Jody David Armour Profile picture
Oct 7, 2018 10 tweets 4 min read Twitter logo Read on Twitter
I enjoyed talking to these great @usc undergrads & profs about free speech & academic freedom, for which I’m a fierce advocate: Black & other socially marginalized dissidents wind up bearing the brunt of crackdowns on transgressive utterances by status quo defenders & apologists.
Understandably, many find the N-word I deploy in my scholarship offensive & dehumanizing—a form of “hate speech.” For them, the word’s deeply racist roots make any & all current-day uses of it tainted fruit of the poisonous tree. The NAACP formally buried it in Detroit in 2006!
I’ve had some of these N-word abolitionists picket my speaking engagements b/c they found my use of the blood-soaked epithet in print & in speeches offensive and dehumanizing: a form of “hate speech.” For them, the word’s indelibly hateful meaning made me a purveyor of hate.
I 100% support those who want to protest me for using—worse, in their view I’m normalizing—a word full of antiblackness, pain, and violence. I may profoundly disagree with them, but their protests of me serve their free speech interests and deepen the debate, so I salute them.
I also appreciated that those protesting my N-word-laden discourse did not shut it down despite their strong disagreement with its style and substance. Especially on a university campus, this is the balance that must be struck to protect the free speech of marginalized dissidents
When I interviewed Ice Cube, he described how police cuffed and arrested him for saying on stage “Fuck tha Police, coming straight from the underground—a young nigga got it bad ‘cause I’m brown, and not the other color, so police think they have the authority to kill a minority.”
And I just hosted an event that honored Karen Bass for taking the FBI to task in congressional hearings for characterizing #BlackLivesMatter and other activists as Black Identity Extremists in violation of their freedom of speech & association interests.
Crackdowns on freedom of expression in the form of hate speech restrictions administered by either private (e.g., university) or state actors will over time disproportionately redound to the detriment of marginalized voices of dissent, resistance, and revolt.
So I believe @USC students struck a thoughtful balance on Thursday by strongly protesting but not shutting down @benshapiro’s speech in Bovard Auditorium, the same Auditorium in which @icecube performed Fuck tha Police and discussed the importance of free speech for dissidents.
But this is a complicated, nuanced issue that can’t be reduced to slogans you can slap on a bumper sticker, stitch on a throw pillow, or paint on the side of a barn. I’ll continue the discussion next semester with a series of law school convos on transgressive words & symbols.

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