On the Racial Incident

Raymond Owen ’14

Concerning the most recent and troubling events of the school, and primarily the racial slurs involved, I would like to address a pertinent term that Dr. Arieti brought to light in class today: epithet. The etymology of the word epithet, coming from the Greek bases epi-, upon, and the-, to put or place, was originally used as a descriptive name for a person. A name, then, put onto a person, a name to describe their inherent attributes. But as we have learned in our class with Dr. Arieti, a name ought to apply not to the superfluous or accidental, but to the essence of a person or thing. To clarify the terms, an accidental (from Latin accido, to fall upon) attribute would be one that a person may have, but could lack; the attribute is superfluous. While an essential (from Latin esse, to be) attribute is necessary to the character of the person being named.
So in using racial epithets, the most unruly men of yesternight were clearly missusing the rhetorical device to a degree of supreme ignorance. For in using a name to misrepresent the essences of the individuals offended, the men involved are clearly not approaching the naming with reason, the distinguishing capacity of the human being. Worse, possibly, and I hope not, is that these men were using their faculties of reason and speech to degrade the lives of others, and if this is true then a grave crime has been committed.
For if Aristotle is held as an authority, then the function of the human capacities for reason and speech are to build and maintain harmony within the human community, and this for the pursuit together of life, liberty, and property. And if this is held to be true, and our home here at Hampden-Sydney College is agreed upon to be a community, then these men have willfully betrayed the harmonious community that is here to build “Good Men and Good Citizens.” And as such, they are in a position to be ostracized; they ought to be ostracized.
So whether the men do not know that their naming is without validity, in which case they are ignorant, or they know, in which case they are disrespectful insultors of reason, the peaceful atmosphere here at the college does not need their interuptive presence. In short, they are accidental students. They can either learn to name appropriately, thus dispelling their ignorance, or leave on account of disturbing the peace.

Post Script—I am not happy about the election results either.


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