Subtle, pervasive, harmful: Racist and sexist remarks in public as hate speech

Laura Beth Nielsen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations


Using field observations and 100 in-depth interviews with participants recruited from public places in Northern California, this article documents the experience of being the target of hate speech in public places. Focusing on racist and sexist hate speech (as participants define the phenomenon), I show that there is a range of experiences with hate speech and that it is often quite subtle, leaving all but intended victims unaware that it occurs. These data also show that such interactions occur with regularity and leave targets harmed in significant ways. There can be little doubt that members of traditionally disadvantaged groups face a strikingly different reality on the street than do members of privileged groups. Although the legal status of hate speech remains ambiguous, its harms are not.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)265-280
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Social Issues
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 1 2002

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences(all)


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