Respect all types of controversial free speech

Hate speech is protected under the First Amendment, too

Suad Mohamed, Editorials Editor

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With tensions extremely high nowadays due to the results of the increased political divide in the U.S., groups like neo-nazis are spewing retorts that are offensive to minorities. Both liberal and conservative politicians have participated in this behavior, too. 

People are getting harassing messages on social media. Some are being confronted in public places because of their race, religion, sexuality, and gender. 

Just this week, a video of a Muslim girl being harassed by a white woman while waiting in line at a Trader Joe’s in Reston was posted on Facebook. The white woman threatened to get the Muslim girl deported because of her religion.

Encounters like this are happening a lot at colleges too. In February, there were clashes between pro-Trump groups and anti-Trump groups at UC Berkeley due to a visit by Milo Yiannopoulos, an alt-right writer.

Just last month, Ann Coulter, conservative political commentator was supposed to visit UC Berkeley, too. The university faced the same problems they did with Yiannopoulos. The visit was cancelled by the university, then it was put in place again. Eventually, the university cancelled it once again, citing security reasons. In reality, many people, including Coulter herself, claimed that it was cancelled because protestors didn’t want to hear what she had to say.

Racial, religious, homophobic, and sexist slurs have a lot of hatred behind them. They attack people based on things that they cannot control. These words can incite more hatred, anger, and fear. 

The question is: should there be any laws against racial slurs and derogatory terms?

While these hate filled statements are repugnant and hurtful to many people, they are protected under the U.S. Constitution, which is the supreme law of the land. 

The first amendment states that the people have a right to practice any religion, assemble and hold protests, petititon the government, report anything in the media, and the right to free speech. The right to free speech means that as Americans, we are allowed to express ourselves in any way we like, through words, literature, clothing, and more. 

Of course, there are limitations to free speech. Ranging from falsely shouting that there’s a fire in a public place to defamatory statements to making and distributing obscene materials like child pornograpy, there are certain things that you cannot freely express without consequences in the U.S.

The amendment protects all other speech, no matter how hateful and detestable they are. Limiting free speech because people don’t like it is more harmful than letting people say rude remarks. 

As soon as hateful speech is limited because people don’t like it, the Constitution is going to be opened up to other possible changes because of dislike. 

If certain aspects of free speech are repressed, people might try to restrict other parts of free speech that they don’t agree with either. The next possibility could be limiting freedom of religion because a large group of people say they don’t like the points of a certain religion.

Banning certain terms also upholds the belief that words are the issue. While they are harmful, they are not the root of problems like racism, sexism, homophobia, and islamophobia. 

The real problems are bigotry and ignorance. Stopping people from saying “bad words” will not work to solve the issues. It will not heal the hurt that comes with the words.

Even though it makes us uncomfortable, the use of these terms is still protected and allowed under the Constitution. When people say hateful messages, it reflects poorly on them. We shouldn’t go as far as to attack them; we should just call them out and hope that they realize that what they’re doing is wrong.

The right to speak the way Yiannopoulos and Coulter is protected under the First Amendment. Their words do not incite violence, so it should be tolerated, regardless of how it makes us feel.