Hate Speech is Not Free Speech


Lola Akinlade, Features Editor

If you have a white hood, go ahead and wear it — but not on public grounds. If you have a cross that you want to burn, go ahead and burn it — but not on public grounds. If you have a Nazi flag, go ahead and wave it — but not on public grounds.
There is a strong distinction between private and public expression. Hate speech should be a private matter. The Constitution protects free speech, no matter how hateful, but there is a fine line between hate speech against a political party and hate speech historically associated with racism and domestic terrorism. It should not all simply be protected under free speech.
One of the purposes of laws is to protect people and to make people feel safe; hate speech is a threat. Waving a Nazi flag is a symbol of pride for a genocide that killed more than six million Jews. “Repping” a white hood and burning the cross have historically been used to terrorize millions of blacks around America. A white hood is a threat, burning the cross is a threat, and the nazi flag is a threat. And just like guns are viewed as threats and are illegal to carry openly in public in most circumstances, historical symbols of hatred should be viewed in the same light.
Taking advantage of free speech as a way to intimidate others should not be permissible. Free speech should be used to express injustices or to fight for something one truly believes in. Free speech should not be exploited and used as a means to emotionally intimidate and harm the masses. Burning a cross outside of a historically black church is a form of terrorism, and it is perplexing to me that people fight for people’s right to do so.
For people arguing that it goes both ways — it doesn’t. Wearing a black armband as a symbol of peace and opposition against the Vietnam war is not threatening anyone. There is no violence insinuated with that symbol. It is incomparable. That is free speech. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion (go ahead and be a neo-Nazi and white supremacist!), but if a symbol historically represents genocide or the lynching of millions of African Americans, there should not be public demonstrations of that symbol. Publicly portraying symbols that take pride in violence is outright hostile and should not be protected under the First Amendment.
Can you really tell a young black man that the men marching with burning crosses and white hoods are no threat to him when 50 years ago, those same men would have been the one tying him up to a tree? I truly believe that it is people’s right to hate if they want (don’t get it twisted!), but it should not be their right to publicly display that hatred as a way to intimidate others, specifically if that hate is associated with violence.
There are already laws preventing this type of hostile behavior in school: According to the National Coalition Against Censorship, schools are required to take action if speech creates a hostile environment as stated in Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. However, these laws should be carried out into the general public. Hate speech is hostile — in school and on public grounds.
The Constitution explicitly protects hate speech — there is no debating that. However, it also explicitly promotes “tranquility” and promotes the “general welfare” of a nation, as stated in its preamble. Hate speech directly violates the ideals expressed in the Constitution. Therefore, hate speech should not be free speech.