By Callan Shore
WHAT EXACTLY IS FREE SPEECH?
First, I want to make the parameters of free speech clear. A high school girl in my town recently wrote an essay, which she put on social media, on the idea that people have become too sensitive, and people who disagree need to have more discussions. Among the problematic elements of her article, one stood out. She argued that that Neo-Nazis and White Supremacists, who came to our town of Charlottesville, Virginia on August 12, 2017, should have been left alone to express their “free speech.” If you are not aware, on August 12th, young black men, like 20-year-old Deandre Harris, were beaten by white supremacists, and a woman named Heather Heyer was killed by a white supremacist in a car. This essay is only one example of the hate that masquerades as opinion and is accepted as a side of the discussion every day. If you get nothing else out of this article, please understand this: Hate, whatever form it may come in: xenophobia, racism, homophobia, transphobia, etc., is not a ‘point of view’, it can never be validated by religion, and it should never be protected as free speech.
SHOULD WE TALK TO PEOPLE WE DISAGREE WITH?
I often hear, “if you just talk to someone you disagree with you will see their humanness and realize you more alike than you are different” Here’s the thing, when a Democrat says that about a Conservative I can almost guarantee you that Democrat is a white, cis, straight person because if they weren’t they wouldn’t be able to talk to someone who believes in oppression. When you are part of a marginalized community you are automatically a target. If you are a person of color, a member of the LGBTQ+ community, a Muslim, a member of the disabled community, an immigrant, or any other oppressed group, it is often simply not safe to have these discussions. People who are not outwardly white and palatable to racists, bigots, etc. are automatically in a position where peaceful discourse cannot happen.
Another crucial aspect of this topic is anger. Peaceful discourse is often not possible for people who have been oppressed because they are (rightfully) very angry. Imagine if you were regularly profiled and persecuted for your identity; would you have the patience to then speak nicely to the people who contribute to that?
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?
You may be saying to yourself, “how will change ever happen if we don’t talk to those who disagree with us?” We need structural change and to have that, we need legislative change. Therefore, calling your representatives and voting are excellent alternatives to discussion.
I also believe that people who have privilege like Olivia and I, the Faces of Feminism founders, can speak with those oppressors. We may even have a duty to do so because this will allow the people who have experienced the oppression to have a voice on the main stage in situations where they will be heard and respected. Additionally, I do realize that there are exceptions to every situation. Not all conservatives have identical beliefs, and some people in marginalized communities are willing to speak with those they disagree with.
Next time you tell someone else that peaceful discourse is the best course of action, consider your privilege and whether it is truly an option for all people. Marginalized groups should never have to hide their identity, uniqueness, or truth in order to have a discussion.