Saturday, April 07, 2007

Does using the word "nigger" constitute a violation of human rights?

Apparently it does to these folks. I'm all for being offended when someone uses a racial slur but I don't know if using a racial slur constitutes a human rights violation. Especially when you consider other human rights violations - murder, disappearances, torture, rape, trafficking, death squads, genocide, etc. I just can't say that calling someone a bad name or using a racial slur in conversation is the same. Shouldn't using a word like "nigger" be perceived as protected speech? Almost all democracies in the world today protect the freedom of speech. Speech is usually protected right up until it furthers the cause of some criminal action.

What do you think?

1 comment:

Dave-o-ramA said...

Well, it could certainly be a part of an attempt to, say, intimidate black voters or workers, so it certainly can be a part of a civil/human rights violation.

If the manufacturer actually used the term intentionally, or some employee did so without permission, then that would certainly be offensive. We could quibble about whether the term 'human rights' applies to the manufacturer's conduct, but the use of the word would certainly be unacceptable behavior.

My guess, however, is that it is a purely honest mistake. Since the furniture was manufactured in China, it is not inconcievable that it was a translation error. Canada requires that products be labeled in both English and French. It is a bit of a stretch, but it's possible that they mistakenly translated 'brown' to 'niger' in French, and then misspelled 'niger'. When you've got a person translating between two languages that they're not proficient with - entirely possible in a corporate setting - you can get all sorts of strange errors.

But ultimately, even if they did it on purpose, I'd say it's not a human rights case, but a consumer product-liability case. They fucked up and let an offensive phrase get incorporated into one of their products. They need to rectify that in some way.