Kevin W. Saunders


On his book Degradation: What the History of Obscenity Tells Us about Hate Speech

Cover Interview of March 28, 2011


During the campaign that led to his presidency, Barack Obama called for a national conversation about race, a call later repeated by the Attorney General Eric Holder.

If we are going to engage in that conversation, we must first have some understanding as to the proper vocabulary.

Too often, people refuse to be drawn into any conversation regarding race—out of fear that someone may take their comments as racist.  For most of us, that is one of the worst accusations we could face.  So we choose to remain silent.

The possibility of this accusation and its resulting stifling of any conversation stems from the fact that identification of speech as racist, sexist, or homophobic seems to occur at the gut level.

Admittedly, in many instances, the gut feeling will be correct.  But, there are clearly instances in which what is perceived as hate speech was really not intended as such.

My hope is that this book’s examination of degradation will help us improve our conversation.

© 2011 Kevin Saunders