Patricia J. Williams on "Borrowed Bodies"
"Last June Nicholas Minucci, a young white man, spotted Glenn Moore, an African-American man, walking down a street of Minucci's neighborhood of Howard Beach, Queens, an area that is generally described as "all white." Minucci leapt out of his car, accosted Moore and, employing a baseball bat he just happened to be armed with, beat Moore while spewing racial epithets, then stole his sneakers. Moore ended up with contusions on his body and two skull fractures. [...]
Inside the courtroom, Minucci has been immersed in studies of the history of the N-word. He has armed himself with a copy of Harvard law professor Randall Kennedy's provocatively titled book Nigger and peruses it conspicuously while seated at counsel table, cracking his knuckles intermittently. In that book, Kennedy flatly claims that the word "nigger" has lost its sting, that it is just part of American idiom, that usage by hip-hop musicians and high-fiving basketball players has rendered it little more than the currency of facile badinage. Minucci likes this a-contextual take on the word; indeed, it is the cornerstone of his defense against the hate crime charge. Minucci just loves hip- hop and high-fiving and basketball to death--the bat notwithstanding. As a soulful born-again, neo-kinsman of Ludacris, he claims to have utilized the N-word's most casual and nonconfrontational connotation when inquiring if Mr. Moore might possibly have lost his way. (read more)