Just how offensive is 'white trash,' really?
June Chu, a Yale University dean who was put on leave after being tied to a string of racially insensitive reviews on Yelp, has formally left the school. It's not known whether she jumped or was pushed.
Chu was chided for a one-star review of a Japanese steakhouse. She wrote that "if you are white trash, this is the perfect night out for you." The post has been deleted.
Call me insensitive, but her post is honest; informative; and, incidentally, very funny. By the way, when did "white trash" become a race?
At the risk of stereotyping, with a name like Chu, she likely prides herself on being a connoisseur of fine Japanese steakhouses. As a native Philadelphian, I pride myself on being a connoisseur of fine Philadelphia cheesesteaks.
Just as I may use Yelp to warn unsuspecting tourists about faux Philly cheesesteak sites, so Chu used Yelp to inform the public about the Japanese steakhouse. She performed a public service. What's wrong with that?
If anyone has a right to be offended, it should be the steakhouse owners and the dining public. Thanks to Yale do-gooders, each has one less real-time consumer opinion on which to judge the business.
I suspect that the only folks offended by Ms. Chu's post were frail Yale administrators and advantaged editors of the Yale Daily News who deign to speak for "white trash" ostensibly appalled like them by indelicate Yelp posts.
"White trash" of my acquaintance are not so easily offended. They are quite capable of thinking for themselves and living their lives without Yale's help.
In its June 16 unanimous decision, the Supreme Court conferred free speech protection on the Slants, an Asian-American rock band. In his opinion, Justice Samuel Alito reaffirmed a "bedrock" First Amendment principle: speech may not be banned on the ground that it expresses "ideas that offend."
In layman's language, "sticks and stones may break my bones..."
Silencing people doesn't make "offensive" speech disappear. Rather, it drives speech underground to transmute into whispers, winks and nods, and innuendos. Contrary to its wished for purpose, suppression fosters polarization, distance, isolation, and often enmity between the presumptive offender and presumptive offended. It damages all Americans.
Recently, an Indian friend in extolling his friendship with an Irishman cited their respective nicknames as evidence of their deep affection. The Irishman calls his Indian friend "Gandhi." "Gandhi" in turn calls his Irish friend "Erin go blah, blah, blah."
Neither takes offense at the good-natured banter and insults that are the lingua franca of friendships, perhaps especially among men. They enjoy the good-natured give and take. Rather than offend, the teasing connotes egalitarianism, intimacy, empathy, and respect.
"Shouting fire in a crowded theater" excepted, suppressing speech nearly always does more harm than the harm it purports to assuage.
The real victims of suppression are those whom charlatans and do-gooders have artificially categorized by race, sex, national origin, or creed as too delicate to experience the delight of unfettered, honest, robust debate.