"Nigger, Go Home!"


Midwest U is a football powerhouse. For home games on Saturday afternoons, everyone walks to the stadium. Visitors are everywhere. Fifty thousand people are all moving in the same direction. It can be exciting, but it can also be chaotic. On Saturday, October 9th, Midwest U lost the game. Fifty thousand people left the stadium. Some were drunk. Some were just angry.

A group of three or four white students began shouting randomly at blacks leaving the game. Witnesses told the campus newspaper, the Midwest Daily, that one of the whites threw up a finger and shouted "Nigger, if you can't win, why don't you just go home!" Most people kept walking. A couple of white students tried unsuccessfully to get the instigator to calm down. One group of black students decided they were fed up. The fight lasted about five minutes. No one was seriously hurt, but it was a bad day for Midwest U.

The university has a liberal tradition on most political and social issues. Students protested the war in Vietnam in the 60s. There have been teach-ins on war, the environment, and race. There was once a movement to increase the number of black students on campus that had considerable support among white students. The number of African American students increased quite a bit in the seventies.

Still, something had changed. Liberal enthusiasm wasn't what it had been. Perhaps it never ran very deep. In any case, it was obvious that some of the white students resented the larger presence of blacks. Some of the black students, on the other hand, preferred to have their own student union and a floor in one of the dormitories where not everything said about whites was flattering.

There had been several incidents, but never a fight like this -a public display with no motive other than racial animosity. The words and gestures weren't supposed to be part of higher education. They were supposed to be part of a vulgar racism that resided somewhere else. But here they were.

Within a few days the Daily had analyzed and reanalyzed the "incident." The faculty held meetings to discuss and deplore. Most white students were slightly embarrassed and hoped it would all go away. Most black students worried about what it all meant.

On Wednesday, a new organization called the Coalition Against Racism on Campus (CAROC) met with people from the Daily and announced its demand that the administration get serious about racism. CAROC wanted more black faculty, more black students, more classes to promote cultural sensitivity, and a speech code that would seriously punish "speech that humiliates and degrades other students because of their race or color."

CAROC met with the university administration on Friday morning. President Dowell spoke briefly after the meeting. The administration, he said, was glad to see this outpouring of interest in campus harmony. The recent events were "disturbing to all." The entire campus community had an interest in "maintaining a learning environment in which everyone was respected and everyone progressed toward the goal of academic excellence." His administration would meet with both the faculty and its legal advisors to consider the feasibility of adopting a speech code that would deal effectively with expressions of racism on campus. He hoped to announce the results of their deliberations within a few weeks.

Please note: Although the court case and some of the incidents described in Ariadne's thread on hate speech are loosely based on the experience of the University of Michigan, some of the incidents and many of the details are fictitious. This thread is not an attempt to accurately describe what happened at Michigan.