Matsuda’s Public response to racist speech: Considering the victim’s story

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“The need to attack the effects of racism and patriarchy in order to attack the deep, hidden, tangled roots characterizes outsider thinking about law” (p. 2326)

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“The typical reaction of target-group members to an incident of racist propaganda is alarm and immediate calls for redress. The typical reaction of non-target-group members is to consider the incidents isolated pranks, the product of sick-but-harmless minds”(p. 2327).

“The claim that a legal response to racist speech is required stems from a recognition of the structural reality of racism in America. Racism, as used here, comprises the ideology of racial supremacy and the mechanisms for keeping selected victim groups in subordinated positions. The implements of racism include:
• Violence and genocide;
• Racial hate messages, disparagement, and threats
• Overt disparate treatment; and
• Covert disparate treatment and sanitized racist comments.
In addition to physical violence, there is the violence of the word. Racist hate messages, threats, slurs, epithets, and disparagement all hit the gut of those in the target group. The spoken message of hatred and inferiority is conveyed on the street, in schoolyards, in popular culture and in the propaganda of hate widely distributed in this country” (p. 2332).

“In order to distinguish the worst, paradigm example of racist hate messages from other forms of racist and nonracist speech, three identifying characteristics are suggested here:
i. The message is of racial inferiority;
ii. The message is directed against a historically oppressed group; and
iii. The message is persecutorial, hateful, and degrading” (p. 2357).

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Matsuda, M.J. (1989). Public response to racist speech: Considering the victim’s story. Michigan Law Review, 87(8), 2320-2381.