Some students, faculties, and administrators have argued that even hearing racist epithets quoted is traumatic, or at least highly offensive, to students, and therefore decent people should not quote them. Most of these complaints have arisen over citations of the word "nigger", whether from court judgments, court records, historical documents, literature, or any other reason. In my view, these words shouldn't be taboo for serious academic discussion, and there is a sharp difference between misusing the words (especially to offend someone) and properly mentioning how the words were used in a case or book or speech .

But let me try to approach the problem a little differently. Tell me if you think it will help.

I assume that if it is so harmful and unjustifiable for students to have to hear the word, then it is also harmful and unjustifiable for them to see the word. In fact, one of the most recent complaints has been that a Stanford professor wrote the word on the blackboard; One commenter on this blog seems to object to my even quoting the word in blog posts. others have raised similar objections.

And it's not surprising: we are all educated people and we all know the power of the written word; For example, no one would doubt that it would be extremely offensive to email someone to call them by a nickname. If the distinction between use and mention doesn't matter for oral explanations, why should it matter for written statements? Whatever a professor may or may not say in class, students will likely see the word in many places: it appears in over 10,000 court judgments on Westlaw, in thousands of law review articles, and in many other places including history books, novels and more.

Enter Advanced Profanity Filter, a Chrome app that will delete any words that should be deleted. (That's the logo above.) The default list contains nastiness and fuzziness, but can be reconfigured as needed. Anyone who uses the filter can be protected from seeing different words in Westlaw, Google Scholar, or anywhere else. Whether you are reading an online court opinion, a newspaper article, or an email, the word is spelled out as "n *****" or something similar. (And if you want to distinguish situations where the filter is different from situations where the word is "n *****" in the original, you can use an unusual cancellation, such as "n @@@@ @ ".)

Of course, this only works for normal text. I don't know of any such filter for PDF viewers. But it should be a pretty straightforward coding project (at least in terms of PDFs with searchable text) – presumably a university that really believes their students need such shielding could have their technicians create such a filter and then actually do the whole thing World. Likewise, it could create such a filter for other browsers, and possibly even have a speech recognition beeper for videos, songs, and the like (although I realize this is a more difficult task).

Then the university could have several options:

  1. It might encourage black students – and maybe even professors – to use this filter to prevent them from being traumatized by seeing "niggers". (It might encourage gay students to do the same, especially if it adds "fagots" to the list.)
  2. It might encourage all students and professors to run this filter as many students reject (or perhaps should, according to the university, reject such words) even if they do not relate to the identity groups to which they belong. It might add other sentences that some students find offensive, such as: B. "illegal alien". And the university could of course make it as easy as possible to use the filter, for example by having it turned on by default on computers it sells in student stores.
  3. It might require students and professors to run the filter as it reminds them of the university's view that they shouldn't quote these words out loud: if students or professors are a deleted version of a case, the more likely they will be also say a deleted version of the word. And this will also signal that the university is refusing to allow its network to spread such terrible words.

Do you think universities should do this? Some possible answers, although there are many others:

(1.) Great idea! (Please indicate if you would like to choose option A, B, C or something else.)

(2.) Not a good idea as the filter cannot tell if a particular word was written by someone who is black (or, for other nicknames, a member of the relevant group). The theory: There is nothing wrong with black people quoting the word – it's just other races people who shouldn't be quoting it, and a filter that filters out the writings of black authors who use the word is unacceptably too extensive. But maybe there could be a filter that focuses on Westlaw, Lexis and Google Scholar that first identifies the opinion author's name and looks it up in a table that shows the race of each judge….

(3.) Not a good idea because reading the word is okay and non-traumatic, but hearing it (again in a quote from a case or similar) is something that "(h) uman decency and respect for the "Forbid" feelings from others without qualification. "

(4.) This proposal lacks the point: the aim should not be to prevent trauma for black students from seeing or hearing the word – it should be to white people (or more generally non-black people ) Stop saying or writing the word regardless of who sees or hears it. Even if black students are automatically shielded from it as long as white people cite it in material they write (or include unexplained passages containing it in their coursework or the like), that's still bad.

(5.) Not a good idea as (A) university students should be encouraged to read current sources as they actually exist (offensive words and everything) – and (B) law students entering a profession where such words are routinely used appearing (in opinions, briefs, case documents, legal proceedings, oral disputes, and witness interviews) should also be taught to get the raw information, however offensive, and then decide, as a tactical matter, how best to cite it . By encouraging students to filter out such words, even as they read precedents, articles, books, and the like, you will learn the opposite of the norms and practices they need to learn.

As you may summarize, I'll take the last of these views (for the reasons Randall Kennedy and I outlined in "Quoting Epithets in the Classroom and Beyond"), but I'd like to hear what others say on this as well think about this question in relation to the thought experiment in the broader sense.

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