Scholarly Journals and Authors' Past Offensive Speech (2):

OK, now here's the other (equally accurate) version of the story.

2. The Yale Law Journal is embroiled in a controversy. The Journal accepted a paper for a symposium that was cowritten by Kiwi Camara. It turns out that four years, when Camara was a 17-year-old first-year Harvard Law School student, he posted something really offensive on a law school outline-exchange Web page: A couple of his outlines for classes (such as for property law, where one of the cases dealt with a restrictive covenant aimed at excluding blacks) referred to blacks as "nigs." This caused a furor, especially in combination with two other Harvard Law School incidents that year, which involved professors rather than students (and which Camara wasn't responsible for). Camara apologized, and said he didn't endorse racist ideas, but his apology was quite puzzling. (This Harvard Law Record story contains the fullest account of the incident that I've found.)

Camara then graduated (at age 19, apparently the youngest Harvard Law School graduate in the school's history), clerked for a federal court of appeals judge, and is now a research fellow at Stanford. After the Yale Law Journal controversy flared up, he wrote a further apology that seems quite straightforward and unambiguous. (I should note that the statement was circulated at Yale only on Monday, and many of those who have been calling for the offer of publication to be revoked hadn't seen this.)

Forget then about all the issues I discussed in part 1. Camara is obviously very smart, but even very book-smart 17-year-olds sometimes say really dumb things. It's hard for me to figure out exactly why he said what he said, but the charitable — and, I think, plausible — explanation is that he was engaging in the common 17-year-old pastime of trying to be edgy and shocking. Some kids do this by swearing, though this has lost its edge these days; Camara may have been trying to do it by casual use of epithets.

And charity, it seems to me, is appropriate here. Whatever Camara's reasons for what he did then, he was 17. How many of us didn't say anything at age 17 that we now realize was stupid, offensive, and quite possibly not even sincere? Yes, I realize that some things that kids do at 17 end up sticking with them; if you rape or rob someone, the rest of us need to protect ourselves against you (and the victim deserves some justice for this serious crime). Yet that's an occasion for regret, and something we should avoid if we can. And when it comes to simply offensive statements, it seems to me that the loud condemnation from classmates, professors, and administrators that Camara endured after the original incident was likely a pretty good way to teach him the requisite lesson. It's a fair bet that the lesson has been learned.

Camara has apologized. Four years have passed. He's on the threshold of what could be a promising academic career. Set aside the academic institutional questions I discussed above. Isn't it kind of cruel to try to sink him (and in the process, hurt his coauthor) because of something he said when he was 17, stupid, rude, and nasty as it may have been? Isn't it kind of petty?

UPDATE: Links fixed; sorry they were broken.

12.21.2005 3:35am
12.21.2005 3:35am
Lowell R. (mail):
Woah. How did he get into Harvard Law at 17?
12.21.2005 4:18am
Paul N (mail):
Is the use of the word "nigs" all there is to the Camara criticisms? It seems insane. Obviously I can't guess the context, but should we expect that using "nigs" is probably even racist? I've never even heard of it. It seems to be used roughly 1/100 as often as "nigger" in common phrases (by Google...better clear my search history), i.e. I bet most people have never heard of it. Is it more or less racist than using "niggardly"?
12.21.2005 4:58am
nk (mail) (www):
I agree with you, absolutely and without reservation. Other blogs have left out the timeline (one I will not mention making it seem as though he recently posted the offensive remark after having graduated). Thank you for helping get the facts straight.
12.21.2005 5:00am
Brett Bellmore (mail):
Petty is the point of those trying to get the article excluded: You can't create an atmosphere of fear that causes people to self-censor by acting reasonably. The more minor the offense is perceived as by potential offenders, the more outrageous the penalty has to become to achieve effective deterence.
12.21.2005 6:37am
Cornellian (mail):
If they refused articles by anyone who said something offensive when they were 17, they wouldn't have anything to publish. When I was in high school (as most 17 year olds are), any guy you didn't like was a "fag" and it was quite popular to accuse someone of being a Jehovah's Witness (presumably on the theory that this was a bad thing). I believe "farmer" was also a popular insult for some reason (this was an urban high school). I could go on to list the terms used by guys to describe girls they liked or didn't like, but I'm sure you can guess the gist of it. Eventually the students graduate, move into the real world and learn to act like adults. Refusing an article because of one thing a guy said at the age of 17 is idiotic.
12.21.2005 6:52am
Joe Hodnicki (mail):
Neither of this post's links work.
12.21.2005 8:12am
wow, I hadn't heard all the facts until I read this post. In the American academic community - where bloodthirsty jihadists like Sami al-Arian and delusional psychotics like Joseph Wilson and Ward Churchill are celebrated as heros, punishing someone for using the word nig when he was 17 seems bizarre.

If the standard being set now is "No author will be published if she ever expressed (when age 17 or older) any support for things like racist, communism and jihad" then no leftist will ever be published again.
12.21.2005 8:35am
Bob Bobstein (mail):
Paul N: I can't guess the context, but should we expect that using "nigs" is probably even racist? I've never even heard of it.

There is no possible innocuous explanation of what he meant. It's shorthand for America's most offensive racial epithet.

He should be allowed to publish, because, as others have pointed out, it is unwise to punish people for offensive things they did at age 17. If he were an unrepentant and committed racist, though, I might feel otherwise.

Barry, it is far from clear why this thread needed a ritual partisan name-calling of Joseph Wilson.
12.21.2005 8:49am
Paul N., you don't have to "guess the context" in which "nigs" is used here; Eugene's given it to you. Camara used the word to refer to blacks. This obviously wasn't an innocent reference to "niggardly" or some other definition of "nig," but to "niggers," plain and simple. "Niggardly" doesn't have racist connotations and never has. It has its base in Old Norse (compare the Swedish njugga, to hoard), so any comparison to "nigger" isn't exactly fair.

That said, I agree with most of the previous posters. What Camara said is far from innocent, but he was obviously a stupid 17-year-old at the time, and it shouldn't affect whether a journal accepts his present and future academic publications. I do say this with a few reservations:
First, I wouldn't, as Cornellian has, group "niggers" in with "fags" or "farmers." "Niggers" (or "nigs," as it were) has a far more sinister history than most other terms.
Second, the real dispute doesn't just involve some average 17-year-old, but a 17-year-old student at HLS, who one would hope has a little more class, intelligence, and self-control than this.
Third, I wouldn't necessarily treat this the same way if Camara had made these statements now. If that were the case, I think the journal would have every right to decline to publish the article, regardless of the strength of Camara's arguments or the quality of his scholarship. Journals thrive on their prestige, and regardless of what any of us may think of it, they'd probably be more likely to catch wreck for publishing the article than for declining to do so. It'd be a smart business decision, plain and simple.
12.21.2005 8:51am
Astonishingly, I believe Mr. Camara already had an advanced degree, perhaps in economics, at the time of his admission to HLS.

To me, the moral of the original incident has always been: Law schools probably shouldn't open their doors to people who are 17, whatever their academic credentials.

Can a law school legally discriminate against applicants based on their age?
12.21.2005 8:58am
The "racial epithet" and its use in question is quite trivial. Nonetheless, why do the academically talented get a convenient double standard? It's all "boys will be boys" when we catch junior misbehaving, but "he's such a serious scholar" when he controls his immature impulses.

Should we give the same pass to talented athletes (like John Rocker), or singers (Kayne West)? How about otherwise ordinary, but immature behaving adults? If not, what's the relevant difference?

If the child wants to live in the grown-up world, we get to hold him to a grown-up standard. There's more to a university education than passing tests and writing papers, otherwise college health centers wouldn't provide birth control.
12.21.2005 9:07am
DC Lawyer (mail):
I can't see why this is even a controversy. As someone, of the liberal persuasion, I think this is absurd.
12.21.2005 9:55am
bearing (mail) (www):
About the "puzzling" aspect of the apology: Is it possible that there's an age gap in the perception of the word "nig" or even "nigger?" That today's 17-year-olds (ok, those of four years ago) in the geographical area that Camara hails from use the term far more casually than today's 30-to-50-year-olds do now or did when we were 17?

I think it's plausible, especially considering how casual the term "ho" used to describe girls had become in my suburban, nearly-all-white high school when I was seventeen, back in the early 90s.

This is not to exonerate Camara from [normal 17-year-old] foolishness --- but maybe to suggest a certain benefit-of-the-doubt that he may not be a racist, at least not intentionally. I'm amazed at how quickly the language of the high school set has become unrecognizable to me.
12.21.2005 9:59am
bob (www):
If Camara had robbed someone as a juvenile, the record of the crime would be protected on the basis that he lacked the maturity to be held accountable for life. Publishing eliminates the possibility of anonymity, but I see no reason that the same principle shouldn't apply.

BTW, I realize that there are cases where juveniles are tried as adults. Those are exceptional cases where the prosecution has to prove adult treatment is justified. The presumption is that juvenile offenses should be forgiven and forgotten.
12.21.2005 9:59am
nc_litigator (mail):
wow!! this kid is an absolute geek. just look at his bio for godsakes! he will probably be a great law professor. but i doubt he would be very good at trying cases. he should have been smart enough not to post his outline publicly, even at age 17.
12.21.2005 10:20am
ChrisO (mail):
I guess we can all be glad that in today's world, 17 year olds (and 24 yr old 1Ls) can get their kicks being offensive on anonymous web forums.
12.21.2005 10:22am
La Zapatotista (mail) (www):
Perhaps an "inside YLS" perspective would be helpful. Some say that the students here are being a bit hysterical. But what must be understood is that (1) This Kiwi he is crazy, and now he'll be speaking at our school and publishing in our journale, and (2) The YLJ did a horrible job in managing the issue within the school. The students they are shocked that ze Kiwi he is coming and that the YLJ knew this for months and didn't say a thing to the student body.

The La Zapatotista she believes that while the students they have legitimate complaints, there are strong arguments in favor of ze Kiwi's publication. But she can also understand why people are pissed off. A "Pissed Off People's Meeting" was even called at her school!

In the end, ze Kiwi he will be published. The La Zapatotista's only hope is that ze students they keep their heads on right and keep their senses of humor about the situation. By the end of KiwiGate, there will be a great many reasons to laugh at ze Kiwi and to laugh at ourselves.
12.21.2005 10:40am
rural stater:
I disagree with EV that this is was apparently a racist statement (although I appreciate the bulk of his comments). As a former law student, my guess is that he used it to make it memorable for future exams. Sometimes it helps to put things in funny or outrageous terms to remember them.

I'm all with Cornellian. To many people, racial epithets are simply funny. One can decry this or call it evil, but unless a person has had a great deal of training in political correctnesss, there is simply no malice involved.

To me, raising a ruckus over these things is not only unair, but counterproductive. In my experience, where people of different races get along, they joke together about their cultural differences. They use racial epithets, jokingly, towards eachother. Clearly this isn't as common in elite academic circles, but it certainly is where I'm from. Calling all of these people racists reflects much poorer understanding among the accusers than it does among the people being accused.
12.21.2005 10:47am
dk35 (mail):
I agree with EV and everyone else on this.

Too bad, though, that EV's passionate defense of free speech always seems to end at the door of left-of-center speakers, particularly those who are not supporters of George W. Bush, and particularly those who do not support the war in Iraq. There have been numerous posts on here where EV has taken people's comments out of context and written about how speech has such serious consequences that we should find some way (maybe not through some legal method, but perhaps in some uber-moral sense) to condemn them.

Maybe someday, EV will reclaim some intellectual honesty and consistency in this area. For the time being, however, I won't hold my breath.
12.21.2005 11:18am
gvibes (mail):
Jurisprude - I really don't think the background of a word has any relevance to whether the term is racist. Niggardly came from the old norse. Of course, nigger came from the Latin "niger," meaning "black" (at least, I assume that's where it came from). Also, my Latin teacher taught me that "niger" was pronounced as nigger. That doesn't make the term any less offensive.
12.21.2005 11:22am
The Human Fund (mail):
Of course the background of a word should have some relevance to whether a term is racist. If a word has never been used in a racist sense and has no racial meaning, why would it be considered racist? The term niggardly, as I understand it, has only the misfortune of sounding similar to an offensive term of unrelated meaning. I don't understand why that should mean that it is an offensive term.

If you're only saying that a word can become racist despite its benign history, then I don't disagree. I'm not sure that niggardly, however, falls into that category. But then, maybe I'm out of touch with how it's used.
12.21.2005 11:37am
Three questions for everyone here:

1. How do you define "racist"? If it is "holding offensive beliefs about blacks", how do you define "offensive"?

2. If we are so certain in our definition of "racist", and in the moralistic "holding people to grown-up standards", would you support legal restrictions on using racist speech?

3. Even if you agree that there is an objective definition of "racist", is saying something racist so morally despicable as to justify effectively silencing someone for the rest of their lives?

Remember, geniuses usually have slightly skewed perspectives on the world. For example, Richard Posner has written a lot of things many people find outrageous.
12.21.2005 12:37pm
von (mail) (www):
Paul N.'s professed confusion as to whether these outlines contain racist language is incredible, and not worthy of further response.

My take is pretty much the same as Professor Volokh's, but I offer this further thought: Given the use of the n-word in popular culture -- i.e., depending on context, sometimes its use is seemingly OK (even endorsed) and sometimes its not -- I'm not surprised that a 17 year old would become confused. When I was 17, I loved NWA, Public Enemy, and Ice-T.* At 17, it's not a big leap to think that you can say the same things as the pop stars you revere. (I didn't make that leap, but a more sheltered kid might have.)

*Still do, though few folks want to see a 31-year old white corporate lawyer in a pinstriped suit blasting PE's "Fight the Power" when he's cruising in his beemer.
12.21.2005 12:41pm
von (mail) (www):
As to whether this word is "objectively racist" (whatever that means): words ain't objectively anything. Their meaning depends on the cultural coordination game between speaker and listener.

We're in America. The use of the term "nig." to refer to black folks in this context is a racist use. You know this. I know this. Camera knows this.
12.21.2005 12:47pm
"You know this. I know this. Camera knows this."

Is that self-evident? Given that Camara was 17, do you think it was clear to him at the time that his use of the term was racist in a way that, say, Ice-T's use of it isn't?

I accept that blacks can use the term with respect to other blacks in a way that whites (for example) can't. The unfortunate thing about the frequent use of the term by blacks (even accepting their non-racist use of it), though, is that it can potentially confuse people (especially children) as to whether it is acceptable. It is much easier for a child to learn "never say the word [x]" than to say "never say the word [x], unless you are of the [y] race, in which case it is permitted."

I also question whether Camara's being filipino had anything to do with his not understanding the norm.
12.21.2005 1:28pm
Paul N (mail):
I guess I'm incapable of understanding how writing one word automatically implies that you're a racist. I disagree that use of "nigger" or "nigga" or "nig" is necessarily definitive proof of racism. Is it racist to use the word "nigger" in this discussion? One thing I do think is racist: concluding that it's acceptable for a black person to write or say "nigga" but not a white person.

I just don't think you can sensibly ascribe so much meaning to a word - it's akin to censoring the word "fuck" from songs on the radio but permitting "I want to feel you from the inside", etc.
12.21.2005 1:36pm
lucia (mail) (www):
The term nigs is racist and offensive. Still, the context seems to be this:

While rapidly jotting notes during a lecture, a 17 year old harvard law student used a racist offensive word to describe a case involving a racist and offensive provision in a covenant.

Later he published his notes so other students could study from them.

Now, people are speculating about his motives in using the the racist term "nig" rather than, possibly "African American" ( which the lecturer might have been using to describe the case)?

Who knows what his motives might have been. Given the circumstances they may have been any of these:

1) Fewer letters (3 vs 16).
2) Use of racial slur emphasizes racist character of case to prod memory on when studying at a later time.
3) Student was a racist who always uses that term even to the extent of using it constantly and openly.
4) Student knew the word was a slur, and while hurridly taking notes, picked this word specifically to shock or inflame others who might read his notes.
5) The 17 year old first year Harvard law student may have spent more time with book learning than interacting with people, and so actually didn't know exactly how racist the term was.

Which is true? Who knows?

There may be other plausible reasons he used the slur when jotting notes and later posted the notes publicly. Likely, it was a combination of all these reasons.

For example: The student rapidly writting notes might jot down the 3 letter term which seemed a short descriptive memory prodding substitution for the lecturer's choice of "African American". (Reasons 1 &2) Then, if this 17 year old harvard law student was less socially adept than most 21 year old harvard law students, he may honestly not have realized exactly how offensive the slur was. So he published the notes without taking the time and trouble to editing out the use of the offensive term.

To me, that sounds like a somewhat plausible chain of events. It also sounds like the sort of thing the older more mature 21 year old research assistant he had become might not want to describe in detail. (What 21 year old wants to remind people he was once so young, and lame?)

Time will reveal whether or not this person is a racist. If he's racist, we will hear more of this or other racist sounding writing. If he is not a racist, likely we'll be able to tell that too.
12.21.2005 1:44pm
La Dulcinea (mail) (www):
Everyone keeps excusing Mr. Camara by saying that he made these comments as a young 17-year-old who made one stupid mistake.

Set aside the fact that Mr. Kamara is clearly supposed to be an intelligent being (he went to Harvard Law, after all--a place where it would be difficult not to learn, if he had not known already, that using the n-word is rather frowned upon).

Let's not forget that Mr. Camara purposefully placed disclaimers on his outlines, warning that the notes could contain racially offensive shorthand. Indeed, according to the Harvard Law Record, the n-word was used in three different outlines.

And in case you don't understand why we at YLS are still arguing about whether or not Mr. Camara should be published in the Yale Law Journal, this (and other posts on the blog) explains a little bit of what we're worried about.
12.21.2005 1:54pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
La Zapatotista (cited in the comment by La Dulcinea), she is cruising for the trade dress infringement lawsuit by The Manolo. Or maybe the trade shoe infringement lawsuit.
12.21.2005 2:16pm
3L LSU (mail):
So if David Duke was a lawyer and wrote a law review article, you're telling me he wouldn't be able to get it published because he is a racist?

I abhor David Duke, but at least permit him to make his arguments, however, stupid they are. It just seems anti-intellectual and bigotted to try and sink someone because they are perceived to be bigotted or sexist or whatever.

What the hell are people being taught at places like Harvard and Yale to think this kind of effort is acceptable?
12.21.2005 2:40pm
La Zapatotista (mail) (www):
The La Zapatotista she is no Manolo. If the Manolo is a spankin' new pair of Louboutin 4-inch stilettos, La Zapatotista is a mere pair of Payless pleather sneakers lying in the BOGO bin.

La Zapatotista shares a love of the shoes, the self-referential third-person singular, and the word "the", but she is no Manolo. She dislikes David Hasselhoff and she rather appreciates Karl Lagerfeld's eccentricities. She writes about the Yale Law Journale, racisme, the crazy Kiwi, and the beaucoup de faux pas of her fellow Yale Law School etudiantes, and not so much about the shoes.

To La Zapatotista's recollection, she has only written one post on the shoes (the Uggs, to be exact). And the Manolo he enjoyed her post!
12.21.2005 2:43pm
3L LSU (mail):
What's wrong with an academic saying things that are not "innocent"? Why should ideas not be published, because the author refers to blacks as niggers or thinks of blacks as 'niggers'?

Why do all academics have to agree that nigger is a bad word or that it is better to use the "n-word" when they mean nigger? Why should everyone think alike on this issue? Why should every person who writes for the Yale Law Review think nigger is a bad word and have no history of not using it?
12.21.2005 2:58pm
Justin (mail):
Why should it not be, if one believes as such, a LAUDIBLE goal to keep a racist from having a "promising academic career"? Certainly, it seems clearly that nobody would buy the argument to buy charity for David Duke's past involvement with the KKK based on the principle that he was in the middle of launching himself into a "promising political career?"
12.21.2005 3:02pm
Brian G (mail) (www):
He should have said "cracker imperialists who stole the property of the Indians, Mexicans, blacks, women, and gays." He'd be up for a Nobel and Pulitzer and would have tenure by the time he was 24.
12.21.2005 3:16pm
La Dulcinea (mail) (www):

I don't think the Pissed Off People (that's actually a technical term) at YLS are trying to prevent Mr. Camara from making his argument. Mr. Camara can certainly try to get published in any other law review (in fact, I believe a number of his articles have been published). He could post them on his website. The POPs aren't trying to shut him up. The POPs are just debating whether or not the Yale Law Journal--which is the law review that represents the POPs' own law school, and therefore, to a certain extent, the POPs themselves--should be a forum for Mr. Camara to publish, and thereby serve as a means for him to advance himself in legal academia.

The next step, for those who believe Mr. Camara to be racist, and are concerned with having a racist become a law professor, might be to organize a letter-writing campaign to hiring committees at law schools around the country so that prospective employers are aware of the situation (unlike the Yale Law Journal symposium committee, which was apparently unaware of all this when they accepted his article for publication).

If you (and this "you" is anyone who's reading this) believe that the Yale Law Journal shouldn't bar Mr. Camara from publishing simply because of his conscious use of a racial slur 4 years ago, would it be okay if law schools deny him employment because of it?
12.21.2005 3:17pm
3L LSU (mail):
La Dulcinea,

The POPS are some absurd people then to think that Mr. Camara's own law review article represents them. It is HIS article. Yes, it is in the Yale Law Review, but that does not characterize any other Yale law student. Does anyone really think that what is said in one law review article is what everybody else at the law school thinks or is an example of their own writing ability? If so, that is pathetic.

Furthermore, who the hell are Yale law students to say that racists should become law professors at Yale? What is it with Yale that they have to have all their professors think alike like it is some fascist, anti-intellectual state? Do not these same jokers criticize the likes of Bob Jones University for being of such a narrow mind?

What is becoming of the American intellectual?
12.21.2005 3:28pm
3L LSU (mail):
... should not become...
12.21.2005 3:30pm
"Can a law school legally discriminate against applicants based on their age?"

Probably not. 34 CFR 110.10(a): "No person in the United States shall, on the basis of age, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance." But it depends on the manner, the reason, and the institution or body actually doing the discriminating. You'd need to look at all of 34 CFR Part 110 to apply it to a given situation with a given law school, or to your hypothetical ban on young law students.

For the record, the author's youthful offensiveness really shouldn't call into question his fitness to study law. I was plenty offended for a variety of reasons by law school classmates who were far from teenagers. Intellectual ability and emotional maturity are two quite different aspects of human development, and if we are going to make emotional maturity the standard, a) you'll need to find some way to test it, and b) you'll be refusing a legal education to an awful lot of 20-somethings, 30-somethings, etc.
12.21.2005 3:32pm
Justin (mail):
LSU said:

....racists should become law professors at Yale? What is it with Yale that they have to have all their professors think alike like it is some fascist, anti-intellectual state?

Really? You think discriminating against RACISTS in the hiring process is the equivalent of being "fascist" and "anti-intellectual?" Either you're waaaaaaaay into hyperbole (I'm having trouble understanding the rational nonhyperbolic argument you'd be trying to make, though I assume this is the issue, and not..) or you really believe that the inferority of the black race is the correct viewpoint for intellectuals to hold, and that to hold otherwise is simply through a corruption of the marketplace of ideas.
12.21.2005 3:37pm
La Zapatotista (mail) (www):
I agree completely, La Dulcinea. The YLS "POPs" platform should not only about whether he should be published in the YLJ. There are other means of dealing with ze Kiwi which are being debated currently. Por ejemplo, La Zapatotista thinks La Dulcinea's letter writing campaign idea is excellent.

The simple point is that ze Kiwi can say what he wants about who he wants. But those who disagree with his beliefs should take it upon themselves to notify others of his crazy antics.

In this way, the fact that this debate is occurring on the various blogs is a great thing. For one, it gives everyone an opportunity to voice their opinions. Perhaps more importantly, blogs like this will serve as a sort of permanent record of the crazy Kiwi's antics and the public's response to his antics.

When La Zapatotista began her research on the crazy Kiwi a few months ago, she could not find much of anything. The blogs they discussed his genius, his high SAT scores, his HLS degree, but there wasn't much discussion about his "nig" incident.

But from now on, Ze Kiwi's craziness will be remembered into perpetuity, thanks to all of us. Merci beaucoup!
12.21.2005 3:38pm
La Dulcinea (mail) (www):

Actually, I don't think the POPs think Mr. Camara's article completely represents them. The idea is that, as members of the YLS community, they want to have this discussion about the situation (since there are many who have termed the controversy "absurd").

I'm not sure I know what you mean when you say, "who the hell are Yale law students to say that racists should not become law professors at Yale?" No one's trying to take a "holier than thou" attitude here. Certainly I don't believe all professors should think alike. But of COURSE we can say that we don't want racists for law professors. We're the students; we're the ones paying the tuition fees. Even putting that aside, it's simply a protest, similar to any other type of protest. If law school hiring committees disagree, so be it.
12.21.2005 3:45pm
jgshapiro (mail):
But of COURSE we can say that we don't want racists for law professors.

It's a huge leap to accuse Camara of racism because of a single word he used in an outline he created when he was 17 and for which he has repeatedly apologized. No one has found any other evidence of his 'racism.' But does anyone really believe this is about Camara? He is just a useful tool of those who want to discuss racism at Yale and needed an enemy to focus on. If Camara is the best enemy they could find, then I guess racism really isn't a problem at YLS.

blogs like this will serve as a sort of permanent record of the crazy Kiwi's antics and the public's response to his antics . . . But from now on, Ze Kiwi's craziness will be remembered into perpetuity

This is the dark side of blogs, the ability of a few anonymous people to injure reputation. You can always respond to the accusations rationally, but any Google search will pull up the original accusations forever and you can never completely refute or eliminate them. It's too bad you can't go after the anonymous accusers with equal vigilence.
12.21.2005 4:01pm
von (mail) (www):
Is that self-evident? Given that Camara was 17, do you think it was clear to him at the time that his use of the term was racist in a way that, say, Ice-T's use of it isn't?

For clarity, I meant to write that Camara knows this today. My prior post addresses why Camara may not have known it at 17.
12.21.2005 4:07pm
3L LSU (mail):
Protesting is one thing, but trying in fact to prevent to publishing of an article because the author of the article is a perceived racist is something else.

And you're right, there is nothing wrong having a conversation about it and people not wanting racists professors or whatever. However, my point, is that if someone tried to stop a "communist" or "fem-nazi" from publishing because of who what they think or have expressed, they'd be condemened as hateful, backwards people for not appreciating intellectual diversity.

I think it is a concern that there are a number of students at the so-called best law school in America who actually think there is a right way and a wrong way to think, and that only people who think a certain way should teach them. Who cares if Socrates, Ward Churchill, Noam Chomsky or David Duke corrupt the youth of Athens? Corruption is an important part of one's education.

... and the whole (not your idea La Dulcinea), "Yale has to watch out for its reputation" has got to be the most asinine and shallow argument in support of stopping this guy's article from being published. Do people really, truly believe that the whole American legal universe will come to think that Yale Law School is a bunch of racists if they publish this guy's article? If so, that's sad.
12.21.2005 4:07pm
jgshapiro (mail):
When La Zapatotista began her research on the crazy Kiwi a few months ago, she could not find much of anything. The blogs they discussed his genius, his high SAT scores, his HLS degree, but there wasn't much discussion about his "nig" incident.

This is probably because most people realized Camera's use of the word "nig" was a non-issue masquerading as a significant one.

But actually, there has been some discussion of this issue; in fact, it appears that Camara figured prominently in a book written about free speech at Harvard. See here. I haven't read the book, but here is a review of it.

A Google search of "Kiwi Camera" and "nig" turned up quite a few more links -- far more than the incident reasonably deserved.
12.21.2005 4:30pm
lucia (mail) (www):
EV wrote:
La Zapatotista (cited in the comment by La Dulcinea), she is cruising for the trade dress infringement lawsuit by The Manolo. Or maybe the trade shoe infringement lawsuit.

Q: From a legal point of view, would it help or hurt a claim for infringment if La Zapotista wore this sweater to court?
12.21.2005 6:10pm
Frank Drackmann (mail):
I wonder how many times Richard Nixon used the word "nigger" in conversation?? probably more often than Ronald Reagan, less often than Lyndon Johnson, and nowhere near as much as Al Sharpton.
12.21.2005 10:49pm
Conrad (mail):
Hypothetical: If Tookie Williams or Abu Jamal Mumia submitted a competently written law review article for publication, would we be having this discussion?


But, if we were, what's the likelyhood that most of those opposed to Camara's publication would be proponants of William's and Mumia's?

Pretty high, I'd say.

So, does that mean that, to Camara's opponants, racial slurs are a worse offense than murder?

Or does it simply show that it all depends upon whose ox is being gored.


Are the the "POP" claiming that YLJ readers need to be protected from Camara's article (which has nothing to do with the nature his youthful misbehavior), or that YJL readers will assume that the YLJ is endorsing Camara's youthful misbehavior (which has nothing to do with the subject matter of his article)?

In either case, they must think that the YLJ's readership is pretty dim.
12.22.2005 12:42am
Fire Marshal Bill (mail):
Like jgshapiro, I find La Zapatoista's comment about "solidifying the record" as odd. At the same time, the importance to Zapatero (pun intended) and La Dulcinea regarding the-not-so-quixotic (pun intended) prospect of solidifying, "thanks to [them]," Kiwi's "craziness . . . into perpituity" is consistent with their hesitancy to explain (c.f to excuse)the bizarre and offensive actions of an odd 17 year-old as anything other than a manifestation of his resilient racism. (Incidentally, I cannot find any solidification of either of the two [not very retributivist?] YLS students' views on the issue of Tookie and clemency.)

"The simple point is that ze Kiwi can say what he wants about who he wants. But those who disagree with his beliefs should take it upon themselves to notify others of his crazy antics."

Just not in the YLJ, right? What is the proper course of action faced with a debate involving three offensive and facially racists words used in an outline by a 17-year-old, two apologies, and a long peer-approved academic piece to be published in an esteemed journal by a brilliant-but odd and offensive scholar? Werll, Im not sure we're using "ideas" efficiently (see, Rawlsian, Benthamite, Paretian, et. al.) when we: find a moment in time where responses to the offensive actions of a brilliant-but-odd-scholar are highly emotional yet characterized by incomplete information and taking this marginalization we try to crystallize and perpetuate this static image of him by encourage others to notify others of, in the words of the students, this scholar's "crazy views." So, bright-line rule: views considered offensive or crazy to the individual? Personally Proliferate. Coolly thought-out views developed in an academic and and peer-reviewed scholarly journal? Personally Protest?

Cool. This must be, " . . . you know, a Yale thing." Pues, vaya, flipado.
12.22.2005 12:47am
Milhouse (www):
I'm bothered by something far more fundamental. I think racism and racist language is distasteful and irrational, but when exactly did it become a moral offense? All of a sudden it seems that racism has become the big taboo, the unforgivable sin. I find it disgusting that in a culture where actual immoralities such as shoplifting or adultery are regarded as mere peccadillos, racism is regarded as beyond the pale.

So I'd like someone to justify this. Let's suppose Camara was indeed a racist, and let's suppose that for all his apologies he still is one. What on earth is wrong with racism? In what part of the Bible, or any other moral code, is it written "do not be a racist"? Our parents and grandparents never heard of such an edict. Why should we accept it, and more to the point why has it become so widely accepted?

I'd like to be able to finish this by saying "guess what, I'm a racist, and I'm not at all ashamed of it, $RACE really are all $UNDESIRABLE_TRAIT, and so what?". Except that it wouldn't be the truth. I don't believe that, not because it would be morally wrong to, but because it simply isn't so. But I don't think the belief that, say, blacks are all stupid is worse than the belief that the earth is flat. And I don't think "nigger" is or should be a worse word than "motherfucker". As an offense, using language like that is about on the same level as farting in public. It's not acceptable behaviour in polite company, but it doesn't make someone a bad person.
12.22.2005 7:51am
La Zapatotista (mail) (www):
To jgshapiro and Fire Marshall Bill, a few points:

1. If you read La Zapatatista's comments, you will see that she is IN FAVOR of ze crazy Kiwi's publication.

2. The "nig" incident should not be brushed off. The fact that this issue is being debated so hotly within the YLS and the blogosphere shows that people find the issue important.

People should be notified about this incident, because it does matter. Ze crazy Kiwi's second-year law firm did not give him an offer, presumably in part because of his antics. Some would say this is not fair. But think about this from the law firm's perspective. Ze crazy Kiwi he worked at one of the top law firms in the country, a firm that offers only 30 or so spots to interns. This firm can have just about any top law student it wants. Who would you pick? The top law student who appears to also possess social skills and social maturity? Or, the top law student who is on record as referring to black people as "nigs" in his outlines? The law firm, by hiring Kiwi, would have taken on a risk that ze crazy Kiwi would do something equally crazy and racist as a law firm employee.

Ze Olin Center and ze Judge Hartz, they hired the Kiwi. Perhaps they knew about the incident, perhaps they did not. La Zapatotista thinks these positions were "hot" enough that any number of top law students probably competed for them. But Kiwi got the jobs. Perhaps the Olin Center and the Judge Hartz believed that ze crazy Kiwi was so much better for the job that they hired him in spite of the "nig" incident. That seems fair. Perhaps they brushed the whole "nig" incident off. In La Zapatotista's mind, this seems foolhardy. But the Judge and the Olin Center they have the right to make this choice.

And the Kiwihaters they have the right to notify Judge Hartz, the Olin Center, and whoever else of the incident. The "nig" incident does and should matter.

La Zapatotista does not believe that ze crazy Kiwi's "nig" incident should be an absolute bar to him getting a job, even an especially prestigious one. But it should play a factor. The "nig" incidents shows not only that he is more than likely a racist*, but also that he is a CRAZY Kiwi. Getting an article published in a journal is one thing. But getting a job where one will most certainly interact with black people and/or have black students is quite another. And La Zapatotista is not just worried about the black people who might have to endure ze crazy Kiwi! La Zapatotista fears for the students and clients of all ze beautiful colors who might have to interact with this crazy boy.

*Impossibly, some people can find ways in which using the word "nig" doesn't indicate racism. Hunnh? Remember, the kid said that he tries to "strenuously avoid using the word in conversation." It seems to La Zapatotista that if you are a non-black who has to "strenuously avoid" letting the word nigger pass through your lips, YOU ARE A RACIST!

Ze crazy Kiwi he also recognized that his outlines contained racial slurs in his disclaimer, so don't think he was using the word "nig" to be down with the brothas' or something.

Plus, ze crazy Kiwi he only gave a full apology a few days ago. Whatever BS he told the HLR does not constitute a full apology. The fact that it took him 4 years to make a full apology seems disingenuous and shows a lack of contrition for his use of the word "nig".
12.22.2005 10:17am
James Ellis (mail):
Most people commenting think that this is a tempest in a teapot--and maybe it is. A few things jump out, though. First, it seems that the organizers of the symposium didn't blindly pick the best papers--they chose them with a view to the type of panel discussion they wanted to foster. Is it fair to reconsider based on the past "speech" of an author? Sure, why not? Second, can't we at least all agree that the decision to post the outline was a really bad one, that was highly probable to (and did) offend others, and was especially troubling in light of the fact that Mr. Camara seemed quite well aware of this potential at the time he posted his outline?

Finally, it is troubling that minority law students need to resort to the shorthand of racial epithets to remember Shelley v. Kraemer. Anyone remember the covenant? It applied to those of the "Negro or Mongolian race." Could Camara (who I understand is of Filipino descent) have bought the property? That turns out to be a really good question. Check out Roldan v. Los Angeles County, 18 P.2d 706. It is right on point, with a thorough and technical (and chilling) analysis of this narrow issue, as it applies to marriage licenses and miscegenation. Ironically, it turns out that Camara escapes classification as a "nig" by virtue of his own brown skin.
12.22.2005 2:54pm