Promoting Hate Speech On School And College Campuses

Labaree defines hate speech as, “antiminority or sexist speech, or expressions containing racial, ethnic, religious, or sexually-oriented words intended to insult or demean an individual or group”. Freedom of speech is the right to think and speak about your own opinions. In the past few years, there’s a debate going on discussing whether hate speech should be allowed to be used at school or college campuses or not. The very first question that came to my mind while researching was that is there any difference between free and hate speech. If free and hate speech is not the same, then where should be the line drawn to differentiate these two. In my opinion, hate speech should be allowed at school and college campuses as this can promote equality among students and will help in developing a multicultural learning environment.

In 1940, Walter Chaplinsky, a member of Jehovah was giving a roadside talk on religious literature. He was not informed that he was arrested because of the words he used in his talk. Upon leaving, by saying “God damned racketeer” and a “damned Fascist”, he accused a police officer. As, Chaplinsky was expressing his thoughts and views, which could have been argued by others, but he was directly sent to jail. Therefore, he appealed his “conviction” by saying that his right to free speech is being violated. Chaplinsky’s argument was correct. Everyone has a right to freedom of expression, hence the court set him free. This appeal led to “hate speech codes” being created and implemented. According to S. Cagle, speech codes are the “policies forbidding certain kinds of offensive, demeaning, or discriminatory speech”. This speech can include comments on someone’s race, religion, gender which are offensive. The debates on hate speech started in the “late 1980s and early 1990s” and it is still a hot topic in twenties.

In my opinion, hate speech continued to follow for a long time because we do not know what comes under our free speech and hate speech. Then the question arises, who decides whether a word comes under hate speech or not. Ceci et al. in their journal state that, “as almost anything can be offensive”, therefore “the least tolerant individuals will get to decide what speech is permitted on campuses”. This means that almost any speech act is somehow offensive to some groups, which can cause distress and therefore, will be regarded as hate speech and again debated. It will be kind of fair, to let the least tolerant people, which words should be allowed to be used on college campuses. College campuses represent a small community where hate speech is dominant, although it is a global problem. Hate speech has made its way out of academic institutions. For instance, there was a conflict between white nationalists and black minorities because of the removal of the statue of Robert E. Lee from Lee Park. Both communities were expressing their thoughts. White nationalists started protesting and then the black people brought banners saying, “Black Lives Matter” and “F**k White Supremacy”. They were protesting against each other, as a counter move, one of the white nationalists drove a car into the protest and killed Heather Heyer and injured a lot of people. In this case, freedom of speech leads to violence and hence, some people are against the concept of free speech and want to restrict the use of free and hate speech.

As I mentioned earlier, I think that hate speech should be promoted as it will help in reducing discrimination and spreading equality. Justice Louis Brandeis, in 1927 wrote that “if there be time to expose through discussion the falsehood and fallacies, the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence”. This means that if there would be an open conversation in certain topics between two groups, this might help in reducing the stigma and hence improve the situation. If two groups will talk to each other, this will help them clearing the misunderstandings, but if silence is preferred, then this will ruin the situation. Recently, at the University of Virginia, students formed an organization named “Student Alliance for Sexual Healing”. The main goal of the organization was to help the students to “reconcile” their sexual identity, but several LGBT groups found that offensive and protested against the organization. From my perspective, the LGBT group should have talked with the members of the organization before protesting. Because the organization was not doing any harm and was not using hate speech. They were just trying to help the students, but LGBT groups misinterpreted that the organization’s “message is anti-gay”. President Trump tweeted in 2017, to complain that the University of California “does not allow free speech and practices violence on innocent people with a different point of view”. He tweeted this because the college students and administrators were not allowing people to express their thoughts, especially the controversial speakers. I think they might have thought that this would harm students. If someone has a problem from someone’s point of view, he or she can present a counter-argument but threating is not the solution. S. Cagle explains that speech regulations promote the suppression of one’s thoughts. If we follow the speech regulations, then we violate the right of free speech. Therefore, we cannot express our ideas and have to accept what others have stated, although if you do not agree with them. Labaree says, “today’s higher educational mission is the need to develop a multicultural learning environment”. If we are talking about multicultural society, one of the consequences would be conflicts based on hate speech. However, if children are taught about hate speech and the ways to deal with it, then they can restrain the dispute.

To conclude, hate speech is a controversial topic and it is not limited to the school campuses. In my opinion, hate speech should be promoted as it will reduce the conflicts between two communities. Schools and colleges can play an important role. A multicultural environment should be inculcated on campuses and students should learn about controversial speakers either by listening to their opinions or reading about them.

10 October 2020
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