A communications professor at University of Southern California has been reassigned after using a common Chinese filler word during a lecture, which black students complained sounded like a racial slur in English.

During a recent online lecture at the USC Marshall School of Business, Professor Greg Patton was explaining that Mandarin Chinese uses “that” the same way Americans use “like” or “um,” as filler.

The word in Mandarin is “nega,” and Patton’s lecture prompted someone to complain that it sounded too much like an English derogatory term for people of African descent.

I cannot believe this is real, but it is. This USC Professor is on leave after students were offended that a Chinese word he used during a lecture on foreign languages sounded like an english racial slur.Watch the video for yourself:

Patton “offended all of the Black members of our Class,” according to an August 21 email sent to the administration by a group of students identifying themselves as “Black MBA Candidates” class of 2022, and obtained by National Review.

The email says Patton used the word “approximately five times” during the lesson, in each of his three communication classes. The black students were “appalled” by it. Claiming the actual pronunciation of the word is “much different” from Patton’s, the students accused the professor of “negligence and disregard” and said the lecture affected their mental health. 

We would rather not take his course than to endure the emotional exhaustion of carrying on with an instructor that disregards cultural diversity and sensitivities and by extension creates an unwelcome environment for us Black students.

“In light of the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and the recent and continued collective protests and social awakening across the nation, we cannot let this stand,” the email concluded.

Treating 那个 as having anything to do w/ racist language is the closest thing to racism going on here. To refuse to engage with Chinese culture & make the Chinese language conform to one’s American experience is cultural ignorance at best–racism at worst.@USC should be ashamed.

The Los Angeles-based school confirmed to Campus Reform on Tuesday that a faculty member “used a Chinese word that sounds similar to a racial slur in English.”

“We acknowledge the historical, cultural and harmful impact of racist language,” USC Marshall said in a statement, noting that Patton “agreed to take a short term pause” while the matter is under review. Another instructor has taken over the class for the time being.

USC Marshall is “committed to building a culture of respect and dignity where all members of our community can feel safe, supported, and can thrive,” the school statement added, noting that “supportive measures” were offered to the students, faculty or staff who requested them.

RT reached out to USC Marshall for comment, and was told that the statement provided to Campus Reform was accurate, and that there was no additional information at this time.

US universities have long been on the forefront of struggle sessions for “racial justice,” which have only intensified over the summer even as the Covid-19 pandemic kept schools either closed or open only virtually. In July, the Conference on College Composition and Communication (CCCC) issued a statement demanding an end to “academic language and standard English” in the classrooms in favor of “Black language” or “Ebonics.”

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