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Slur Use Burns HLS Graduate

By Paras D. Bhayani, Crimson Staff Writer

Kiwi A. D. Camara, the youngest graduate in the history of Harvard Law School (HLS), has become embroiled in a recent controversy at Yale Law School regarding his use of racial slurs during his time at HLS.

Camara, regarded by many as a legal prodigy, graduated from HLS in 2004 at the age of 19, making him the youngest graduate in the school’s history.

Currently a research fellow at Stanford, Camara submitted an article for publication to the Yale Law Journal’s March Symposium Edition. But an anonymous e-mail, sent to the entire Yale Law School student body—after the editors of the Journal had accepted the article for publication—stated that in March 2002, Camara had used racial slurs in an outline he made for a first-year property law course, which was posted on an on-line HLS outline bank.

Explaining a case regarding racially restrictive property covenants, Camara wrote, “Nigs buy land with no nig covenant; Q: Enforceable?”

The new information set off a firestorm at Yale, especially after the Journal’s editors decided not to rescind their offer to publish the article or their invitation to a symposium with the edition’s other contributors later this month. Though submissions to the Journal, like most law reviews, are usually anonymous, submissions to the Journal’s Symposium Edition each March are not.

Following the revelation of Camara’s use of racist slurs during his time at HLS, Yale Law Dean Harold H. Koh ’75 sent an e-mail to the school’s student body in February in which he wrote that though the Journal, which is not formally affiliated with the law school, “is entitled to make this decision,” Camara’s speech should be condemned “categorically and with conviction.”

“Hate speech and racist speech are offenses not just to its direct targets,” Koh wrote, “but to the spirit of equality and liberty that animates the legal academy.”

In an open letter to the Yale Law community this December, Camara apologized for his remarks and asked those offended by them to direct their criticisms at him.

“I am not and have never been a racist,” Camara wrote. “I do not think and have never thought that African Americans are inferior, [but] I am sorry for the hurt that my use of racially offensive language in my 1L outlines has caused and continues to cause.”

Camara continued that he hopes his critics, “will continue to direct their anger at me and not at my coauthor or the Journal’s staff, which has dealt with a difficult situation admirably.”

When interviewed by The Record, the HLS weekly newspaper, in March 2002, Camara said that he “avoids [racially insensitive language] strenuously in public conversation,” and that the word is not reflective of his views on race. He also said that he would try to avoid using racial slurs in the future.

“I will make a much more conscious attempt than I have made not to do so,” Camara said. “I can’t guarantee it.”

Several Yale Law students said they plan on protesting Camara’s appearance at the symposium later this month, and that this ultimately would be more prudent than disinviting him.

“What Camara did while he was at Harvard was beyond reprehensible,” Mickey Mahoney, a second-year law student and Journal editor, told the Yale Daily News. “It’s a better response for a community to show that a person who engages in this kind of behavior is not going to have a warm welcome at the Yale Law School.”

—Staff writer Paras D. Bhayani can be reached at pbhayani@fas.harvard.edu.

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