Tuesday, June 13, 2006

More Madness

Devon Carbado, "Defending "Nigger"?" on blackprof

Some of you might recall that a few years ago Professor Randall Kennedy of Harvard Law School authored a book titled: Nigger: The Strange Career of a troublesome Word." Perhaps not surprisingly, the book engendered a fair amount of controversy, and we explored some of that controversy on this blog. (See The Role of "Nigger" (or "Nigga") in Public Discourse). For the first time, Professor Kennedy testified in court about the use of the term. The case involves a white man, Nicholas Minucci, accused of beating a black man, Glenn Moore, with a baseball bat. According to law enforcement officials, the defendant swirled racial epithets --including Nigger--at the Moore as he physically abused him, and told Moore that he would be taught a lesson for attempting to rob a white person. Because the crime is being prosecuted as a hate crime, Minucci faces up to 25 years in prison. Part of the defense's strategy is to suggest that the term "Nigger" has multiple meanings, and that it is not necessarily associated with racial violence. This is precisely the point that Professor Kennedy makes in his book and made as an expert witness for the defense: "It [Nigger] is used by all sorts of people, black and white, and other groups as well." When Minucci's lawyer, Albert Gaudelli, asked Professor Kennedy to be a witness for the defense for no fee, he initially declined. Gaudelli did not give up: "Do you believe what you wrote. Are you willing to stand by it?" Indeed Professor Kennedy was: " I do not feel I was championing anybody's cause," Professor Kennedy told the New York Times. He testified "to advance the aims of justice." Reflecting on how things went, Gaudelli commented: "I think I did good. I got a Rhoddes Scholar to testify for nothing and all I had to do is drive him to the airport." (read entire piece)


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