This article will examine the concept of racist words, symbols, and actions that are used as weapons to "ambush, terrorize, wound, humiliate, and degrade,” as psychological and physiological violence. The implications of such violence are relevant to several affirmative defenses and, indeed, to the initial formulation of mens rea. The historical and contextual legacy that is intentionally invoked by the utilization of racialized violence is what separates the racial epithet or racially violent symbolism from other distressing insults and slurs. While First Amendment protection extends to offensive or insulting speech, the mental and physical sequelae of such speech, even absent conduct, are appropriate considerations for the criminal law, as such speech is racial violence itself and may lead to the responsive physical violence that is beyond the protection of the First Amendment.
Camille A. Nelson,
Breaking the Camel's Back: A Consideration of Mitigatory Criminal Defenses and Racism-Related Mental Illness,
Mich. J. Race & L.
Available at: https://repository.law.umich.edu/mjrl/vol9/iss1/4