Hate Speech Hierarchy
Malcolm Gladwell notes that there have been numerous celebrity “racism” incidents in the news lately, each of which have garnered different levels of public outrage. He concludes that there must be an informal “hierarchy to hate speech” which he attempts to formalize.
It’s an interesting discussion and I think he gets it right, both on the general criteria and his judgments on specific cases. His conclusion, likewise, is dead on:
I think [racism] is a profoundly serious problem in our society–much more profound than we generally acknowledge. But we debase that term when we apply it to comments or actions indiscriminately. There is a distinction between being a racist and simply saying something dumb.
Most people instinctively understand that, I think, but it doesn’t seem to stop the charge from being bandied about recklessly.