After the Charlottesville protests and attack, many moved to denounce the neo-Nazis, KKK members, and white supremacists who caused the horrible events there. Aside from President Trump’s bizarre statements, nearly every public official in the country called out the white nationalists for their racism and horrid actions. Hate speech was denounced across the board. But there’s another question at hand.
Should hate speech be illegal?
It’s logical to believe that people who make claims that incite hatred in others should be removed and censured from society. In an essence, it would make society more peaceful, and would prevent negative, racist, hateful ideologies from existing.
But we can’t do that.
We have a first amendment for a reason. It protects all views, no matter how horrible you may deem them. Claiming that certain ideologies should be made illegal because the vast majority of people don’t agree with them silences outsiders. And blocking speech from some on the alt-right currently could lead to blocking of speech by some on the left should the people in power in our country move even further to the right.
The Supreme Court made it clear that the first amendment doesn’t protect free speech if it incites violence. That’s important here. The people in Charlottesville used their right to free speech and the freedom to protest to incite violence. And they shouldn’t be protected for that. But if you want to sit on Facebook or Twitter and make horrid, racist claims, you have that right, as long as you don’t cause someone else to be violent.
I’m afraid that any level of censorship of views leads to a structure in our country we shouldn’t have. We have protections in the constitution so that people can’t be jailed because of their views. We have those protections so we can speak out and disagree with our elected officials. Without these, we could head down paths we don’t want to. Can anyone truly stand up and say, let’s take away our freedoms and protections in the constitution so we can jail a few racists, while the rest of us spend our days wondering if we too could be imprisoned because we spoke out against the Trump administration.
I think the key to eliminating this hatred is in education. There’s an amazing story of a black man who lived in the South, and played Jazz at a lot of clubs around the South for a long time. Once, he met a man who was a member of the KKK and had never met a black person. The white man, after they spent a long time talking, gave this musician his KKK uniform and told him he didn’t believe in it anymore. Today, this man has over 30 KKK cloaks (or whatever they’re called), from KKK members who left the ideology because they took the time to talk to someone.
When we can have conversations with people we disagree with, we find out where our similarities lie. We find out why they believe what they do. We understand more about how people come to believe what they do. We become better people when we do, and we prevent things like hate speech and political climates like the one we’ve been stuck in for the past 3 years. So let’s try to have more conversations with people. Maybe that will unite our country, if our leaders continue to refuse to.