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The Nigaleian Defense

Daniel Rooney ’06 has a masterful letter in the Record which outlines the sort of defense case that Aida Laleian ought to, or is perhaps planning to, use.

According to the definition cited by Christopher Sewell ’05 and Jeffrey Delaney ’05 in their opinion piece of Sept. 14 “Responding to discrimination,” the word “nigger” can be taken to mean “a member of a socially disadvantaged class of persons.”

While I obviously was not present at the time this phrase was uttered, it seems most logical to assume from the context we have been given that “nigger” was being used in the sense of a disadvantaged person.

The professor, when saying she did not want her field of study to “be used as a nigger,” may well have been saying she did not wish it to be treated as second-class. Thus her statement, at least according to the definition quoted by Sewell and Delaney, was not necessarily an expression of racism.

It’s a great letter, just the sort that I would have been writing to the Record 20 years ago. [See your future, Danny. — ed.] Rooney often seems to be a voice of reason on College Council, so I don’t think that he is just flacking for Laleian.

I don’t believe, however, that Laleian just happened to use n****r as a synonym for “socially disadvantaged class of persons,” but, at the same time, I don’t think she is actually racist. Indeed, not a single person has claimed that she is. My guess, derived from the circumstances and some private commentary, is that she is a hot-tempered jerk with a history not being a nice colleague. I suspect that she and Ali have had less than cordial relations. I believe Lenhardt’s characterization of the incident as one where the word was used, on purpose, in order to “provoke or hurt the African-American colleague who was present.”

Still, this sort of defence is a plausible one. If the whole dispute ends up in front of a grievance committee, I am not sure that Laleian would be found guilty.