General discussion

Is it a crime to use a racial slur?

Apr 22, 2006 2:04AM PDT

This is a serious question. I've been thinking about this in light of the Duke case, but then there have been other cases in the news lately talking about similar situations (calling out names, or calling someone a name). Is it actually a crime to call someone a name? The original 911 call in the Duke case alleged that racial slurs were shouted at them as they drove by.

Distateful, immoral, deplorable ... yes, all those and more. But is it criminal?

Evie Happy

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It probably depends on the DA. If he/she wants to make it so
Apr 22, 2006 2:26AM PDT

he/she will probably find a way especially if there are more serious charges accompanying the slur charge. We've just seen the DA in Texas trying to get Delay for offenses that were not crimes.

I recently suffered a significant theft in Chicago. While reporting it, the police made it clear that they thought I was stupid (I was a little bit) and lying to collect insurance. Law enforcement is not 'friendly' and is not particularly trustworthy.

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Protected speech..
Apr 22, 2006 2:30AM PDT

unless it incites a riot or somesuch thing, which doesn't seem to be the case here.

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the next time you get pulled over
Apr 22, 2006 2:46AM PDT

ascertain the racial origin of the officer and then call him a "nazi "whatever" pig"...

when you get out on bail, let us know what the charge was...


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I'm not talking about verbally ...
Apr 22, 2006 2:57AM PDT

... assailing an officer of the law.

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neither am i
Apr 22, 2006 3:44AM PDT

i'm providing a scenario which could provide you with an answer...

or try this, after receiving the ticket, call the station and ask "who was that nazi *whatever* pig that gave me a ticket?"

or maybe describe your 'imaginary' situation...


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I don't know how it is in Israel ...
Apr 22, 2006 4:06AM PDT

... but here in the US if you were to do such involving law enforcement it changes the issue considerably.

I'm actually interested if there are any statutes on the books concerning this.

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over here the word nazi used as a curse
Apr 22, 2006 4:23AM PDT

-not just against a policeman- is against the law (it's in the book)....


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All I know is
Apr 22, 2006 7:34AM PDT

that calling a police officer a fascist is considered harassment in the second degree (Section 240.26 NYS Penal Law). If that includes calling a cop names can be discussed until the cows come home.

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I don't know how it is in Conneticut or Israel
Apr 22, 2006 8:03AM PDT

but in Texas and probably in most US states, if you smart off to a Cop in an argument, not even using a racial slurs or cuss words, there is no written law for him/her putting you behind bars. They can and do put you in the Wino drunk tank saying you are public drunk. Your word against the Cop when the clerk books you in and you havent had a drop. Breath test given only for drivers and will refuse to give you one. No seeing a Judge, call your lawyer, or a fine. Just let go in the AM with all the other Wine O's. Also, there is usually no record of an arrest.

Just a caution when dealing with some Cops as it has happened to a couple of people I know and have a cousin Captain on the force.

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Oh, was off track on your question Evie
Apr 22, 2006 8:15AM PDT

I do not know of a law in Texas outlawing racial slurs. There are laws on slander, and some laws concering civil right/hate crimes. Hollering out a racial slur while driving could be considered agravation of some type in a court of law, depending on the situation. A law, I am not aware of.

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Sticks and stones??
Apr 22, 2006 3:10AM PDT

I would think, for a crime to be committed, there needs to be some proof of measurable harm done. Racial slurs, I would think, are no different than other forms of name calling. Who knows how the victim of such will be affected or how they will react....and who is to blame for harm the victim might do by their own reaction to such a slur? So here's a related question from a possible scenario. Let's say you launch a verbal attack on a person of another race using racial slurs and that person reacts in a violent way...not by lashing back at you, but at another person of your race? Keep in mind, that in some cases, crimes can be considered as justified if certain mitigating circumstances surround them. Now, are you responsible for the other persons violent reaction to your verbal assault? Is the other person guilty of a crime at all? My answer would be ''No'' to the first part and ''Yes'' to the second.

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No Excuse
Apr 22, 2006 6:30AM PDT

There is no excuse for criminal behavior, especially not one's reaction to another's speech. The most it might qualify for is slander if a court would assess the words used implied something derogatory about the person addressed which was untrue. Normally though slander is saying someone did something specific of a criminal or immoral nature which isn't true. It's never slander to tell the truth, even if the person of whom it's true desired it not be known.

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The truth...
Apr 22, 2006 9:57AM PDT

Truth is not an automatic defense. Look into libel per quod.
Here's a quickie example: Let's say that when you a kid, you lived in a neighborhood with Tim McVeigh the Oklahoma City bomber and used to play with him. Now pretend that currently we were at odds for some reason or the other and I gave a speech in which I said, "James Denison, a former friend of the Oklahoma City bomber...etc.". That fact is true "per se", but it implies something that may cause you damage".

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But your example is of the type our mainstream
Apr 22, 2006 12:44PM PDT

media uses daily and considers to be truthful and ethical reporting.

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Apr 22, 2006 4:58AM PDT

There are hate crime laws. There used to be a law that if you used "fighting" words you could be arrested. I think a lot of these laws were well intended but some now use it as an intimidation tool, you harass me I'll have you arrested or I'll sue you. Reading an article that such tactics are beginning to backfire on groups like the ACLU and PETA. Being a common man, I thank God He endowed me with common sense and common courtesy. Two things you can't legislate, no matter how hard you try, are common sense and morality. As my Mom would say, the behaviour over the Duke incident is atrocious!


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Its not a crime, but it certainly is provocative behavior
Apr 22, 2006 6:36AM PDT

as well as offensive. If an incident then escalates, the slur could become part of proving a pattern of intent which might lead to criminal charges if something worse happens.


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All speech is free...
Apr 22, 2006 8:12AM PDT

Except when it offends the Emperor, then it becomes dangerous and must be destroyed.

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(NT) (NT) Cops must be Emperors by that logic.
Apr 22, 2006 12:47PM PDT
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(NT) (NT) Constables On Patrol are not the Emperor
Apr 22, 2006 1:28PM PDT
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Depends on who's doing the name-calling, Evie.
Apr 22, 2006 1:02PM PDT

If it's someone legally obligated to be fair and impartial (a policeman, judge, teacher, etc.) then it is criminal behavior. For you and me, if done at a low level it probably wouldn't be -- unless it rose to the level of a violation of the target's civil rights.

-- Dave K, Speakeasy Moderator
click here to email

The opinions expressed above are my own,
and do not necessarily reflect those of CNET!

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Probably depends on the race
Apr 22, 2006 1:58PM PDT

We all know certain races play the race card continually. What about the racial slurs of the past - kites, chinks, peckerwood, paddy, and so forth? What about what one person of a certain race calls another of that same race like oreo and sellout?

You think you've heard them all?


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Racial slur
Jul 17, 2015 10:36PM PDT

What if the racial slur came from officers is that against a civilian law?

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Did you see the dates?
Jul 17, 2015 11:41PM PDT

You have posted into a conversation that took place in April 2006. That is over 9 years ago!

This conversation has ended. Notwithstanding any changes in attitudes, in the law(s), and in any other factors that may have influenced the topic at the time, many of the participants in this conversation are no longer here, and so it is pointless continuing this particular discussion.

Thread locked.


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