UB's Hate InFocus looks at impact of hate speech, actions


Carl Nightingale said Donald Sterling’s alleged racist real estate practices should have gotten the former Los Angeles Clippers owner banned from the NBA – not his racist comments.

Nightingale, a transnational studies professor, wants students to be able to distinguish between hate speech and actions so he led an InFocus discussion on racism Friday afternoon in Capen Hall.

Nightingale moderated the InFocus discussion, entitled “Hate InFocus: How Race, Religion, and Class Fuel Intolerance and Murder in ‘Multicultural’ America,” during which students discussed incidents from Sterling’s comments to the viral video of a University of Oklahoma fraternity chanting a racial slur. InFocus is a forum organized by Student Life, the Honors College and International Student and Scholar Services.

Nightingale said hate crimes occur in a progression of stages: from thoughts and emotions to expression of hate as speech to the act of performing hate crimes and finally to institutionalizing it .

He said discriminatory practices should anger people and cause changes more than racist speech, and that people should react more to Sterling’s actions in real estate than his racist comments because many minorities were affected in looking for homes.

The Justice Department filed a lawsuit in 2006 that accused Sterling’s rental company of refusing to lease Beverly Hills apartments to black people. Sterling paid $3 million in a court settlement in 2009.

But he wasn’t banned from the NBA for life until 2014 after audio surfaced of him claiming he did not want black people to attend Clippers’ games and that he was upset his girlfriend, V Stiviano, took a photo with NBA Hall of Famer Magic Johnson, who is black.

Nightingale opened up the conversation with a quote from an essay NBA Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabaar wrote for Time Magazine.

“[Donald Sterling] was discriminating against black and Hispanic families for years, preventing them from getting housing,” Abdul-Jabaar said. “It was public record. We did nothing. Suddenly he says he doesn’t want his girlfriend posing with Magic Johnson on Instagram and we bring out the torches and rope. Shouldn’t we have called for his resignation back then?”

Discrimination has been well documented in different institutions like in real estate, according to Nightingale. He said black people and white people are segregated in neighborhoods and cities, as well as in how banks and the federal government deal with people of different races. 

The discussion also focused on the viral video showing Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity members at the University of Oklahoma chanting a racist slur that surfaced online earlier this month.

Kevin Appiah-Kubi, a sophomore political science major, voiced concerns at the meeting that the racism and mentality of the fraternity members will be institutionalized as they go on to their future careers.

“These people will be your future lawyers, congressman, your policemen,” he said. Nightingale posed ethical questions to the group about the incident, racist comments in general and how they compare to actual hate crimes.

“Is speech strong enough to be an act?” Nightingale said. “Does it create hostility? Did the incident of the Oklahoma [fraternity] students undermine the entire university? Did they have a right to free speech and were covered under the constitution?” 

The group also discussed the three Muslim North Carolina students Deah Shaddy Barakat, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha and Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, who were allegedly shot and killed by their neighbor, Craig Hicks, in what police originally ruled a dispute over parking but what many feel was a crime motivated by Hicks’ hate for the students’ religion.

One student at the discussion, whose children were of multiracial ethnicity, said people being in an environment with diversity and having multicultural experiences would allow them to have tolerance and acceptance of others. 

Patricia Johnson, a junior chemistry major, said she believes students are all in agreement that hate crimes are immoral.

Students also discussed racism in the age of the Internet and social media. Some members of the group said people sometimes jump to conclusions about instances without having all the information. One student said people take action against others without having the truth of the matter, like the story of a brutal gang rape by a fraternity at the University of Virginia that was published by Rolling Stone Magazine and later discredited.

A student at the discussion said that changes occur after having critical conversations on a small scale, such as the InFocus discussions. Nightingale said it is big political movements that will make changes happen.

Devin Kolluru is a contributing writer and can be reached at news@ubspectrum.com