Panel discusses hate speech and slurs


Madeline S. Scharf Reporter

On Wednesday, Apr. 21, the Student Activism Committee hosted a town hall, ‘Words Matter: How Slurs Impact others.’ The panel of students addressed how hate speech is hurtful and what students can do to combat it.

Student Activism Intern Jamil Harp discussed via email interview how the students structured the panel. “The moderators were students Elijah Ortiz & Madison Alexis. The panel consisted of students Marie Perez, Sara Gossman (SGA President), and MCC Director Dian Brown-Albert. I did the opening remarks and Kyle Marshia-Thaxton did the closing remarks,” said Harp.

The panel discussed hate speech in the form of slurs. Exploratory major Kyle Thaxton, a freshman, discussed via email interview why the town hall was important. “If we ever want to see change take place, we need to continue to have these vital conversations, even if they may feel uncomfortable,” said Thaxton. “By hosting this town hall, we are able to reflect and confront some of the everyday issues that people of color and the LGBTQ+ community face.”

The hope of this town hall is to have meaningful conversations in a safe and welcoming environment. “We need to educate people and create a safe place where students and faculty can come together and stand in solidarity against homophobia, racism, xenophobia, et cetera,” said Thaxton.

This town hall was open to any student who wished to attend. Thaxton said he would encourage students to join events like this to be more informed. “I think that non-students of color could greatly benefit from hearing the perspectives of students of color and LGBTQ+ students,” said Thaxton.

Slurs are still a major social problem. According to a 2014 study performed via Twitter posts, “there are approximately 10,000 uses per day of racist and ethnic slur terms in English (about 1 in every 15,000 tweets).” This is a widespread issue still causing lasting affects on people to this day.

The town hall addressed slurs being used as both hate speech and as reclaimed language by the party it was once used to demean. The 2014 study had also found that “Slurs are most commonly used in a non-offensive, non-abusive manner: to express in-group solidarity or nonderogatory description.” The town hall entered group discussions about the positives and negatives of reclaiming slurs. It may be empowering to the parties who were once demeaned by them, but also give rise to those outside of the groups engaging in the rhetoric.

“SCSU is in development of a new anti-racism protocol,” said Harp. “I know SCSU is looking into identifying/expanding community resources to help with slurs.”

However, it is not so easy for the university to overlook such speech. “It is extremely hard for the university to regulate language due to the first amendment and other federal laws that protect free speech,” said Thaxton.

Despite these roadblocks, the university is trying to implement new policies to help minority groups affected by hate speech. “The university is trying to implement an Anti-Bias Protocol that would be very helpful in protecting minorities on campus from being verbally, and in extreme cases even physically, harassed from other students,” said Thaxton.

The town hall also addressed how students can combat hate speech if they hear it. “Students need to find the confidence to confront those who use these hateful words,” said Thaxton. “Even if you do not say these slurs, you are still responsible for educating your friends and family members about social justice. We, as young people, can no longer be bystanders to hateful speech.”

Students who wish to learn more about combating hate speech and slurs are encouraged to reach out and learn more. Harp said, “Students should attend the student activism committee to learn more and get involved.”

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