Hate Speech in the Trump Era

I found this reading on the topic of hate speech to be incredibly interesting. At the beginning of this course, we were asked to write our thoughts on what we know about the First Amendment, as well as what we think should and should not be protected. I stated that the First Amendment should protect speech, unless it promotes hatred or intolerance to a specific group of people”-clearly I was talking about hate speech. Throughout the class I learned that hate speech is protected under the First Amendment, unless, it incited violence, then that is a hate crime, which differs from solely hate speech. In chapter 10 of Freedom for the Thought that We Hate, it was interesting to learn about how things differed way back when, then how things are now. For example, the 1952 case, Beauharnais v Illinois, upheld an Illinois law that made it a crime to distribute any publication that, “portrays…lack of virtue on citizens of any race, color, creed or religion.” Beauharnais had distributed a pamphlet to police calling them to stop the invasion of white neighborhoods “by the negro”. That did not blatantly incite violence, yet he lost his case.

Looking at this chapter through todays lens, I cannot help but think about all the unrest in the US political climate. For example, the Nazi protests over the summer in Charlottesville. The Nazi’s marched through the city saying, “Jews will not replace us”. There were counter protests and riots, and one woman died. Although what they were saying is terrible, it is speech protected under the First Amendment, and even the ACLU came to their defense. However, it would have been a different story if they were marching in front of Jewish Synagogue, then they would be inciting violence. I think it’s interesting how fine the line is between hate speech, and inciting a hate crime.

I have been learning a lot in this class that it is okay to disagree with someone, but it is not okay to silence them. We all have a right to free speech, even if I 100% disagree with what you say, as long as it does not incite violence, it is free speech. Furthermore, I have learned that the best thing to do if you disagree with someone is to have conversation. Having those difficult conversations is important, and even if it’s just calling a racist a racist for saying racist things. “I think this life would not be worth living, without this freedom of expression.” –Albert Einstein

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