Where does it stop? Hate speech is protected by the Constitution, the First Amendment, and has been upheld time and again by the Supreme Court. People have a right to be jerks and say nasty and hurtful things to other people. Unfortunately, it is their right. Fortunately, it is our right to be able to turn away, not to listen, and say what we think, also. No matter how repulsive it is, if we care about freedom, we need to allow such horrible things to continue.
The Confederate flag needs to be seen, not erased from history. It is painful and a symbol of horrific oppression and unspeakable cruelty. BUT – it is a reminder of what happened in the past. It is a past that can never be forgotten. When we begin erasing those symbols of the past, no matter how repulsive, we start forgetting what they were all about.
“…Where racist, sexist and homophobic speech is concerned, the ACLU believes that more speech — not less — is the best revenge. This is particularly true at universities, whose mission is to facilitate learning through open debate and study, and to enlighten. Speech codes are not the way to go on campuses, where all views are entitled to be heard, explored, supported or refuted. Besides, when hate is out in the open, people can see the problem. Then they can organize effectively to counter bad attitudes, possibly change them, and forge solidarity against the forces of intolerance….” ACLU
Unfortunately, I agree with this. When it comes to colleges and universities, they are now so ‘safe’ no form of uncomfortable discourse is allowed. When something becomes uncomfortable trigger warnings are posted. It’s too bad people just can’t be adults and understand that life isn’t always pleasant, warm and fuzzy. People say hurtful, hateful things to other people. It’s life. It will never change. To attempt to want to force people into a certain form of behavior is irrational and immature. It isn’t going to happen.
I know, I’m trekking where Klingons fear to go. There comes a time, though, when a good thing can become a bad thing. I think we’re starting to reach critical mass with the hunt for racists. In this country, hate speech is legal, as long as it does not start a fight, or discriminate. Acts of hate can be regulated by law, according to the Supreme Court. But, defining ‘hate’ speech as a crime violates the First Amendment. In fact, in the case of R.A.V. v. City of St. Paul, 505 U.S. 377 (1992), the Supreme Court ruled that a 14-year-old white teenager had the right to burn a cross in the yard of a black family, because he had that First Amendment Right. The court did not rule that the act was legal, just that the racist little jerk had a right to express himself. The monster could be punished for criminal damages, harassment, and physical damage to property. He could not be punished for being a jerk.
In Wisconsin v. Mitchell, 508 U.S. 476 (1993), after watching the movie Mississippi Burning, three black youths beat up a white kid who happened to walk past them. One of the black youths, Mitchell, shouted that they should beat up the white youth because he was white. The three black youths had a right to their racist thoughts, and their wish to beat up the white guy. But, they were held accountable for the criminal act of beating him.
According to the ABA:
“...In this country there is no right to speak fighting words—those words without social value, directed to a specific individual, that would provoke a reasonable member of the group about whom the words are spoken. For example, a person cannot utter a racial or ethnic epithet to another if those words are likely to cause the listener to react violently. However, under the First Amendment, individuals do have a right to speech that the listener disagrees with and to speech that is offensive and hateful…”
In fact, the ACLU has stated, in December of 2014:
They have a right to say what they want. We have a right to choose not to listen to it, and to speak our minds, as long as neither side starts a fight.
“… In 1969, the Supreme Court protected a Ku Klux Klan member’s racist and hate-filled speech and created the ‘imminent danger’ test to permit hate speech. The court ruled in Brandenburg v. Ohio that; “The constitutional guarantees of free speech and free press do not permit a state to forbid or proscribe advocacy of the use of force, or of law violation except where such advocacy is directed to inciting imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action.”…”
People have a right to say what they think. People have a right to be hurtful when they say what they think. They have a right to say and think things and not be destroyed for it. They do not have a right to discriminate against anyone, no matter who or what they are. There’s a big difference – unfortunately. Hate speech is just that – hateful. It can be used against anyone, no matter who they are, their race, religion, gender identification, or nation of origin. There is, though, a difference between hate speech and harassment.
Where does it stop? If we begin legislating what is and isn’t hate speech, when does it reach the point where our lives are no longer free. There are numerous individuals who want to have certain things said by minority segments of Islam declared hate speech. Here’s the problem. They do that, and what I have to say, as a Christian, if it offends someone, can be declared hate speech. It is an unending slippery slope ending when no one is free to open their mouths about anything.
Sorry, but we’re now involved in a nasty political witch-hunt. I understand the reasoning. I sympathize with it. But, as much as I will stand against racism and hate, I’m afraid I need to stand up for the freedom of speech and thought. If a mob is coming after someone who is of a minority status, because of that minority status, I’m going to stand up for their right to have that status and be protected by the law. When the members of that nasty mob are told they no longer have a right to say what they think, I’m going to support the First Amendment.
People have a right to their opinion. They have a right to be nasty and to say hateful things. They have a right to be insulting, and even verbally hurtful. They do not have a right to destroy, stalk, or cause physical harm. They do not have a right to bully. They do not have a right to refuse service, discriminate in any form, or ruin individuals because of their hate. But – they have a right to be jerks. I suspect the greatest irony here is that in trying to end the plague of people saying hurtful things, the good guys are becoming the bullies, and the nasty jerks are on their way to becoming victims.
I could tell you a heck of a lot about being bullied, treated with hate, stalked, criticized, insulted, and subjected to hate and prejudice. Because I’m a white female who comes from a family where the spoon wasn’t silver, but silver-plated, I’m not allowed to even express what has happened to me over the years. There is a bigotry and a prejudice against people like me, when it comes to what we have endured over the years. I guess that’s why I don’t have a lot of sympathy for people who don’t like to be confronted with things which aren’t pleasant. The bottom line is that life sucks – deal with it like an adult and quit bellyaching about it. If you are incapable of comprehending that other people who may not look like you or believe what you do, or are part of certain minorities have not been treated with hate, prejudice, and certain bigotries, then you haven’t found your full humanity. It’s that simple.