Some might argue that there is no racism against white people. White people have been the "supremacy" of humanity since before America began. This does not excuse the way white people treat any other race. The words, "Nigger, go back to Africa. You don't belong here" (Delgado and Yun 34) are not excusable, but anyone should be allowed to say them. Hate speech should not be censored. Here are the supporting points that will be discussed: the assessment of clear and present danger, and how it relates to hate speech, the manipulation of laws that have to do with preventing hate speech against those who are being racially abused, and why educating people about hate speech is so important.
Hate Speech Vs. Clear and Present Danger
"Fear of serious injury cannot alone justify suppression of free speech and assembly. . . To justify suppression of free speech there must be reasonable ground to fear that serious evil will result if free speech is practiced" (Brandeis). This quote brings up the first point in this essay: the assessment of clear and present danger, and how it differs from hate speech. This is the dictionary definition of "clear and present danger":
The standard set by the Supreme Court for judging when freedom of speech may lawfully be limited. Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., illustrated the point by arguing that no one has a constitutional right to shout "Fire!" in a crowded theater when no fire is present, for such action would pose a "clear and present danger" to public safety.
Hate speech is any type of speech that attacks a person based on their race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation. These two terms are not the same thing. As the example above for "clear and present danger" shows, shouting "Fire!" in a crowded area when there is no real fire is considered clear and present danger. It suggests an immediate threat. On the other hand, telling someone that they are hated because of their race or religion is hate speech. There is a place in which hate speech can cross over into clear and present danger; however, they are not, in essence, the same thing. Hate speech becomes clear and present danger when the words change from being "I hate you because you are Asian" to "I am going to kill you because I hate Asians, and you are Asian." All people should be allowed to verbally abuse others, as horrible as that seems, if only because taking away that right is unconstitutional. Nevertheless, no one has the right to use hate speech itself as a means to justify threatening and/or carrying out physical violence toward anything that has to do with a certain group of people, including organizations, and, of course, the people themselves.
The problem with the distinction between hate speech and clear and present danger is that the distinction itself is sometimes blurred, especially in cases in which the exact words of the perpetrator(s) are unknown. For example, the authors Delgado and Yun speak of violence that broke out between people in school campuses because of the hate speech that went on between white and black students. "At the University of California at Berkeley. . . a fraternity member shouted obscenities and racial slurs at a group of black students. . ." (Delgado and Yun 28). The book does not say that any violence broke out because of this particular incident. However in another example, the opposite is true. "At the University of Massachusetts, postgame racial tensions exploded in a brawl that left a number of students injured" (Delgado and Yun 28). One can see that these two incidents are nearly identical, except that one ended in violence and one did not. The specifics of what went on before the brawl took place are not made clear, only that there was some kind of "racial tension". Thus, it is impossible to know exactly what was said or done to start said brawl. This indistinctness is what makes stopping threats so difficult. It becomes even more difficult to stop serious threats when laws that are meant to prevent hate speech are being used against those who are being racially abused.
"One of the problems of restrictions on what has come to be called 'hate speech' is that they can all too easily be used to suppress. . . free speech on the part of the. . . minorities which they are supposed to protect" (Petley 166). In Julian Petley's book, Censorship, the author goes on to say that the Turkish government often uses an article of their Penal Code to imprison those who support Kurdish nationalism or culture (Petley 166). One cannot possibly fight for his rights using rules that give the right to freedom of speech and religion, when these same rules can be turned around and used against them – to prevent these rights. The Turkish government is using its own rules about protecting people's personal rights to religion to take away people's personal rights to religion. The government does not see the irony in its own actions; or perhaps it does, and simply refuses to notice. Some of its people notice, and some do not – simply because they are uneducated in the ways of politics.
Another example of how people will use the "no racism" rule against the people being racially profiled is discussed by the authors Delgado and Yun. The two author's take on this topic is something they call 'The Reverse Enforcement Argument' (31).
A reverse enforcement argument asserts that enacting antiracism rules. . . hurt[s] minorities because the new rules will eventually be applied against them. A vicious insult hurled by a white to a black will go unpunished, but even a mild expression of irritation by a black motorist to a police officer or a student to a professor will bring harsh sanctions (Delgado and Yun 31).
Basically, racist people are using racism preventative rules to stop the people they racially abuse from being able to speak out against the unfairness.
"Words of threats, conspiracy, or libel; copyrighted terms; misleading advertising; disrespectful words uttered to a judge, teacher, or other authority figure; plagiarism; and official secrets. . ." (Delgado and Yun 33). These are some of the many exceptions to the First Amendment, all of these exceptions set in place for the purpose of "keeping the status quo". Most people are too caught up in themselves to realize that they might actually be able to do something to help prevent hate speech. Even though hate speech should not be censored, if it can be limited, then people should do everything in their power to do so. It still hurts, even if it is a constitutional right.
Knowing is Half the Battle
How does one go about helping a cause if said person does not even know what is going on? This goes back to the Turkish government restricting religion, and the almost non-existent resistance of said restrictions. This is relevant to the First Amendment because if hate speech becomes censored, the problems that go along with it will be less known. Hate speech itself is mean and hurtful, but if it is suppressed, it will only be worse. Also, just because something is censored, or against the law, that does not make the idea or word go away. It will still be there, only, it will be there in subtle, hard-to-punish ways. Things will only become harder to detect and therefore will become more difficult to get rid of.
The people of Turkey have little resistance of their restrictions. There is little resistance for one simple reason: the absence of education. One of the reasons some people just do not know any better is because of the way people sugarcoat racism. For example, in National Forum magazine, Linda S. Greene states that people in political roles often use political correctness as a form of hate speech. Calling someone an "African American" instead of using the 'N' word is still labeling them, which is sometimes just as bad as using the racial slur itself. This is because, instead of simply calling people "people", one must always use a label to describe someone. Humans have been conditioned to do this. It seems all humans must segregate themselves one way or another, and using political correctness is one way to do just that. Not all people are evil, but some know how to manipulate others quite easily with just a tweak of language and a little charisma. It is easy to control the masses when using language that conveys "niceness". Call them "Asian" instead of "yellow", "African American" instead of "black", "Native American" instead of "redskin". As the times change, so do the terms. Although it is never morally okay to racially abuse someone, it is also not okay to sugarcoat the problem. It is like someone finding out that they have a tumor, and the doctor giving them a painkiller for the headache. Well, that is all fine and dandy, but does nothing to stop the tumor from growing.
As was stated before, hate speech is not liked by the majority of Americans, but it is still a constitutional right. People should have the right to say whatever they want, as stated in the First Amendment. That is not to say that anyone should have the right to threaten physical violence upon someone for their race or religion. This is the difference between hate speech and clear and present danger – if only more people knew this difference. The last thing that was discussed was that knowledge is key in being able to defend oneself. If one knows the problem, then fixing the problem becomes much easier. Knowledge is power.
Delgado, Richard and Yun, David. Civil Liberties: Opposing Viewpoints. San Diego:
Greenhaven Press, Inc. 1999.
Petley, Julian. Censorship. Oxford: Oneworld Publications. 2009.