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Letters to the Editor

Letter: Response to Geoffrey Stone’s “Free Speech on Campus” Lecture

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

To the Editor:

Though I was not able to attend “Free Speech on Campus,” the lecture given by Geoffrey Stone, professor of law at the University of Chicago, I looked forward to reading about the community’s response in The Herald. To my dismay, I learned that yet another highly educated white man used the power he had at the podium to mock a student who respectfully asked him to stop using racial epithets. Before you jump to the conclusion that I wasn’t there and that I missed the context, let me assure you that the lecture was recorded and I watched it.

After Stone told the student that he would not refrain from using racial epithets, he used some curse words and asked that student — mid sentence — if the use of those curses was acceptable. I am outraged that this eminent speaker dared to make the joke that his use of the word “jackass” is just as insulting as his use of the “n-word.”

The English language is not equal for all of its users. There is no word I can conjure from the dictionary that demeans a wealthy, educated white man the way I might conjure slurs that demean a black person, a woman or a Jew for being born the way they are.

What I saw in the way Stone treated one of my fellow community members was more than a lecturer being a jackass. I saw a man who chooses to be willfully ignorant about the hatred wrapped into the very phonemes of the words he utters. No amount of hand waving, quotation marks and legal scholarship can hide the fact that he has the power to use racial epithets without recourse. I call on Stone to apologize to that student.

We did not invite him here to talk about free speech as interpreted in the Constitution — we invited him to talk about the more imprecise and debatable notion of free speech on campus. Stone failed to consider the nuances he was charged to address when he mocked that student. To me, supporting free speech without acknowledging how acts of speech can threaten the marginalized members of our campus is not a position I will be cultivating at Brown.

Joey DiZoglio Jr. ’15 MD’20

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  1. Man with Axe says:

    I recommend to you this book, “Nigger: The Strange Career of a Troublesome Word,” by Randall Kennedy.

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