A pair of Emory University School of Law professors is under fire after using the “N-word” in their respective classes.
Although Assistant Vice President of Communications and Public Affairs Laura Diamond did not identify those responsible, one of the professors reached out to the student paper The Wheel for an explanation and apology.
Adjunct Robert Saunooke, a member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and president of the National Native American Bar Association, said that he was attempting to “illuminate demeaning and racist terms” used against Native Americans during class on September 9.
Specifically, he said the terms “sand ni**er” and “red ni**er” were once commonly used by whites against Natives. (Ironically, a University of Wisconsin student recently alleged someone scrawled the latter term, supposedly rare these days, on her dorm door.)
Saunooke said a student told him “she was offended” at his use of the terms, whereupon he immediately apologized and explained he was merely trying to teach an “unfiltered history” about Natives. After class, Saunooke went to the Law School Registrar’s Office to personally report the incident.
At the office, he also met with Black Law Student Association (BLSA) President Enuamaka Mkparu (20L) and Student Bar Association President Amneh Minkara (20L). Saunooke said he apologized to the students and became very emotional.
That day, Mkparu wrote a letter, co-signed by Minkara, to the Law School community addressing the incident. She did not identify Saunooke by name or mention the second professor who reportedly used the slur.
Mkparu’s letter recounted the incident as reported by students, which Saunooke said was accurate. She also addressed her meeting with Saunooke and referenced Law Professor Paul J. Zwier II’s use of the N-word last year.
“I expressed to [Saunooke] how emotionally fatiguing the incidents of last year were and why it is particularly important to be mindful of the use of racially derogatory slurs,” Mkparu wrote. “I stated that while I could understand the context of the conversation, the use of the word was unnecessary and disruptive to the learning experience.”
Despite the apology, Saunooke says he wants to maintain an “open discourse.”
“I’m apologetic, but at the same time, the reality for my people is that our history is ugly and tainted and bloody and I don’t filter it because I want it to have the same impact it has on me,” he said.
Emory Law’s Paul Zwier, who’s white, was barred from teaching required law courses a year ago after using the N-word in context; he subsequently was suspended and remains so today.
IMAGE: Oxalis37 / Flickr.com