The conversation continued sporadically for a few more hours before Pesca made his final point: “I don’t think it’s proper to use it in casual conversation and I’m in no position to tell Black NY Times workers that they shouldn’t be worried it’s going to pop out of a colleague’s mouth at some point. If you want my opinion it’s that there are some limited reasons why a non African American journalist or professor to use the word when conveying a quote in the name of clarity or factualness […] But it’s not a comfortable point to even pursue right now. If I had the opposite opinion I know a hundred ways I could make the opinion I actually have seem horrible and racist, and you know what, maybe it is.”

Later, Check chimed in to say the conversation should be stopped “not because this topic is unimportant — but precisely because it is very important.”

“I feel outraged,” a Slate staffer told me when asked about Pesca’s participation in the conversation. “I cannot believe I had to watch him enthusiastically provoke people on whether or not it is appropriate to use a racist slur.” Other Slate staffers that spoke to Defector expressed frustration and anger at Pesca’s insistence on having that particular conversation. “I don’t want to be in a workplace where people feel emboldened to have this argument. People’s humanity is not an intellectual debate,” one said.