April 13 e-mail 3 from Adora Asonye


Adora Asonye to mikuo, ldellatorre, section1 09, minow, csharkey, heymann

Hello classmates,

Firstly, I would like to immediately rebut the presumption that those who speak out against racism and/or sexism are liberal. Those who know me understand my view that the moral authority hijacked by the right and the air of intellectualism hijacked by the left are equally flawed. Further, I do not align myself specifically with either side ideologically and would not like to be type casted as a result.

To the debate at hand. It seems that there is a mutual desire to embrace and enable open and honest dialogue. However, open and honest dialogue can only occur between human beings and not anonymous email addresses. I understand the importance of making sure that the classroom is a space where we can all express our views. I had come to view our class meeting times as my opportunity to bounce my ideas off of intelligent classmates who would engage me in discussion (nostalgically refer to my daily ramblings in contract law, especially about the v-neck wedding dress). I had no reason to expect that this would not carry over into our criminal law class. Although I did not vigorously participate in the two-day debate about racial profiling aside from one comment, I did not appreciate the effect of the circulated email.

The accusation is that those who have composed this letter are acting to effectively silence debate about the issues. As lawyers frequently do, let us revisit the facts. On the second day of a two-day discussion about racial profiling, an anonymous email was sent TWICE (first to a large number of individuals and second to the section 1 class list) that served to undermine the statements made in class by a specific group of people — I say specific group because there really weren’t that many people participating in the discussion. Mainly, the students were contending that the discretion given police officers allows them to stop individuals based on race and not probable cause. It is DURING this discussion that students then received the anonymous email poking fun at the fact that Chamillionaire, despite the fact that rappers in the song admit to committing crime, contends that the police stop him because they are “hatin'” and not for probable cause. It would have been one thing if someone stated that, “hey, criminals do exist . . . it’s not always racial profiling, etc.” and then there could have been class room debate. It is quite another to undermine the statements of individuals in class by poking fun at the statements by sending, what some characterize, a comical email. The anonymous emailer was implored to stay after class to engage in discussion about it; after class, the dust settled, and no one remained. Such action serves to silence class participation. It is against THIS silencing that I stand.

The use of the words “hate speech” and “racist” to characterize the statements, and not the individuals, is something that we can debate. The email coupled with the class discussion can be characterized as hate speech as it is defined. It is important that we make this distinction. It would be great to “rail against the institution” so to speak, when we speak about racism/sexism. It would be equally great to explore our personal biases and recognize when some statements we make can be offensive. This is also a way to change the institution. I have learned a great deal from my classmates this year: specifically about sexism, gay/lesbian rights, and the bloody GOVERNMENT (anarchy anyone??). I have evaluated some of my biases and perceptions and have changed and/or kept some views. This is a result from open dialogue with fellow students. This is what I want to protect.

I sign this email with the best of intentions and the hope that we can remain committed to an open, non judgmental (no stereotyping please!) class. I signed Dean Kagan’s email with those same intentions.


Adora Kimberly Asonye [aasonye@law.harvard.edu]
Section 1


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