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Penner ’90 on Nigaleian

My Carter housemate Jane Penner ’90 sent in these comments on the Nigaleian controversy.

In response to recent EphBlog posts debating whether or not Laleian’s use of the word “nigger” can fairly be called “racist”:

I’m all for semantic sleuthing, but the use of “nigger” in the context described by Dean Lenhart’s memo seems clearly racist to me. The memo states that sanctions were imposed because the administration determined that the slur was uttered in order “to provoke and/or hurt” Laylah Ali during a heated discussion. While it is certainly true that “nigger” can be spoken and written in non-racist contexts by people who are not expressing racist sentiments, the usage described in the memo is obviously malignant rather than benign.

You suggest that Laleian may be more accurately characterized as a “jerk” than as a “racist.” But if a jerk resorts to using racial slurs in order to gain tactical advantage in an argument, isn’t it fair to call that person a racist jerk? A garden-variety jerk may use words as weapons, but only a racist stoops to “nigger.” Let’s not mince words in characterizing Laleian’s actions that day. If it’s not racist to use the word “nigger” in order to hurt and provoke an African American, what IS racist, for goodness sake?

To be a racist, in my view, you actually have to believe racist things. I have more thoughts on this in the forums.

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#1 Comment By Jane Penner On September 23, 2004 @ 9:39 am

If we could only deem an action racist when we *knew* the beliefs of the actor were racist, it would be virtually impossible to ever make the charge.

Maybe Dave has the ability to read minds, but I prefer to judge people by their actions. (If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s probably a duck.)