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After lengthy debate, including a racial slur-laden speech by a senator, the Association of Students of the University of Nebraska passed a resolution Wednesday pledging the senate’s support to remove derogatory language from its members’ vocabulary.
The legislation passed with 16 senators for, 6 against and 4 abstaining from the vote.
The resolution was submitted by Sen. Claire Eckstrom, a senior fashion design major. Sen. Cameron Murphy, a graduate student in biochemistry and nutrition, said he did not agree with the resolution because he believed it would hinder free speech.
Murphy cited comedian Chris Rock as an example of why some words are not offensive. He recited one of Rock’s routines, which used the N-word.
“But what’s a n—–?” Murphy said after quoting Rock. “A n—– is black trash. There’s white trailer trash also.”
“What’s offensive to one person may be innocuous to a group of others,” Murphy said. “For example, the Mexican-American students complaining about (Homecoming Week) skits. They said they were offensive because they were wearing sombreros — really, that’s offensive?”
While giving an anecdote about being called a “cracker” in Cincinnati by a man asking for money, Murphy was interrupted by Sen. Annie Himes, a junior global studies, history and Russian major.
“It’s not OK for you to do this,” Himes said.
But Internal Vice President Kaitlin Coziahr, a senior economics, finance and management major, told Himes that she wasn’t allowed to interrupt another speaker during debate.
“Restricting speech is bad,” Murphy said. “It starts at phase one, and there’s no turning back from there. Calling a black person a Negro is a term of endearment — that didn’t used to mean anything wrong, it’s Spanish for black. To restrict speech is inherently evil.”
Murphy also attempted to amend the resolution to say senators will “attain” derogatory terms into their vocabulary, rather than “remove” them, as the resolution was originally written. His amendment did not receive a necessary second senator to move it to a vote.
Before Murphy’s comments, he asked Eckstrom for examples of the type of derogatory terms that the bill suggests should not be used. Eckstrom said phrases such as “that’s gay” and “that’s retarded” would be examples of the terms she hears students use regularly.
“These are hurtful to me, and I know a lot of people don’t mean it to be offensive,” Eckstrom said. “But think how it might make those groups feel.”
“I’m not sure if we need this with the non-discrimination clause already in place,” said Jeff Story, the external vice president and a junior English and political science major. “They state that as an association, we will not use those terms and will not be discriminatory toward other students.”
Others thought passing this resolution would be a good starting place for bigger plans.
“We’re representing the student body,” said Sen. Jessop Adams, a law student. “We’re not just held to what we believe. We’re held to what we want our students to exemplify. It’s a good exclamation point to that.”
Sen. Kevin Knudson, a junior political science major, said the resolution was a Catch-22.
“We shoot it down and look like we’re not for ending derogatory language, or we look like it’s like this big large show (if we pass the resolution).”
The resolution ultimately passed, but the votes were mixed.
“I figured there would be discussion about the restriction of speech,” Eckstrom said. “I remind everyone that this isn’t restriction of speech — this is about how we want to exercise our free speech and choosing how we’re going to exercise our right in a respectful way.”
Additionally, senators unanimously passed another resolution submitted by Eckstrom in support of a philanthropy called the St. Nick Project. ASUN will adopt a low-income, rural Nebraska family and collect money from within the senate to buy Christmas gifts for them.
Senate Speaker Tanner Nelson, a sophomore agribusiness major, said he was in support of the project.
“We’re here for more than just passing bills and resolutions,” Nelson said. “We’re here for other people.”
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Racist slurs uttered by Malmö police officers while responding to disturbances in the city’s Rosengård district can be attributed to “stress“, according to an officer who was present at the December 2008 incident.
“It was an expression of extreme stress,” police officer Paul Juhlin said on Svergies Television (SVT), which on Tuesday will start airing a reality television series about the Mälmo police force.
Juhlin was one of the officers present during the Malmö police’s response to December 2008 disturbances in the city’s Rosengård district, which is home to a high concentration of immigrants.
During the police action, riot police called young people “blattajävlar”, an ethnic slur which translates roughly into “damn coloured people” or “damn immigrants”.
The comments were caught on the police’s own video recordings of the response and later played during the trial of a young man charged with being one of the primary instigators of the unrest.
In the film sequence, officers make a number of racist and threatening comments
“You little monkey son of a bitch. Should I make him sterile when I catch him?” said one police officer on the tape.
“Yeah, he’s going to get beaten so badly that he won’t be able to stand on his own two legs,” answered a colleague.
While a preliminary criminal probe into the comments was dropped, two police officers were docked five days’ wages and reassigned by the police’s disciplinary committee.
Juhlin’s statements on the incident mark the first time a police officer has commented on the incident, which received a great deal of media attention at the time.
“There maybe hasn’t been the space to say something previously; no one sticks their head up to have it cut off,” he said, according to the Sydsvenskan newspaper.
“I don’t want to defend the incident, but rather put it in a context that hasn’t previously come to light.”
According to Juhlin, the comments comparing the young people from Rosengård to monkeys wasn’t an expression of racism, but simply said in the heat of the moment as people began climbing on the police bus in which the officers were riding.
“Nasty things were said, to be sure. But it wasn’t about demeaning people; it wasn’t about racism, not about values; it was extremely stressful,” he told SVT.
Speaking with Sydsvenskan, Malmö police chief Ulf Sempert agreed with Juhlin’s assessment that the incident was stressful, but emphasized that didn’t excuse the officer’s comments.
“It’s not acceptable,” he said.
“It doesn’t matter that the police claimed that they were under a lot of stress.”
The incident, which came to light in February 2009, was followed by other revelations that police training materials used fictional characters named “Neger Niggersson” and “Oskar Neger” (Negro).
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