Greg Patton: Professor Punished for Referring to Chinese Word That Sounded Like a Racist Slur [Video]

The teacher mentioned a Mandarin word used as a filler. But the phonetic similarity of this word to a racial slur left black students hurt.

The new-found passion in American society for opposing racial insensitivity has also led to some weird events. These incidents have left people wondering whether some have gone overboard in taking offense and seeing discrimination. One such example has come to light from California, specifically the University of Southern California's Marshall School of Business.

Professor Greg Patton teaches communications at the college and has been delivering his lectures online recently due to the COVID-19 pandemic. During one of his lectures some days ago, he was informing his students about certain features of Mandarin.

USC Professor
Professor Greg Patton of USC has been removed temporarily from his position Twitter

The 'incident'

Professor Patton told the class that in Mandarin, the word 'that' is often spoken as a filler, similar to how 'like' is used in spoken sentences such as 'Whatever happens, like, I am ready for it.' The Mandarin for 'like' is 'nega,' the teacher informed the class.

However, one of the students complained that 'nega' sounds too much like 'ni**a' – a racial slur describing blacks. On August 21, an e-mail complaint was sent to the university administration by a group of students. They identified themselves as black students of MBA, belonging to the class of 2022.

The e-mail letter was accessed by conservative publication National Review and details of it have come to light. According to the 'aggrieved' students, the word was used by the professor around five times and "offended all of the black members of our class." The students also claimed that the actual pronunciation of the word is not how Patton pronounced it.

"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 from students stated in conclusion.

University's Reaction

The University, possibly not wanting to appear even slightly insensitive at these times, took cognizance of the complaint and acted on it. While not punishing the communications teacher overtly, they reassigned him. The USC, in its official statement, said that Patton "agreed to take a short-term pause."

"We acknowledge the historical, cultural, and harmful impact of racist language," the statement read. It added that the university is "committed to building a culture of respect and dignity where all members of our community can feel safe, supported, and can thrive."

What would surprise many is that the administration of the institute has even arranged for "supportive measures" for students who are, supposedly, scarred by the pronunciation of this word. One wonders if a Mandarin word sounding like this slur is so damaging psychologically to students, why is this word used so liberally by black singers and actors in their songs and movies.