Friday, May 5, 2017

Why are racist 'mere words' deeds, but the anti-racist 'mere words' of a university just lip service?

     "Note, too, that the expressivist position suffers from an uncomfortable contradiction.  A university administration that merely condemns hate speech, without mobilizing punitive sanctions, is held to have done little, to have offered 'mere words.'  And yet this skepticism about the power of 'mere words' comports oddly with the attempt to regulate 'mere words' that, since they are spoken by those not in a position of authority, would seem to have even less symbolic force.  Why is it 'mere words' when a university only condemns racist speech, but not 'mere words' that the student utters in the first place?  Whose words are 'only words'?  Why are racist words deeds, but anti-racist words just lip service?"

     Henry Louis Gates, Jr., "Let them talk:  Why civil liberties pose no threat to civil rights," The New Republic 209, no. 12/13 (September 20/27, 1993):  43 (37-49).
     Note, by the way, that, at Middlebury and elsewhere of late, the students (and/or those posing as such), now taking the opposite side, haven't just been uttering "'mere words'"; they have been engaging in forms of low-grade assault.  It is, I suspect, in part for this reason that some have been calling for the application of "punitive sanctions" on the part of college and university administrations.

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