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The power of freedom and expression

Jody D. Armour speaks on Freedom of Speech and Expression

USC+Professor+of+Law+Jody+D.+Armour+speaking+to+a+crowd+of+students+in+the+USU+about+the+power+of+language+and+his+experience+with+it.
USC Professor of Law Jody D. Armour speaking to a crowd of students in the USU about the power of language and his experience with it.

USC Professor of Law Jody D. Armour speaking to a crowd of students in the USU about the power of language and his experience with it.

J. Aaron Delgado

J. Aaron Delgado

USC Professor of Law Jody D. Armour speaking to a crowd of students in the USU about the power of language and his experience with it.

J. Aaron Delgado, Managing Editor

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On Sept. 28, Cal State LA’s Democracy in Action series hosted University of Southern California (USC) Professor of Law, Jody David Armour, to speak on the topic of freedom of speech. Armour aimed to make sense of what is going on in Washington D.C. and how it affects the student body.

Armour is a widely recognized scholar and also the author of “Negrophobia and Reasonable Racism: The Hidden Costs of Being Black in America” (New York University Press). His book touches three central concerns of the Black Lives Matters (BLM) movement: racial profiling, police brutality, and mass incarceration.

Armour started the discussion by using President Trump’s recent tweets as examples of freedom of expression by maximizing it and recognizing how critical language can cause damage.

“Words can lacerate–they can be jagged edged,” said Armour. “But if you’re a believer in the power of language like I am, you also know or believe that words can suture the places where blood flows.”

Members of the Movement express themselves in various ways, while others see their motives as “too transgressive”. Armour responded to reactions by asking how people can handle words that do not disrupt the free expression rights like those of BLM.

Armour addressed his experience in answering questions about the title for his latest book that he is writing, his documentary, and twitter handle as “N***A Theory”.

“That word is about as radioactive as you get in the English language,” said Armour. “It is a word, again, that wounds but also I think it’s a word that can suture the same places that blood flows if used by people positively.”

Armour described an experience when he was in the lobby of the J.W. Marriott in Downtown L.A., which involved communication that is nonlinguistic, and three guards approached him and asked if he was there to see someone. He affirmed their questions. Following up with his answer, Armour then questioned why they didn’t ask anyone else within the vicinity. The guards said, “Sir, we’ve been having a problem with transients.”

Armour knew exactly what the answer he got meant, but he wanted to hear the guards explicitly say it.

“So you’re saying I look like a transient?” Armour asked the guards.

“Sir, don’t take it personally,” said a guard.

Just as Armour thought that the guards would leave him alone, they came back to asking for the person’s name that he was there to see. At that moment, Armour saw this situation as one that many black people find themselves in because of symbolic communication in the way they express themselves through appearance and through actions. If the name didn’t match who he was looking for, then the guards would identify him as a trespasser.

Understanding ideas and situations is something that Armour emphasizes with his students. He wants people to understand both sides of ideas rather than simply understanding one side.

“You’ve got to teach people to think both ways or people can’t be affective,” said Armour.

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The power of freedom and expression