The word “deferring” got John Streamas, an Associate Professor of Critical Culture, Gender, and Race Studies at Washington State University involved in controversy early in the semester Aug. 27. What was the situation?
It was a statement from a syllabus for a 200-level Introduction to Multicultural Literature class. The statement in the syllabus included the phrase: “deferring to the experiences of people of color.”
This caused upset with a group called Campus Reform, a right-wing website whose mission is to expose “radical” teachers. Streamas and two of his graduate students received spiteful emails.
Fox News broadcasted the Campus Reform story and Streamas and his graduate students received a stream of hateful email.
Campus Reform and Fox charged that the word “deferring” carries an ominous threat of coercion.
Says Streamas: “I did in fact change my syllabus, but kept the word ‘deferring.’ In fact I replaced the phrase ‘people of color’ with ‘each other,’ so that the whole phrase now says ‘deferring to each other’s experiences.’ This doesn’t say exactly the same thing, but it proves that the word ‘deferring’ was never an issue, that Fox (and by extension the administration) is really offended by the phrase ‘people of color.’ The new phrase retains enough of the original’s meaning while also proving that the charge against my word ‘deferring’ is not only stupid but is also driven by a racial agenda.”
Streamas compiled all the emails, and states “I can assure you that the violent hatred and bigotry in them are the worst I’ve ever seen. And the violence was directed not only at me and the two grad students but at others in our department. Campus Police assigned an officer to monitor threatening phone calls.”
So the question arises, what qualifies as the real hate speech? The definition of a word or the violence that comes when the definition is misconstrued? (end)