(Warning, this article contains graphic language):
Specifically, while speaking to his “ANT 212: Cultural Freedoms — Hate Speech, Blasphemy, and Pornography” class about “oppressive symbolism,” anthropology professor Lawrence Rosen asked his students, “what is worse, a white man punching a black man, or a white man calling a black man a n****r?” As the class discussed, he reportedly went on to say the word “n*****” two more times.
According to student Devyn Holliday, who was in the class at the time, Rosen repeatedly uttered the profane word because he “was describing what is acceptable as free speech and what is not.” When pressed, Rosen allegedly told students, “it’s supposed to deliver a gut punch, so that’s why I used it.”
His reasoning behind using the word, however, was completely irrelevant to several of his students who were absolutely shocked by what he said. “All the black students were looking at each other as if asking whether he actually said that,” explained Destiny Salter, who was also in the class at the time.
One of the students who was upset by what Rosen said was E Jeremijenko-Conley, who, according to The Daily Princetonian, “identifies as white.” After hearing the word uttered several times, he responded by saying, “I’m not comfortable with a white professor using the N-word.”
Malachi Byrd, another student who was upset by his use of the word, asked, “so are you just going to keep using the N-word?”
In response to Byrd, Rosen allegedly said, “yes, if I think it’s necessary.” Outraged, Byrd and several others stormed out of the classroom.
A bit later, though, Byrd returned and demanded an apology. Rosen, however, refused to apologize. “I don’t think I need to apologize; I did not oppress anyone,” he reasoned.
After the class ended, the angry students filed a complaint with Justine Levine, the director of studies at Rockefeller College. Upon receiving the complaint, Levine mentioned that she will “work with the students to resolve the issue.”
The resolution, however, will likely not involve Rosen being punished. This is because, according to a Princeton spokesperson, “robust debate” is “central to the mission of the university, even if it involves uncomfortable ideas.”
Disturbingly, though, Rosen’s students aren’t the only ones who believe it’s wrong for a white person to say the word “n*****” regardless of the context. There are even some educators, like Christine Berchini, a professor of English at the University of Wisconsin at Eau Claire, who agree with them.
“I would expect more from someone who studies anthropology, given how deeply such studies rely on context to understand the development of cultures and societies,” stated Berchini while speaking to reporters about the incident.
“The context within which this word was created to enslave, oppress and disenfranchise people of color should suggest that one must think carefully about how they are encouraging students to think about language invented strictly for the purposes of subjugation,” she explained.
“When you’re white in this country, you’re taught that everything belongs to you,” added Berchini, referring to a quote by author Ta-Nehisi Coates.
Fortunately, Princeton isn’t the only university to recently stand up for free speech. Earlier this week, for example, officials at Columbia University in New York City released a statement promising to cover the security costs for controversial speaking events instead of forcing the students or speakers to do so.
Specifically, they stated, “beginning in the 2017-2018 academic year, for those events sponsored by recognized undergraduate student groups that the University Event Review determines to require the presence of university delegates, security costs and security-related facilities costs for the events will not be charged to student activities fees, but instead these costs will be fully covered by the University.”
Unsurprisingly, the school’s decision was lauded by many, including Nathan Rosin, the president of the Columbia College Student Council (CCSC).
“It’s a really big win for us because those events are just a huge financial burden. [It] means that it won’t be affecting any future student programming,” celebrated Rosin.
Columbia University’s new policy comes shortly after the Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a “Statement of Interest” in a discrimination lawsuit against the University of California, Berkeley (UCB) by the Young America’s Foundation (YAF) and the Berkeley College Republicans (BCR), two conservative student groups.
The DOJ reportedly submitted the “Statement of Interest” because, according to them, they “have a significant interest in the vigilant protection of constitutional freedoms in institutions of higher learning” and “will not stand by idly” as Berkeley violates the Constitution.
“The United States respectfully submits this Statement of Interest [because]…in the United States’ view, Plaintiffs have properly pleaded those speech regulations imposed by the University of California, Berkeley…violated their First Amendment rights,” they explained in their statement.
To clarify, they added, “Plaintiffs have adequately alleged that neither the unwritten High Profile Speaker Policy nor the written Major Events Policy meaningfully restrict the discretion of administrators in deciding which speakers and events are subject to those policies and the onerous restrictions that attach to them.”
The authoritarian left must not be allowed to continue policing the language of others. Hopefully, this incident doesn’t deter Rosen, or any other educator, from using the word “n*****” when speaking about the idea of hate speech.