LINGUIST List 4.288

Wed 21 Apr 1993

FYI: Boston U., Racial terms

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  1. BU Conference on Language Development, BU Conference
  2. Paul T Kershaw, The limits of racial slurs

Message 1: BU Conference

Date: Thu, 15 Apr 93 19:38:56 -0BU Conference
From: BU Conference on Language Development <>
Subject: BU Conference

 To all of you who sent letters in support of the Boston University
Program in Applied Linguistics and the annual Conference on Language
Development: THANK YOU!

 We are very pleased to announce that the Program in Applied Linguistics
now appears to be secure. In fact, we expect that we will be announcing
a new Master's Degree program in Applied Linguistics in the near future.

 Thanks to an offer from the Linguistic Society of America, the
BU Conference on Language Development *WILL* be held during the coming
year jointly sponsored by the LSA, in conjunction with the annual
LSA conference that will take place in Boston in January of 1994.
A call for papers will be sent out within the next month, with
abstracts due by July 31.

 We plan to resume our annual fall conferences as of October or
November of 1994.

Carol Neidle, on behalf of the Program in Applied Linguistics and the
 1993-94 Conference Committee
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Message 2: The limits of racial slurs

Date: Sun, 18 Apr 93 1:08:32 EDTThe limits of racial slurs
From: Paul T Kershaw <>
Subject: The limits of racial slurs

An interesting tidbit that might interest you sociolinguists out there: A
recent firing of a Central Michigan University coach has raised the question of
the issue of the boundaries of the usage of racial terms, in this case
"nigger". Keith Dambrot, head coach of the CMU Chippewas basketball team, was
fired for saying, "What this team needs is a few more niggers," and then
indicating his assistant coach as an example. Dambrot is white, and the
assistant coach and most of the players are black. None of the players
complained; the firing followed public outrage as the incident leaked to the
media. Dambrot is suing that his 1st Amendment rights are being breeched,
since he and everyone in the room knew that by "nigger" he meant "aggressive
African-American" (the meaning of the term in my idiolect as well, although I
don't use it in public). He also stresses (as is known) that the term is in
wide use of the term "nigger" between African-Americans. His firing suggests
that context is irrelevant: that ANY use of a racial term with a negative
connotation used by a member of a power group towards a member of a non-power
group, regardless of the speaker's intention (which in this case, I think, is
fairly clear), is inappropriate.
(The sharp-eyed among you might have noticed a true irony in this story: the
name of the team is the Chippewas, despite the concern a few years back by
Native American groups about such team names. Is P.C. giving preferential
treatment to certain groups?)
-- Paul Kershaw, Michigan State University
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