The Right to Be Racist in College: Racist Speech, White Institutional Space, and the First Amendment

Wendy Leo Moore, Joyce M. Bell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


Throughout the post–civil rights era, colleges and universities across the United States have periodically experienced explicitly racist incidents on their campuses. From the hurling of racial slurs at students of color, to the hanging of nooses on campus, to students donning Ku Klux Klan outfits or throwing “ghetto” parties that caricaturize communities of color, these incidents challenge the notion that modern racism has changed to a more subtle form, referred to as color-blind racism. We place these incidents within a broader context of race and institutions, suggesting a connection between overt racist expressions and the more covert elements of neoliberal color-blind racism. Through a critical discourse analysis of news stories about these incidents, the website of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, and the controlling legal cases involving racist expression on campuses, we suggest that explicitly racist incidents operate in tandem with neoliberal educational policies and color-blind racism to mark and reinscribe colleges and universities as white institutional spaces.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)99-120
Number of pages22
JournalLaw and Policy
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2017

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by grants from the National Science Council of Taiwan (NSC96-2320-B-039-014-MY2) and China Medical University (CMU96-239, CMU96-178). We are grateful to the National Center for High-performance Computing for computer time and facilities.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 The Authors Law & Policy © 2017 The University of Denver/Colorado Seminary


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