10.5 Case Studies

The Zinger and the Slur

A sign covered in icicles that reads “Hot Spot”

Source: Photo courtesy of David Goehring, http://www.flickr.com/photos/carbonnyc/99785459.

Former football coach Joe Paterno’s on-field prowess was only slightly more legendary than his sharp tongue. This is one crowd favorite: “If I ever need a brain transplant, I want one from a sports writer because I’ll know it’s never been used.”http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/2004-01-31/sports/0401310276_1_sports-writer-silly-stuff-recruiting-visits.” contenteditable=”false” aria-describedby=”footnote-area” aria-label=”Footnote”>

Most people find this to be pretty funny. And though it rubs some sports writers the wrong way, no one is going to file a lawsuit or claim antidiscriminatory protection is needed to protect the offended. On the other hand, JoePa—as he was called around Pennsylvania—himself suffered taunting as a younger man. People called him a “wop,” a slur attacking someone’s Italian heritage (like the more common “guido” or calling a Chinese person a “Chink”).

Question

  1. From an ethical viewpoint, and within a discussion of discrimination, does it make sense to hold that the brain transplant zinger gets a green light, while the “wop” slur gets flagged as objectionable?

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