Officials at the University of York in the UK apologized to students after an English lecturer read aloud the word “negro” from black-authored source material.
According to the Daily Mail, students were “distressed” upon hearing the word, which came from passages by (black) writers William Edward Burghardt Du Bois and Fritz Fanon.
One of the former’s works actually is titled “The Philadelphia Negro.”
When the offended undergrads complained to English Department Chair Helen Smith, she responded with a letter of apology. Smith noted that while the word wasn’t used “offensively,” she recognized the “considerable distress” it had caused:
I am extremely sorry that this happened, and I have written to all staff in the department to make it clear that they should not pronounce racial slurs as part of their teaching and that if those words appear in texts or on PowerPoint slides, they should be prefaced with an appropriate content warning.
Smith followed that up with a message to the department: Don’t use “negro” henceforth. (Or, as she wrote in her email, “n*gro.”) If lecturers must read aloud the term, Smith suggested the following preface:
I am going to be using quotations which feature racial slurs, in an attempt to fully explore the topic, and in no way to condone the use of such words in other contexts by those who are not members of the specific racial groups who have chosen to reclaim these terms.
[A]cademics […] said the case highlighted a dangerous move towards censorship and compared ‘snowflake’ students to employees of the Ministry of Truth in the George Orwell novel Nineteen Eighty-Four.
Professor Frank Furedi, emeritus professor of sociology at Kent University, said: ‘The obsession with the policing of language has become a caricature of itself. The word negro, which was used by pan-Africanists to refer to themselves, is now rebranded as a source of distress by students who do not have a clue about what racism means.’
Professor Dennis Hayes, director of Academics For Academic Freedom and a professor of education at Derby University, said: ‘These over-sensitive students are the products of a therapeutic education system that has taught them they must never feel offended or uncomfortable.
‘They come to university where they are expected to develop intellectually by discussing challenging ideas and they say they can’t cope.’
The Campaign for Real Education’s Chris McGovern called UY’s students “snowflakes,” and said “It comes to something when even black writers and anti-colonialists are being censored.”
A university spokesman said the school was “committed” to offering a wide range of literary works, but would be “sensitive” when using texts that “contain racial terms.”
Good thing the United Negro College Fund is located here in the colonies, eh?