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USC’s failed attempt to be anti-racist

Updated: Mar 8, 2021

By Raymond Dai and Reagan Liu Oct. 16, 2020

Quincy Han Art

At the University of Southern California (USC), communications professor Greg Patton was dismissed after accusations of distressing students’ mental and emotional health. While discussing filler words in different cultures, Patton explained the Chinese filler word “nèi ge,” an expression that sounds similar to the N-word but means “that.”

The implications of USC’s decision led many to raise concerns about how the professors’ dismissal imposed western values onto ethnic ones.

After receiving multiple complaints, the university placed Patton on administrative leave for the rest of the school year. The decision outraged many Asian students, as they felt that Patton did not intentionally use the words in a degrading manner. Since the dismissal, Patton has apologized for the offense but claimed that there were no intentions to disrespect the students.

“His suspension was unjust, students failed to see the professor had no ill intent, as well as the fact that the professor had no control over the fact that a common Chinese word coincidentally sounds like a slur. People should be more accepting of other cultures, and imposing western values onto non-western people is only going to lead to more pointless conflict,” Junior Kevin Yang said.

Due to ongoing social justice movements such as Black Lives Matter, taking precautions against racist language is emphasized now more than ever. According to The Mercury News, Marshall Dean Geoffrey Garrett, chairman of business administration of USC, justifies the decision by asserting, “It is simply unacceptable for faculty to use language that can marginalize and harm the psychological safety of our students.”

“I can understand why USC punished Professor Patton harshly. Amidst the social justice movement surrounding racism, saying something that sounds like the N-word can induce shock. Coming from an immigrant background where English was not my first language, I have also said ‘nèi ge’ while stuttering in conversations, but I stopped saying it both in and out of my home because people accused me of being racist,” Sophomore Leon Huang said.

The dismissal established a negative stigma on the Chinese language as a whole by portraying common words used in everyday conversation as taboo.

USC must recognize that not everything can be viewed through an English language. While Patton himself could have shown more sensitivity in planning his lesson given the diverse student body, his punishment sets a dangerous precedent. The dismissal established a negative stigma on the Chinese language as a whole by portraying common words used in everyday conversation as taboo. USC needs to recognize the diversity in its student body and faculty and embrace its varied cultures and languages, not discourage students from speaking their own languages.

While USC may have attempted to be anti-racist, they only contributed more to cultural division.

Additionally, their swift actions only prove that the administration hastily made its decision without considering its implications, perhaps to compensate for other accusations of discrimination within the school. Awareness and acceptance of other cultures and languages would go a long way in preventing prejudice, bigotry and racism in today’s society.


About the Contributors

Raymond Dai

Staff Writer

Raymond Dai is a sophomore at Leland High School and a Staff Writer for the Charger Account. He likes to play video games, play badminton and go out biking in his free time.

Reagan Liu

Staff Writer

Reagan Liu is a sophomore at Leland High school and a staff writer at the Leland Charger Account. He loves music and listens to many different genres of music in his free time. He never skips a meal and consumes all the nutrients needed to stay healthy.

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