In a story from CNN today, it was reported that a Roger Williams University board member “used the N-word” during a board meeting in response to concerns that the board itself was not racially diverse enough (apparently he wasn’t too happy about it). Apparently he explained his use of the word by saying that “it just slipped
out” and that “he’d never used it before.” Apparently annoyed that people kept bringing it up, he pointed out that he’d apologized, and asked “what can I do, kill myself?”
Firstly, it’s hard to believe that he’s never used the word before. I don’t know anyone –racist or non-racist — who doesn’t appreciate the seriousness of the word. Racists appreciate it, and that’s why they use it — for malicious effect. Non-racists understand it, and that’s why they don’t use it. A “flippant” use of the N-word in a board meeting in the middle of a heated discussion about racial diversity is a bit hard to swallow. As Confucius reminds us, we don’t have “inner” and “outer” ethical selves. What we do, and the choices we make, are sure signs of who we are (very existentialist, actually). Mu suspicions here are Confucian — I clearly don’t know the guy, but from his seemingly annoyed response — “what should I do, kill myself?” I’ll have to guess that he’s in the former category, a racist who understands the seriousness of word and who just so happened to get caught revealing his identity via foot in mouth disease in public.
Oh…should he kill himself? No. But he should probably resign.
(this is cross-posted at In Socrates’ Wake)
In an article last year in Teaching Philosophy, I (and my co-authors, one of whom is Adam Potthast, a co-contributor here at ISW) argued that philosophers should take a second look at using virtual forums (message boards) in their classes. Although we provided a number of reasons in favor of using them, our main one was obvious: virtual forums added significantly (when used right, which is not easy) to the level of significant critical interaction between students. As a result, we believe that VFs can help to make students better thinkers.