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Black Law Students at Rutgers Outraged After White Student Uses Racial Slur While Quoting Legal Case

Black Law Students at Rutgers Outraged After White Student Uses Racial Slur While Quoting Legal Case

“At the height of a ‘racial reckoning,’ a responsible adult should know not to use a racial slur regardless of its use in a 1993 opinion”

It’s not like this student was trying to insult anyone, he was talking about something in legal context, at a law school.

The New York Times reports:

Debate Erupts at N.J. Law School After White Student Quotes Racial Slur

The controversy over the use of a racial slur that has embroiled a public law school in New Jersey began with a student quoting from case law during a professor’s virtual office hours.

The first-year student at Rutgers Law School in Newark, who is white, repeated a line from a 1993 legal opinion, including the epithet, when discussing a case.

What followed has jolted the state institution, unleashing a polarizing debate over the constitutional right to free speech on campus and the power of a hateful word at a moment of intense national introspection over race, equity and systemic bias.

The tension comes at a time of heightened sensitivity to offensive words on college and law school campuses, where recent uses of slurs by professors during lessons have resulted in discipline and dismissal.

In early April, in response to the incident, a group of Black first-year students at Rutgers Law began circulating a petition calling for the creation of a policy on racial slurs and formal, public apologies from the student and the professor, Vera Bergelson.

“At the height of a ‘racial reckoning,’ a responsible adult should know not to use a racial slur regardless of its use in a 1993 opinion,” states the petition, which has been signed by law school students and campus organizations across the country.

“We vehemently condemn the use of the N-word by the student and the acquiescence of its usage,” the petition says.

Professor Bergelson, 59, has said that she did not hear the word spoken during the videoconference session, which three students attended after a criminal law class, and would have corrected the student if she had.


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Meanwhile, it is every other word in your typical rap song.

    UJ in reply to MajorWood. | May 4, 2021 at 2:27 pm

    Snoop Dogg tells us: “If a n-word gets an attitude, pop it like it’s hot.” It’s totally OK for him say that, but if you’re a melanin-deficient law student, you absolutely may not repeat verbatim a part of a legal argument from 30 years ago.

Now you can’t even read MLK’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”, one of the most powerful civil-rights documents, because it contains the N-word. If MLK were alive today, there would be factions trying to cancel him over his writings.

    healthguyfsu in reply to OldProf2. | May 4, 2021 at 1:45 pm

    MLK would never ascend to the forefront. Maxine and company would have had him axed with the support of the Pelosis, Harrises, and Bidens of the country.

As usual, this “controversy” is just a bunch of cry-bullies demanding power.

You’d think folks at a law school would understand the odiousness of the heckler’s veto, but since that would get in the way of the agenda, it must be ignored.

henrybowman | May 4, 2021 at 7:42 pm

I’m totally over this national game of gotcha, over a word that blacks overuse to the point of total abandon. I’ve been a nice guy all my life to avoid unnecessarily hurting feelings. But if this word is going to be weaponized, then I may start picking up the ones dropped on the battlefield and using them myself. What do I have to lose, given that my skin color already makes me an irredeemable racist?

The Friendly Grizzly | May 4, 2021 at 7:49 pm

Black Law Students Outraged. They’d be more outraged if they had nothing about which to BE outraged.

Suggestion for Rutger’s Law School: Thank you for your concern. However, reading, quoting and listening to lots of offensive words is part and parcel of a legal education and career. Perhaps, you should consider changing your career choice.

    lawgrad in reply to jb4. | May 7, 2021 at 12:14 am

    If this is the court case that I am thinking of, the word actually appears in the official printed court decision.

thanaburgh | May 5, 2021 at 9:46 am

“At the height of a ‘racial reckoning,’ a responsible adult should …

…be “adult” enough to know the difference between a word being used as a slur versus referentially.

…be “mature” enough to not have single spoken word drive them mad with rage or anguish.

…be “responsible” enough to not provide a knee-jerk, Pavlovian response exacerbating the situation with faux outrage.

…be “reasonable” enough to realize that the heinous, terrible, hurtful word is used freely in today’s society (by one particular ethnic group), often loudly through car speakers or on a public stage.

These black lawyers are a bunch of candy asses …

I was taught that if the word was in the case, you get to use the word. Similarly in trial work, if the word is in the testimony, you get to use the word.
In teaching evidence, that lesion was brought home in US v Neighbors, 590 f.3d 485 (7th Cir. 2009:,

Well, I’m glad that has been cleared up. So, while speaking about and quoting case law, I can’t use the appropriate terms. But I can be bombarded with that racial epithet shouted freely, usually by the very people screaming “racism”, and I can’t object to the denigration of a person. Okay. Got it. Hypocrites!

I guess screening of the 1974 movie, “Lenny” (6 Oscar nominations, under the old rules of course) would be out of the question?