limitations or whether Miranda warnings were properly given. Among those 10,000 cases Prof. Volokh talks about are some number of cases where the n-word is mentioned as in the statement of facts, but is not particularly germane to whatever legal issue a professor might be teaching. In those instances, you don’t have to say the word, even though the students might run into it in the text. That’s a proper exercise of courtesy towards students. But where the central issue is the use of the word, it’s fine, and pedagogically effective, to say the word.

      2. And Here’s an article by Joe Patrice where he quotes someone using the word.

    3. From the Above the Law article:

      “Because there is no world beyond him and his grievances.”

      I know the “projection” trope is overused, but I think it applies here.

      “This is about using of the n-word in class (and, actually, it’s not even that — it was about “using the n-word after being asked not to” which is what made it a deliberate kick in the face than just using it — but Volokh doesn’t seem to see that important distinction in this piece so we’ll meet his arguments on his terms).”

      Well, I suppose this may sound a tad authoritarian, but how about the idea that professors have the authority to teach, and students are supposed to learn. If the students knew what to teach, they wouldn’t need to take the course, and they should skip right to applying for their diploma. The article talks about childishness, but consider their attitude of “he wouldn’t do what we wanted even when we asked!” Well, maybe he didn’t *want* to do what you wanted.

      “He then points out that Eleanor Holmes Norton cowrote a brief that uses the word in full, so if you had “but black people get to use that word” on your argument Bingo sheet, congratulations.”

      I think the point was that she was defending a Klansman’s right to free speech and was quoting what the Klansman actually said. I suppose it would have been wrong had a white lawyer for the Klansman done exactly the same thing? Or a lawyer of Asian descent, etc? I’m going to go ahead and assume Norton used the arguments she though most helpful for her client – should nonblack lawyers be prevented from doing the same thing?

      “The whole “jeremiad for the n-word” drips with the passive racism that comes with being so self-absorbed that the experience of others doesn’t matter. To be fair, Volokh certainly doesn’t see any of this running through his words. But the grand conceit of the libertarian worldview, that there is nothing rational but what is intentional — that the only effect of a person’s action is what they intended and any other impact is just someone else’s flawed understanding — is not a neutral endeavor. Sure, Volokh did not set out to write something racist, but the reality of white supremacy is that it’s almost always enforced by people downright oblivious to it.”

      OK, defining racism down – it’s unintentional racism of course, part of miasmic white supremacy. And libertarians definitely don’t believe in unintended consequences, or whatever.

      1. For some racist reason, they wouldn’t let me put spaces between paragraphs. Does it work now?

        1. Nope, my spaces have been censored. White spaces.

          [EV adds: Sorry, happened to one of my comments, too; don’t know what’s up. In any case, I tried to add the spaces back for you, as I did for my comment; hope I figured out the right places.]

          1. Thank you! Let’s see if the spaces stay restored.

        2. Ah, interesting — had that same problem for the first time earlier today and was wondering what I had done wrong. Hopefully just a temporary glitch.

    4. I agree completely, Dilan. One (very minor) addendum I’d have to Mr. Volokh’s point #1 (about context) is that in context, someone might very well try quoting another person using the n-word just to be able to say the n-word while disclaiming responsibility. That might or might not happen often, but it could happen. Again, I agree with you and I agree with Mr. Volokh’s blog post.

    5. I hope the f**ker who wrote the ABOVE THE LAW article runs afoul of this rule and has his career ruined. He is in the category of people who want to condemn any use of the BAD word. He questions the motives of anyone who uses the BAD word. He does not understand the concept that we protect the use of BAD words because if we don’t, eventually too many words will become BAD words and we won’t be able to communicate anymore.
      This is “thoughtcrime” plain and simple. Mr. Patrice would have been happy working in Stalin’s USSR…until his name ended up on a list.

  3. Worth remembering: in a recent oral argument Sotomayor made fairly clear she would expand the categories of speech which is permissible for the government to suppress to include “a word so offensive it should never be used” i.e. “nigger”.

    1. Context? I don’t think she was saying the Government could ban use of the n-word (personal preference, strongly held, not to use the word generally).

      1. I think it was in the Slants or “Fuct” trademark/Lanham Act case so she might be saying the goverment should be permitted not to trademark “nigger” or similar iterations. But this of course isnt a consistent position, privileging one word (and set of experiences) above all others. It is the epitome of the slippery slope issue EV talks about, once you say “we dont trademark the n-word” you will get an avalanche of analogized cases. Even if one thinks the experience of every other group to which some epithet is associated has had a qualitatively less severe experience as blacks in America, it is not clear that this is a either a constitutionally legitimate distinction, or one that will stave off these various interest groups.

        1. Indeed — and in her opinion respecting the denial of cert. in Calhoun v. U.S. (2013) she wrote, I think quite effectively,

          By suggesting that race should play a role in establishing a defendant’s criminal intent, the prosecutor here tapped a deep and sorry vein of racial prejudice that has run through the history of criminal justice in our Nation. There was a time when appeals to race were not uncommon, when a prosecutor might direct a jury to “ ‘consider the fact that Mary Sue Rowe is a young white woman and that this defendant is a black man for the purpose of determining his intent at the time he entered Mrs. Rowe’s home,’ ” Holland v. State, 247 Ala. 53, 22 So.2d 519, 520 (1945), or assure a jury that “ ‘I am well enough acquainted with this class of niggers to know that they have got it in for the [white] race in their heart,’ ” Taylor v. State, 50 Tex.Crim. 560, 561, 100 S.W. 393 (1907). The prosecutor’s comment here was surely less extreme. But it too was pernicious in its attempt to substitute racial stereotype for evidence, and racial prejudice for reason.

        2. But she signed on to the opinion in the Slants case entirely, and that opinion invalidated the statute so, assuming other requirements of registration are met, someone could trademark the n-word. Musing at oral argument is just that. And whether a very narrowly written statute* to preclude the registration of certain specific terms could pass constitutional muster is a separate question.

          * The statute at issue in the Slants case was the opposite of narrowly written and gave the PTO absurd amounts of discretion, which it used arbitrarily, in making viewpoint-based decisions on registrability.

  4. Prof. Volokh is a dogged advocate of freedom of expression . . . except when he is engaged in serial viewpoint-based censorship at his blog. I guess Artie Ray should have used more racial slurs.

    1. I’ve had my play on words of your user name censored many times. He does send me a nice email though asking me not to do it. And because I am such a nice guy I stopped.

    2. Banning spam and bots on blogs doesnt render inconsistent a broader position of support for robust free expression

      1. How are spam and bots relevant to this discussion? If you are hoping to defend Prof. Volokh, or clingers in general, this doesn’t seem promising.

  5. It’s not just black versus white. Until his death it was black+George Carlin versus white. Carlin had the magic touch. If Carlin had devoted a whole routine on the n-word, SCOTUS justices could quote it with impunity.

    1. Perhaps noteworthy that Carlin chose not to do it.

  6. An idiosyncratic pronunciation might rob the word of much of its power, without significantly impeding rational meaning. The unconscious mimetic repetition of centuries of pejorative is difficult to avoid, unless you make the word your own. Mr. D.

  7. Like his Dean, I agree that the school cannot stop Professor Volokh from using the n-word but, also like his Dean, I think it is exceptionally poor form. The word is extremely jarring and packed with powerful meaning when spoken by a white person. The benefits of that happening in class when discussing a case (and I agree there are some to illustrate the power of the word and the fact that the First Amendment generally protects its utterance) seem to be vastly outweighed by the offense it causes to a lot of people. Use of the word “n-word” is completely fine and would not inhibit the ability to teach the subject. I fear that Professor Volokh is merely standing on principle for principle’s sake rather than fully thinking this through. Again, he has every right to say it without consequence to his employment (as a result of being at a state school and also having tenure – so double protected), and I absolutely support that. I just don’t think this is a wise decision. In the past, Professor Volokh has, after a time, shown the ability to recognize his errors and back off positions like this (there was a rather big incident way back in early blogistan where he seemed to advocate some crazy torture for child murderers but I forget the exact situation and he eventually recognized he’d gone overboard). I hope, and even suspect, that he will see his error here.

    1. Jon S: I appreciate your commenting on this, but I had tried to explain my thinking in my earlier post — any specific thoughts on that, beyond what you’ve mentioned in this comment?

      1. I read that post, and I think what I wrote is generally responsive. The benefits of using the word do not outweigh its negatives. Obviously, this is an individual choice and I think you are wrong on it. I get that you disagree, and you are a teacher with quite a bit of experience and success (and I am not a teacher at all) so I get that you may view this differently. I do think if you reflected on this some more, you would be able to see the other side a lot more clearly.

        I do have one comment though on the Johnny Cochran/Chris Darden exchange. Initially, but not really relevantly, they were both right. Darden’s general point about what Johnny was doing – by having F. Lee Bailey (an old white dude) use the n-word repeatedly in front of the jury, Johnny was definitely trying to rile up the jury (most of whom were black) and get them to ignore other issues. And Johnny’s statements defending what he was doing were very eloquent but he was – as good lawyers often must do – attacking a straw-man that Darden basically handed him (because Darden was not a very talented lawyer), i.e., that black people cannot act rationally once they hear the n-word and, upon hearing the word associated with one police officer, will then automatically attribute racism to all police officers.

        My comment though is not on who was right but that trying to divine broad principles on a subject like this from the statements made by a very talented lawyer in a criminal trial where his sole motivation was to try to get his client acquitted seems very misguided. Unfortunately, Johnny is no longer with us but I’d guess he’d disagree with your approach to using the n-word in the classroom. And frankly, whether he did or did not, would be of almost no relevance.

    2. The balancing test you apply here gives undue weight to students’ perceived (and often performative) sense in a way that leads to a self-fulfilling prophecy: being cordoned off by anything midly upsetting during school makes encountering the truly upsetting in the real worse that much more distressing. You only state the obvious (that in some contexts whites uttering the word is prone to offend) but dont address any of Prof Volokh’s arguments. I believe his position is principled and decidedly good form. He should not back down. The worst thing to do is act as if the perpetual scolds have any moral authority whatsoever.

      1. “He should not back down. The worst thing to do is act as if the perpetual scolds have any moral authority whatsoever.” Yes. This is not the time to debate whether he made exactly the right decision in using the word, the bottom line for now is he used it for unambiguously non-racist reasons. Now when he’s being called a racist and faces indignant demands, then if he buckles under, it will be seen a a sort of admission that he *is* a racist, and that he corrected his racist behavior on the demand of his Dean and a group of enlightened, woke students. So the priority now is *not* to issue any sort of apology or quasi-apology of any kind.

        1. I’m assuming his job is not in jeopardy here, it would be different if he was paying his kids’ medical bills at a job where dropping the wrong words could get you fired. Especially a job which doesn’t involve communication, so it wouldn’t be a matter of conscience. In that case I’m presuming he’d watch his words more carefully, like the rest of the world, keep a guard over his mouth.

          1. His job is not in jeopardy. He has the good fortune to be employed by a strong liberal-libertarian university, not some fourth-tier, censorship-shackled, conservative-controlled goober factory that enforces childish dogma, disdains academic freedom, and engages in viewpoint-based discrimination in everything from hiring to fire and admissions to expulsions. UCLA is not going to treat Prof. Volokh the way Prof. Volokh treats liberals comments and commenters. UCLA is the better in this context.

            1. Yes, good thing he doesn’t work for Harvard, Middlebury or Syracuse.

              https://www.thefire.org/10-worst-colleges-for-free-speech-2020/

              I was thinking more in terms of, say, an Amazon worker (if they’re still working) whose comments in the break room are misrepresented to management, so he apologizes for the BS incident in order to keep his job. His work wouldn’t involve the responsibility to teach how the real world works, combined with the autonomy of selecting teaching methods, so in all the circumstances, this hypothetical worker wouldn’t be surrendering much of importance by trying to plaster over a BS dispute.

              In contrast, someone with the responsibilities of a tenured university professor whose course teaching is under attack has something of a responsibility *not* to fold like a cheap suit when his bona fide teaching decisions are attacked.

              1. FIRE is the partisan effort by clingers to mimic the ACLU. It issues undeserved passes to conservative-operated schools, which flatters FIRE’s right-wing donors but wreck’s FIRE’s credibility. That list is as misleading as FIRE is partisan.

                Is FIRE following the Volokh Conspiracy’s policy on conspicuous silence concerning Falwell Jrs.’ recent anti-expression conduct? I do not know, but I know which way I’d wager.

                Nipping at your betters’ ankles for conduct (1) in which you engage and (2) for which you offer a free pass to your partisan pals is the work of paltry people.

                1. “I do not know, but I know which way I’d wager.”

                  Nice hedge. In fact you could have easily confirmed that FIRE *has* criticized Liberty University:

                  https://www.thefire.org/liberty-in-name-only-liberty-universitys-policies-undermine-freedom-of-expression/

                  “Liberty needs to pick a lane. It should either promise free speech, and actually live up to what that means in policy and in practice, or President Falwell should stop promising to deliver free speech, and start being more transparent about the fact that the values of the university override students’ free speech.

                  “It’s the students who pay the price of Liberty’s desire to have it both ways.”

                2. “It issues undeserved passes to conservative-operated schools…”

                  WTF? How does it issue “passes”? That’s just nuts.

                3. You do know that the head of it is a practicing Buddhist, don’t you?

    3. I hate to quote Kozinski, because he’s so problematic, but he had a wonderful dissent in the San Francisco Arts and Athletics case where he was talking about Cohen v. California and said the obvious point- that a jacket that said “I strongly resent the draft” would not have the same impact. I don’t think very many cases really turn on the n-word. So probably the vast majority of times the word comes up in a case, it’s the better part of valor to not say it. But when discussing Cohen v. California in a constitutional law class, you really should utter the f-word. The f-word is part of the point. The issue isn’t whether you would allow some “vulgar language” or a “profanity” on a jacket. It loses it’s impact when you don’t pronounce the f-word. So when a case truly turns on the n-word, with all the shock that it carries, with all the hurt and the history, I think there’s a case to be made for saying it. Because when you say “n-word”, it sterilizes a legal issue that truly isn’t sterile.

      1. It is amusing to read people like Joe Patrice get in a moral huff about Volokh defending free speech. Patrice thinks that his extremism will save him should the US become a Stalinist paradise. But it won’t. At some point, he would get dragged off to a gulag for some mundane offense. His last words would be “Long live Stalin” before getting shot in the head.
        Great movie by the way. Everyone should see THE DEATH OF STALIN on Netflix.

    4. Are there any other words you would treat similarly? If so, can you tell us what they are (or give us enough info to collect the dots)?

      1. Are there any other words you would treat similarly? Someone once said something to the effect of if you wish to see which groups have power in a society, look at who has the ability to censor the language. That’s really what this is about…

      2. Prof. Volokh treats the words “sl@ck-j@w” and ‘c@p succ@r” similarly, at least when used by non-conservatives.

        1. Stop whining clinger

          1. Whining? I am glad it happened. It is always good to understand, and to be able to demonstrate, someone’s true colors.

        2. I don’t think that’s true: as I predicted, your comment using (or perhaps I should say, mentioning) both “slack-jaw” and “cop succor” is still there, for instance.

          1. Both of those terms have been censored — with respect to one term, removed more than once from comments. Give it time.

            Perhaps Prof. Volokh has changed his ways. He has never expressed regret or a change in position, but perhaps he has decided to stop engaging in viewpoint-based censorship against liberals and libertarians. Until he invites Artie Ray Lee Wayne Jim-Bob Kirkland to return, however, it’s just unreliable speculation and hollow talk.

    5. ” The word is extremely jarring and packed with powerful meaning when spoken by a white person.” . What you are saying is that a White person is somehow less than a real person, and if you truly believe that, then say it. . It’s been 57 years since someone had a dream, and we’re supposed to be equal. I don’t think *anyone* should use the word (outside of historical contexts like the one given) but it gets truly ugly when ability to use it depends on the color of ones skin. . I’m thinking of one quite ugly incident where a high school student, wanting to fit in, praised a friend’s particularly adept basketball play. This was on Farcebook and he pretty much plagiarized what his friends were saying, and it was a pretty adept play — except his friends were Black and he wasn’t. And he got expelled. . The other factor is mob violence — and I don’t make a distinction between Black mob violence and White mob violence, both are equally reprehensible. And the threat of either ought to be legally sanctioned….

      1. I’m thinking of one quite ugly incident where a high school student, wanting to fit in, praised a friend’s particularly adept basketball play. This was on Farcebook and he pretty much plagiarized what his friends were saying, and it was a pretty adept play — except his friends were Black and he wasn’t. And he got expelled. .

        Stop.

    6. Your attempt at weaponizing your own preference here is so soft and weakly supported that it has no force at all, and amounts to “I don’t have a problem with snowboarders, but I prefer skiing, personally.” Who cares? That skiing “is completely fine” is not an argument for snowboarding being not-fine.

      The closest you get is comparing “benefits of that happening in class” to “the offense it causes” but your only “argument” is that the latter “vastly outweigh[s]” the former. There’s no explanation for how you calculate the weight. You offer an alternative word, but your parenthetical denies that it’s actually equivalent.

      I think the conclusion you’ve reached is not a wise decision. Although you may prefer snowboarding, skiing is a perfectly good alternative. Whatever benefits you think there are to snowboarding, are vastly outweighed by the benefits of skiing. I hope you will see your error here.

  8. I have a question for Professor Volokh. In an age where precedents regularly get overturned, is it really much of an argument in favor of a proposition to cite litany of precedents holding. Yes indeed, yes indeed, but it completely begs the questions, which seems like the only question, whether these precedents should be overturned. It would be like walking into argument in Lawrence v. Texas armed with repeated citations to Bowers v. hardwick. Yes, yes, that’s what precedent says. But if we were simply going to follow precedent, we wouldn’t be here now, would we? So who is the audience for this sort of argument? Attorneys and advocates? But surely advocates are there to try to overturn precedent, and are hardly going to be intimidated by it (and may not think it worthwhile go pay much attention to). Lowee court judges? Perhaps there may be lower court judges who aren’t aware of precedent but it doesn’t seem to be much of an issue. University administrations? But this seems to be an area where university administrations want to see themselves as agents of change, not as upholders of what they might regard as a thoroughly discredited racist past. It seems to me that there is no choice but to do a Brandeis brief. To cite precedent without a policy argument for keeping it seems a bit like doing ones opponents the favor that Ginsberg’s opponents did for her – identifying the things that need to be changed.

    1. Most precedents don’t get overturned, and the legal system couldn’t work without them

  9. At the end of the day, if someone wants to use the word they will. There is nothing to stop him from doing so. My question is why would he keep using the word after students asked him to not use it? Expurgating the word doesn’t leave anyone in the dark as to what he is trying to say (or reference), nor does it take away from educational value. As a common courtesy and a demonstration of cognitive empathy, it seems like a dumb hill to fight for in 2020.

    1. オラオラオラ: Thanks for posting this; I was wondering whether you might be able to help me with this question. Sometimes, when people ask me not to quote “nigger,” they stress just what a small thing it is — just this one word, and sometimes they even say that there’s no problem with having it be written down (whether in the casebook I wrote or perhaps in other readings); it’s only saying it orally that’s the problem. Just one word!

      Now I think I have a sound response to that, in what I discuss in my post on the subject. But when I point to that, people sometimes respond: Look, the students asked you to stop, shouldn’t you go along with them? Isn’t that second argument, which I think you’re making, in considerable tension with the first? After all, students could equally ask me not to quote “God Hates Fags” from Snyder v. Phelps, or to expurgate various words even in written materials, or not include Mohammed cartoons in talks I give (my standard free speech vs. workplace harassment law talk has an example involving a harassment complaint over the Mohammed cartoon on the post-massacre cover of Charlie Hebdo).

      What’s the guideline you’re asking me to follow, not just in this particular controversy that’s right in front of us right now, but also in ones that are likely to spring up? (Recall that a dean at a school in England has already publicly apologized for a faculty member quoting the word “Negro.”) If we were to accept the principle you’re suggesting (and others are, too), it would be helpful to understand the real boundaries of the principle.

      1. Whenever anyone pulls that “just one small ….” attitude, I ask them why it must be me that caves and not them? Maybe we should flip a coin to see who wins and loses; would that be acceptable? It never is. Which of course reminds me of a story. When I was in the navy, some kid would sell the Navy Times on ship for 20 cents. Give him a quarter and he’d never voluntarily give you change. Press him, and he’d say it’s just a quarter, aren’t you going to give me a tip? I always answered, Sure, here’s a tip, don’t join the effin’ navy! After a while he learned to recognize me and always gave me change. But I really hate that attitude: it’s such a small thing, why do you want it your way, why can’t I have it my way?

        1. It sure doesn’t like paragraph breaks made of empty lines/

          1. The commenting system seems to have developed a distaste for paragraph breaks.

        2. Some people — including some people who might surprise you, if you credit their public personas — just dispense with the ‘small steps’ issue by engaging in wholesale censorship to suit their partisan purpose. Ask Prof. Volokh about Artie Ray Lee Wayne Jim-Bob Kirkland.

      2. I was thinking here of the specific instance of saying the full word in a classroom setting. I don’t know if I could draw a guideline that you would agree with to be honest. But you’re not a robot, I think you could figure it out. I don’t yell at the top of my lungs at a restaurant because that’s silly and inappropriate. I don’t need to be asked not to do that because I know it would disturb other people’s dinner. You are saying that if you give an inch they will take a mile. All sorts of affinity groups will start saying, “hey, well you stopped saying that word, what about this one!?” But I think that premise, realistically, is just incorrect. Different groups are always going to be offended by something. Some of them might approach you and some of them won’t. I’m curious, have other groups approached you about being offended over other words? I’m thinking that they haven’t, or if they have, they haven’t been as persistent or created as much controversy as black students have. But your response seems to always be very strong-arm. Your asking them to prove it, legally or morally or practically or whatever. You say, ‘prove to me why I can’t say this.’ And of course, there is no winning that argument. It is your right. Theoretically, academic freedom demands you be able to say it. You’re asking where to draw the line and the answer is there is no line. If you were to stop saying one word, and then it started snowballing and a bunch of people requested that you stop saying other words, then you could draw the line yourself or erase it entirely (because it never existed). You’ve apparently been asked by people who find the action troubling, to not do something. Law students are super stressed, and black law students come from disproportionately stressful backgrounds generally. You are aware that the thing you are doing is somehow hurtful to them. And you’ve refused to stop, even a little bit. I’m certainly not qualified to work at your level, but knowing that trait of you, I don’t think I would want to work with you… you’re being perceived as kind of an asshole. A righteous asshole (I’m sure you don’t mind). I just don’t think this is worth it. There are better ways out there to be a paragon for free speech without deliberately stepping on so many toes. You know the university can’t and won’t censure you (but you still seem to like to poke your boss with a stick). I assume you have tenure you don’t need to worry about losing your job and I am assuming you are want of nothing at a law professor’s salary. Why not use your talents for something black students would get behind? Why not write amici for cases having to do with the school-to-prison pipeline, criminal law reform, or voting rights? You’ve got friends in high places don’t you? Such a waste.

        1. “I don’t yell at the top of my lungs at a restaurant because that’s silly and inappropriate. I don’t need to be asked not to do that because I know it would disturb other people’s dinner.”

          The analogy is apt but not for the reason you think. In the example of the student asking the professor to change the way the professor teaches, the student is the one yelling in the restaurant. Specifically, the student is yelling at the other patrons, telling them not to eat what the restaurant is serving, because the student doesn’t like that dish and nobody else should eat it as a result.

      3. **Let’s try this with page breaks? Apologies for that. Hopefully this works. I was thinking here of the specific instance of saying the full word in a classroom setting. I don’t know if I could draw a guideline that you would agree with to be honest. But you’re not a robot, I think you could figure it out. I don’t yell at the top of my lungs at a restaurant because that’s silly and inappropriate. I don’t need to be asked not to do that because I know it would disturb other people’s dinner. You are saying that if you give an inch they will take a mile. All sorts of affinity groups will start saying, “hey, well you stopped saying that word, what about this one!?” But I think that premise, realistically, is just incorrect. Different groups are always going to be offended by something. Some of them might approach you and some of them won’t. I’m curious, have other groups approached you about being offended over other words? I’m thinking that they haven’t, or if they have, they haven’t been as persistent or created as much controversy as black students have. But your response seems to always be very strong-arm. Your asking them to prove it, legally or morally or practically or whatever. You say, ‘prove to me why I can’t say this.’ And of course, there is no winning that argument. It is your right. Theoretically, academic freedom demands you be able to say it. You’re asking where to draw the line and the answer is there is no line. If you were to stop saying one word, and then it started snowballing and a bunch of people requested that you stop saying other words, then you could draw the line yourself or erase it entirely (because it never existed). You’ve apparently been asked by people who find the action troubling, to not do something. Law students are super stressed, and black law students come from disproportionately stressful backgrounds generally. You are aware that the thing you are doing is somehow hurtful to them. And you’ve refused to stop, even a little bit. I’m certainly not qualified to work at your level, but knowing that trait of you, I don’t think I would want to work with you… you’re being perceived as kind of an asshole. A righteous asshole (I’m sure you don’t mind). I just don’t think this is worth it. There are better ways out there to be a paragon for free speech without deliberately stepping on so many toes. You know the university can’t and won’t censure you (but you still seem to like to poke your boss with a stick). I assume you have tenure you don’t need to worry about losing your job and I am assuming you are want of nothing at a law professor’s salary. Why not use your talents for something black students would get behind? Why not write amici for cases having to do with the school-to-prison pipeline, criminal law reform, or voting rights? You’ve got friends in high places don’t you? Such a waste.

      4. The real boundaries of the principle, is that there ARE no real boundaries of the principle. That’s the key thing that has to be understood here. There will always be “beyond the pale” words, and if you agree they can’t be used, the pale moves, and new words end up beyond it.

        1. Brett, stop repressing the Irish!

      5. Recall that a dean at a school in England has already publicly apologized for a faculty member quoting the word “Negro.”

        Well the United N-otherword College Fund still uses the N-otherword. When did N-otherword get to be beyond the pale.

        Did the Professor note the racial/ethnic background of the complainants in his class? Were they whites who felt that they needed to virtue signal their shock and dismay for language their ancestors used and assuming the mantel of of great white savior, or those who had been actual victims of racism for whom the language might be truly personal.
        In terms of just being a decent fellow, it likely matters who is doing the complaining, and whether it is important to use language with substantial historical baggage to achieve educational goals; if the message is for the fainting whites to toughen up and stop trying to be everyone else’s savior, then perhaps this is the right course.

  10. “When we call each other `nigger’ it means no harm,’ [rapper] Ice Cube remarks. ‘But if a white person uses it, it’s something different, it’s a racist word.’ Professor Michael Eric Dyson likewise asserts that whites must know and stay in their racial place when it comes to saying ‘nigger.’ ” Can we agree, then, that it’s OK for a white person to use the word “honkie”, but it’s racist for a black person to use it?

    1. It would have to be stronger than “honky” to be fully comparable. How about “white devil” used in the literal sense of “you’re a demonic being who should be exorcised from earth”?

      1. By whose standard? If blacks get to choose who says what words which offend them, then whites get to choose similarly.

        1. There is no comparison between nigger on the one hand and honky or white devil on the other. To make the comparison in the first place is to reveal embarrassing levels of cluelessness about what is happening in this discussion. If you think these things are the same, you don’t get it and cannot be made to get it.

          However, assuming for the sake of argument that they were the same, you’re still wrong. If you think Group A is unfairly seeking preferential treatment for manufactured outrage over a word, the solution is not to respond in kind. It’s to lead by example. If black people want to use honky or white devil (I’m white), I don’t fucking care. If you want to live in a world where humans don’t weaponize racial language preferences, the solution is for you to not weaponize racial language preferences. Do what Ghandi said.

          1. I meant literally saying white people are devils manufactured by a mad scientist, as some (thankfully few) people hold.

            That’s why I specified a *literal* meaning.

  11. statements a university -> statements at a ubiversity

  12. Very academic. In the actual world, the punishment for one race is having to spend several years in court and your life savings on attorneys. Eventually you may likely “win”. Meanwhile the people who make clearly unconstitutional rules face no consequences, even when they do it knowingly and purposefully with the intent deprive people of their rights and protections — as long as they don’t target the wrong people.

  13. I don’t think we should be getting hung up on the actual “nigger” word. It’s the intent that counts. If someone is friends with someone else and they banter the word around, then that’s OK. However, if someone uses it as a hateful slur, then that’s not OK. It’s like a lady’s high-heeled shoe. Lots of women (and some men?), wear high-heeled shoes. But if I was to pick one up and use it to attack someone, then that would be wrong. It comes down to usage, not the thing being used.

  14. Professor Volokh could avoid this issue entirely by asserting that he is trans-black at the beginning of the semester.

    1. Ask him how he avoids the issue with respect to words and commenters whose politics he dislikes. Perhaps I could offer a modest cash reward to a student who asks Prof. Volokh — in a class addressing censorship — about Artie Ray Lee Wayne Jim-Bob Kirkland and the relatively benign words that have been censored at the Conspiracy. That may be the only way to get an explanation.

      1. Jesus, Arthur, okay already! We get your point.

  15. Sorry about the paragraph breaks being removed from comments posted last night. I e-mailed our tech person about it, and he says it should now be fixed.

  16. While we can probably all agree the n-word is currently the most offensive work in the English language. I truly worry about other attempts to force language into all sorts on political pretzels, like the invention of personal pronouns or the banning of the c-word.

    I’ve been alive long enough the while the n-word has been disfavored my entire life the “correct” reference for an African-American has morphed from colored (as in NAACP) to Negro (as in UNCF) to black to African-American.

    The evolution for people of different sexual orientations from homosexual to gay to gay and lesbian to LGBT to LGBTQ to LGBTQ+ to a dizzying array of self described sexual identities including “objectum sexual”. One interesting example is that queer was used as a pejorative, but now some people self identify a queer and expect others to refer to them as such.

    While the “slants” case brought up a legal issue, there has been a movement to discourage the use of the word “oriental” to describe people of Asian descent, although some Asians don’t seem to mind or object. While Asians have been subject to discrimination I’ve never come across the use of oriental as a pejorative, rather than a description generally applied primarily to people descended from Chinese, Japanese or other related cultures.

    Some of these are overt attempts to weaponize language in favor of a political agenda.

    1. Confound it, I accidentally flagged the comment. My apologies.

    2. Who is an asian anyway. Asia is a pretty big place, and includes Armenia, Qatar, Oman, Lebanon… not exactly person of the Orient.
      Africa too has lots of people who don’t look like what we mean when people say Africans.
      And just what is someone with all the physical traits of his Kenyan ancestry born in the UK, and lives in the US. Seems the only currently acceptable term is African American, which seems to be doubly incorrect.

      These labels are so imprecise as to have practically no meaning. Any offense the lister assumes is the message they chose to hear, as much as the message the speaker wished to say.

      1. “Seems the only currently acceptable term is African American, which seems to be doubly incorrect. ”

        I believe “person of color” is currently in vogue, and addresses your concern.

      2. Who is an asian anyway. Asia is a pretty big place, and includes Armenia, Qatar, Oman, Lebanon… not exactly person of the Orient.

        Interestingly enough, the term “the Orient” was originally applied to Lebanon and other places in the Eastern Mediterranean. The Orient Express didn’t get its name by going to China.

    3. APA style manual says we should use “Black.”

      Personally, I prefer “Human.”

  17. ” some law student groups distributed a flyer with the heading ‘Can I say the n-word?,’ and responded,
    if you’re ‘black or mixed with black,’ “Do what you want,’ but
    if you’re ‘white’ or ‘a person of color but not black,’ ‘Nope[,] never.’
    This can be fixed by correcting the prompt from “Can I say the n-word?” to “Can I say the n-word without offending anybody?”
    which devolves to the original question only if you care about offending people unnecessarily.

  18. Is it OK for white actors to say it on the stage or on film? If so, what’s the difference between quoting is as an actor and quoting it simply as a reader?

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