A Bit More on Scholarly Journals and Authors' Past Offensive Speech:

By coincidence, the days in which the Yale Law Journal / Kiwi Camara controversy unfolded also brought us this story (thanks to How Appealing for the pointer):

Four white men fired by the Philadelphia School District have won a racial-discrimination lawsuit, and a federal jury awarded them nearly $3 million in damages.

After Friday's verdict, Carl E. Singley, a prominent African American lawyer who represented the school district, exchanged words with some members of the all-white jury as they rode a courthouse elevator. He called them "crackers," four jurors said in interviews.

Within 30 minutes, U.S. District Judge Harvey Bartle 3d brought Singley and five of the seven jurors in the case back into his courtroom. Singley, a former Temple Law School dean, promptly apologized.

"What I did and said was inappropriate," Singley said, according to a transcript. "I should not have disrespected you, and I do apologize." . . .

So here's the question: Imagine that a month from now, the Yale Law Journal receives an article submitted by Carl Singley. How would you like the editors to react? Which reaction do you think fosters the best attitude on the editors' part, the attitude that's most likely to help advance legal scholarship?

  1. "Throw it out. We don't publish articles by people who have ever said anything racist."
  2. "Hard call. On the one hand, most whites are probably not as insulted by 'cracker' as they are by 'nig.' On the other hand, this was said to the targets' faces, which probably makes it more insulting; Camara's words weren't. Back to the first hand, it sounds like the author was upset and spoke in a moment of anger, while Camara had more time for deliberation, and in fact knew that his words would offend people. But back to the second hand, Singley is an experienced lawyer, teacher, and administrator, not a 17-year-old, who can be expected to do immature things. Back to the first hand, . . . ."
  3. "Does anyone else know? Are they going to cause a fuss? People who get offended by 'cracker' are probably less likely to start protests, e-mail campaigns, and the like than people who get offended by 'nig'; but will they still cause enough to put us in an awkward position?"
  4. "Better set up an ad hoc committee, arrange a town hall meeting, speak to the representatives of all affected groups, and issue a carefully crafted report."
  5. "Hey, is his article any good?"

I vote for (e).