Fighting Words: The Politics of Hateful Speech

Fighting Words: The Politics of Hateful Speech

Fighting Words: The Politics of Hateful Speech

Fighting Words: The Politics of Hateful Speech

Synopsis

This intriguing book reflects on the conditions on college campuses that give rise to words and acts of hate, on the consequences of these episodes, and on strategies intended to improve intergroup harmony. Using the speech given by Nation of Islam spokesperson Khalid Abdul Muhammad at Kean College in 1993, the book begins with a consideration of the societal trends affecting today's college student, including the increasing economic uncertainty that characterizes their future and the hostility and fragmentation that characterizes their present. Attitudinal changes have proven to be widespread, as more Americans have begun to view the world through the lenses of political, social, and economic self-interest, calling prevailing equity policy into question and giving new life to identity politics. Since issues of affirmative action, multiculturalism, and political correctness are at the core of the national debate and command the attention of college students, each is addressed in detail. A discussion of what prompted Kean students to invite Muhammad follows a consideration of the current status of intergroup relations on campuses across the nation. This examination covers the inescapable conclusion that, despite the desires of most students for positive relations with people of other groups, there are serious gaps to be bridged.

Excerpt

I undertook this book project to try to make sense of the issues raised by a series of hateful-speech events at Kean College, near Newark, New Jersey. I was an assistant chancellor in the New Jersey Department of Higher Education and a member of the college's Board of Trustees throughout the period of turmoil until June 1994. But this is not simply, or primarily, about Kean and the idiosyncratic factors that may have contributes to its explosion. indeed, in additional to his vituperative speech at Kean, Khalid Abdul Muhammad spoke at more than fifty institutions of higher learning in the year or so before he was shot in the leg during a California appearance in the spring of 1994. Twice that semester he spoke at Howard University, the first appearance ending up on the cbs News program Eye to Eye, which showed the audience joining a student in anti-Semitic chanting, other speakers carried similar messages at other colleges. For example, Abdul Alim Musa presented a "vituperatively anti-Semitic speech" at the University of Washington. Also, even though in the few years leading up to the incidents at Kean, the predominant number of outside hate speakers invited to college campuses who made news African Americans carrying extreme messages, they did not have a monopoly on the market. For example, Stockton State College (NJ) fought hard, but lost, a court battle to keep the Ku Klux Klan from speaking on its campus.

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