At Blackademics, our principal goal is to encourage a wide range of intellectually stimulating dialogue, and for the most part, that is what you, the Blackademics community, have been producing. However, a few recent comments have fallen a bit short of the minimum standards of discourse which we are prepared to tolerate. These comments have prompted me, in collaboration with Pierce, to draft the following speech policy for the site, effective immediately. From this point forward, be aware that any commenter who uses racial, sexual, or other offensive identity-based language in an insulting manner will be first warned and then banned from Blackademics. Those of you who have been visiting this site for awhile know that I in particular am a firm believer in free speech, so I’ll justify this policy below the fold. (Warning: I will be using some offensive language below to illustrate my point.)
Blackademics was originally created to spark conversations about issues that matter to the African and African-American communities. Thus, we consider the ability to comment freely one of the most important features of the site. However, using racial, ethnic, or sexual-orientation-based slurs contributes nothing of substance and discourages the targets of such slurs from speaking up to defend themselves. Think about it: would you feel comfortable contributing to a site where it was acceptable for whites to use the N-word? I doubt any of us would, which is why we cannot allow our commenters to call each other “faggots,” “dykes,” “towelheads,” or other derogatory names. (In light of the fact that use of the N-word between blacks is a controversial practice, we will allow some latitude where it is concerned, but we ask that you keep it to a minimum since many of us [myself included] would prefer not to be addressed that way.)
I want to make it clear that we are not forbidding all uses of potentially offensive language, only those which indicate a hateful intention on the part of the speaker. So we can obviously talk about the effects of slurs like N-word and its racial and sexual cousins, but they are not to be used as rhetorical weapons. I believe that if Blackademics becomes the kind of environment where good-faith arguments are answered in such a manner, potential discussants will not bother to participate. In the interests of preventing that scenario, I will unfortunately have to start policing the comments. As members of this online community, your input is important to us, so please feel free to add questions or comments to this post. This policy is by no means set in stone, so we are willing to revise it if people have good suggestions. You can also address private complaints about abusive commenters to blackademics at gmail dot com.