Not a Take on Free Speech

From the Editor-in-Chief: This article may contain language is offensive, and material that is emotionally evocative for the reader. 

There has lately been an uptick of debates surrounding free speech across college campuses all over the country amidst the election of Trump and the rise of the alt-right. This is especially true of the recent wave of articles posted in The Clerk articles.

This is not a response to the most recent piece on free speech, or any piece for that matter, but such pieces have made me feel compelled to articulate to the best of my ability my perspective concerning free speech as a woman of color, and a black woman of color at that. Do not think I’m speaking on behalf of other black women and other people of color; I’m doing so on behalf of myself. However, I do hope others including black women are able to relate to what I’m saying. And let me just say, I can’t digest these opinion pieces that seem to lack an understanding of this country’s history beyond the surface.

First off, I think in order to go into any discussion concerning free speech, there must be a level of awareness that freedom of speech, like most if not all rights sanctioned in the American Constitution, never was and still isn’t equally distributed among people in this country. If it were, then we wouldn’t have (mostly black and brown) people arrested for expressing free speech via protest and occupation. Multiple arrests have been made in various Black Lives Matter protests over the years and the Standing Rock protests, marches concerned with people of color’s rights, whereas zero arrests were made in the Women’s March on Washington, a mostly white march. A twelve-year-old child can get killed with no justice or due process for playing in a park, whereas a White supremacist gets a bulletproof vest and Burger King after killing nine black people in their house of worship. Let me remind you, a bunch of white middle/upper-class men gathered in a room to create a document that foregrounded the development of this country declaring universal equality. During this process, they prevented their wives from participating in it, and owned enslaved black people that they abused and/or murdered on a day to day basis. This all occurred on land that they forced Indigenous people out of, through forced removals and murder. So believe it or not, this country is founded in the unequal distribution and deprivation of rights and entitlements, so any argument about free speech, in my opinion, is already considerably void without an understanding of this history.

Additionally, this need to protect all kinds of speech happens under the false assumption that words do not have power, and will lack power when ignored. Do you know how Trump won? Words. Do you know how violent colonization and slavery began? Words. You know how the Holocaust got its start? Words. All these milestones of violence in history got their start with words that people identified and agreed with, even when other people ignored them. For instance, I can ignore someone who says, “I would love to see you and your people for dead n*****,” if I so choose, but that does not guarantee that people that genuinely want me for dead won’t listen and take heed to those words and cause me, and others like me, some kind of harm. To contextualize it in the historical, enslaved black people could not just ignore their slave status and their master’s commands and walk off the plantation they were forced to be on just because they felt like it; that would’ve, and did, get them killed.

Lastly…why is free speech the primary concern here? Especially in emphasizing people’s right to vocalize violent rhetoric? Are you more concerned with that than the pain and fear that such rhetoric causes for members of marginalized groups? Because that pain directly and indirectly affects a lot of people in this country, including members of this here community. It’s a pain and fear that I feel in the back of my mind and gut every day. This pain and fear are felt as a result of hateful and violent rhetoric being acted upon via the empowerment of Trump’s election, and it is only continuing to gain traction and support. And I don’t mean to speak for other people of color, but if you went to We Speak, you must know that a majority, if not all, students of color feel at least a sense of unease at this current moment. Why do you care more about the suppression of speech ridden with these violent ideologies than the real and visceral pain, fear, and anger that they cause for your peers? Are you that incapable of empathy? Do you lack concern? Have you talked to anybody feeling this pain and fear? Maybe you did, but based on what has been written thus far for The Clerk, I’m getting the sense that you haven’t, and I really hope it is a false sense.

And just so we’re clear, Republicans/Trump supporters do not count. Their fear of social exclusion is not comparable to marginalized people’s fears of dying and/or losing family members.

If that was TL;DR, what I am saying here is that prioritizing people’s right to vocalize and support violent ideologies, especially without an historical understanding of how civil rights have been applied to citizens and noncitizens alike, over the pain and fear of the people that such ideologies affect is not just insensitive, it is immoral. And to whoever does that, it is very hypocritical of you to do so when you intentionally came here signing up to uphold Haverford’s community values of trust, concern, and respect.

I have no offer of a solution, nor am I trying to make a specific stance on free speech. Like I said, that’s not why I wrote this. I’m just here feeling frustrated and disappointed that in this time that calls for urgent action, this is what people would rather talk about and focus on. But I wish I were surprised.

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47 Responses

  1. tired of freeze peach bois says:

    THANK YOU <3

  2. anonymous says:

    Beautifully expressed and the only article that we needed

  3. Ryan McCourt says:

    “… to articulate to the best of my ability my perspective concerning free speech as a woman of color…” is to relinquish your claims to objectivity at the outset, brandishing your own myopia as if it were a badge of honor.

    • Anthony says:

      You say “relinquish your claims to objectivity” as if you have objectivity. She is acknowledging that her experiences influence her perspective. What stalls conversation is how white and privileged people do not acknowledge that.

      • eva says:

        honestly why are you so fucking concerned with “””objectivity”””? do you really expect people to act like completely rational automatons with no emotions or experiences or opinions? are you willing to completely disregard everything a woman of color says because she isn’t completely objective when that’s not even the point of the article? bc guess what nothing is completely objective and people’s experiences and voices matter, especially when those voices are routinely suppressed by people just like you. not everything has to be rational or claim to be objective to be valid and deserve to be heard. get the fuck over yourself.

        • eva says:

          (just to clarify this is in response to ryan, not anthony)

          • Ryan McCourt says:

            Some synonyms for objectivity: impartiality, absence/lack of bias, absence/lack of prejudice, fairness, fair-mindedness, neutrality, evenhandedness, justice, open-mindedness…

            The more important question is, why are so many of you folks unconcerned with these things?

          • Angelique Spencer says:

            The real question Ryan is why are you spending time arguing with college students you don’t know at a college you don’t go to??

  4. Ryan McCourt says:

    “First off, I think in order to go into any discussion concerning free speech, there must be a level of awareness that freedom of speech, like most if not all rights sanctioned in the American Constitution, never was and still isn’t equally distributed among people in this country.”

    False: discussions of free speech need not revolve around American racial history. Free speech is bigger than that, sorry.

    • Anthony says:

      It seems like you feel frustrated because you strongly value free speech as a crucial component in creating a just and equal society. It also seems like you feel afraid because you worry that others do not recognize how suppression of free speech has lead to tremendous harm in the past and around the world. Likely you have additional thoughts and perspectives on the topic that I haven’t grasped yet.

      In this case, I think you are letting your fear, frustration etc cause you to miss an opportunity to benefit from the perspectives of Angelique and others, because it seems like you are reading her article with a “this is going to be against free speech, how can I fight back?” mindset instead of a “what is this article saying and what can I learn from it?” mindset. If you have been in arguments around this topic before, you probably know how much it sucks to have someone leap to combat your argument before showing that they have truly considered it. So I would call on you to try just temporarily to put aside your frustration and read first with a friendly and empathetic eye, before jumping to assert a view (freedom of speech) that I do not think this article is actually arguing against. If I am wrong, and you did first read the article with an open mind, would you be willing to summarize the sentiments Angelique is expressing so she and other readers can know that you really heard the argument before you responded?

      Lastly, in response to your particular claim here: I believe that discussions of *protecting or defining free speech in the United States* do need to acknowledge racial history. It seems to me from the article and the other articles in the Clerk that we are talking about what free speech looks like here and now and how it affects different people in our society, rather than how a utopia detached from history might protect and define free speech. Therefore, I think your push to reframe the discussion in abstract terms misses the reality that Angelique is attempting to address. If all this is missing the mark of your point, and you truly do think we can productively discuss how our community, (as in our real community, not a sentient frictionless sphere in a vacuum style hypothetical community) should respond to “I would love to see you and your people for dead n*****” without considering American racial history, I would be open to hearing further about that point of view, and you can contact me at amarquse@haverford.edu.

      • Ryan McCourt says:

        “It seems like you feel frustrated…”

        Rather that indulge in bad faith characterization of other people’s mental states, you would do well to confront the objective points raised, and debate those instead, to avoid fallacious reasoning in the future. Your rhetoric here is a non-starter.

  5. Ryan McCourt says:

    “Additionally, this need to protect all kinds of speech happens under the false assumption that words do not have power, and will lack power when ignored. ”

    False: the assumption is that the best remedy for bad speech is more speech, not more ignorance.

  6. Ryan McCourt says:

    “Do you know how Trump won? Words. Do you know how violent colonization and slavery began? Words. You know how the Holocaust got its start? Words.”

    Do you know how this article started? Words.

    • Angelique Spencer says:

      You know how I lost brain cells today? Word.

      Considering you’re Canadian and your so-called arguments are poor and completely lacking nuance, you’ve relinquished your right to participate bye bye

      • Ryan McCourt says:

        Your nonsense is getting MUCH worse now, Angelique. You’re acting like a child.

        Welcome to the internet, where your arguments will be evaluated and confronted by people around the world. Where your mere assertion that my “arguments are poor” are seen as laughably obtuse and unconvincing, because you offer no rebuttal to those points.

        I relinquish nothing, certainly not to an authoritarian ignoramus like yourself.

        • Angelique Spencer says:

          I was initially ignoring these comments but after seeing this….You’re saying I’m acting like a child while you’re here articulating points of rebuttal like Dwight Schrute from The Office? And you expect me to take that seriously??? Come on, at least be authentic and original in your arguments. See, I offer no rebuttal because you’re not worth one, because you’re an autonomous adult out of school that clearly has nothing better to do than argue with college kids you don’t know. I don’t know who you are and I definitely won’t be meeting you in person, so it’s about picking my battles, and frankly, yours is just not worth taking seriously. And if you think I’m acting like a child for doing that, then good thing I don’t care about what you or anyone thinks. Because what’s your relevance here? What are you gaining from this?

  7. Charles Walker says:

    First of all, I would like to say that I agree with a lot of what you bring up in the first half of your article (indeed, free speech should be universal: to deny someone the ability to make their ideas heard because of the color of their skin is reprehensible), but there is a glaring error you slide into in your third paragraph: You conflate two different understandings of the concept of rights: The rights you have legally speaking and the rights you have philosophically speaking. The difference is easy to see: You and I agree that slavery was always wrong, but that it was once legal. Back then to enslave someone didn’t break a legal right, it broke a, for lack of a better term, essential one: That people shouldn’t be enslaved isn’t due to a legal code, but a fact of moral reality. An understanding of the second type of rights should be separate from an understanding of the first. While knowing about the past is important, don’t get me wrong, what was and was not, and what is and is not legal, has no bearing on what should and should not be legal. This is why new laws can be created and old laws repealed, after all. To try and combine a discussion of a philosophical question (what should and should not be allowed in society) with a historical one (what was and wasn’t allowed in society) without actively drawing the distinction is an invitation to future error.
    As for words having power, I feel like this (despite your article’s claim to the alternative) is in response to my argument in my previous article, so I will break my response to it into two sections, one in explanation of why this response fails to understand the point I made, and one more general. If I am wrong in this understanding, feel free to skip the next paragraph.

    My point was not a test for efficacy, but for speech-like nature, so to say that words have power is not at all to refute my point, which is that they only have effects or, as you would say, power, if listened to. Not necessarily by you, but it seems narcissistic to claim that to be ignored by you is to be ignored in the abstract. I was not at all suggesting in my article that you could just ignore something and completely negate it, but only that if everyone did it would be negated (note in my example, I use “everyone ignores,” not “you ignore” in my writing).

    Furthermore, the point in general is flawed: You are attempting to draw a causation between speech and violence by pointing out a correlation, and then assert an identity from a causation. But there is a flaw in both steps here. First that this correlation is spurious. Essentially all acts committed by multiple individuals were initiated by words in some form. This is because words carry information and coordinated action requires information exchange. You might as well assert words can be a form of soccer game, since it would be very hard (bordering on impossible) to schedule a soccer game without prior communication.
    You even say in your article that, should you ignore speech:

    that does not guarantee that people that genuinely want me for dead won’t listen and take heed to those words and cause me, and others like me, some kind of harm.

    So what harmed you here? Words or actions? Because if I heard that someone had harmed you, I would hold them culpable for their actions. Your harm would be the same if your attacker was spurred by a bout of madness as if they were spurred by a demagogue, because it is the attacker who harms you, not his motivations.
    Once again, you continue to focus on the “ignoring” point. I agree, slaves couldn’t ignore the commands of their master if they walked off the plantation. They’d get beaten. Or shot. Two wonderful examples of actions. In other words, it wasn’t the slave masters’ words that kept people slaves. It was their actions. Although you may not have seen it, I also addressed the topic of direct threats in one of my responses on my original article, which I will be happy to reproduce here.
    Words do not carry power without actors and actions. Magic is not real, one cannot speak an invocation and command the cosmos, for the cosmos is deaf and pays mankind’s words no heed. All people can influence are other people: and people bear the responsibility for their own actions.
    Why is speech the issue? Because people were arguing to curtail it. My piece was absolutely a reaction to earlier works, and as such was driven by disagreement with them. Since your piece isn’t a reaction, you’ll have to answer that question in regards to your piece for yourself, but I have a very good answer. You also admit in this article directly that the words aren’t the problem. You say:

    This pain and fear are felt as a result of hateful and violent rhetoric being acted upon

    The crucial phrase here is “acted upon.” You completely admit that the words aren’t causing you any pain. The actions are. Even though you continue to say that it was via rhetoric, you admit that the central cause is action.
    You then go on to slander those who you disagree with, though couching it in hypothetical, claiming they lack empathy simply because they reach a different conclusion than you. (I would also like at this point to apologize at this point if I come off as rather harsh, but being told that I have no empathy for people is an insult I take rather seriously due to reasons I’d rather not go into right now).
    Let me dispel this idea that emotions are in any way more real than the suppression of free speech. If I prevent someone from saying something because it would hurt your feelings, I act not on you (who, as you end up not ever hearing the offending statement if I succeed, are entirely external to the process of the suppression of free speech), but on them (by whatever process I restrict their speech), and so their rights must be the center of the ethical questions I consider.
    As for talking to people, I cannot speak for anyone else, but I have actively engaged with those who disagree with me. Look at my article. The very first comment is actually by me, encouraging discussion about the piece and telling people I will try to respond to any disagreements about my piece. This promise was one I fulfilled: You will see that of the 25 comments, 9 (36%) of them are by me. This comment itself is proof that I am fully supportive of dialogue and discussion. I just won’t go into these conversations with the presumption that those I disagree with are correct.
    As for your next point: I absolutely agree. Emotional reactions never justify claims, no matter who is making them, after all.
    I also have one other point to bring up. I’ve intentionally avoided a historically based argument up until now, but I feel like, since you are insisting we bring it in, we look at the societies which had the least freedom of speech and ask ourselves if those were societies we’d consider good. It is no coincidence that crackdowns on freedom of speech are associated with dictatorships. It is because freedom of speech is an important process of the democratic process, and so it is no surprise that the breakdown of one is found alongside the breakdown of the other.
    Finally, two things. Suggesting I was a hypocrite to sign the honor code and then disagree with part of it is to call everyone who votes for amendments to it during Plenary hypocrites. I signed it because it is, taken in aggregate, a great thing. I never signed anything saying I’d pretend it was perfect.
    And as for the idea that fighting for this cause is unacceptable because there are supposedly more important ones, I find this total nonsense. Just because other causes exist doesn’t invalidate this one. While I lived in Indonesia I was an avid supporter of animal welfare. Was I wrong to help protect animals because there were humans in need of protection in Indonesia as well? Absolutely not. I did good in the world. I helped save kittens from being drowned. And the existence of other causes didn’t make those kittens any less important. Judge a cause based off of its own merits, not as some competition for the most important cause in the world, because I imagine you actively support more than one cause, and if you believe that only one cause can win out, then I invite you to choose.

    • Kevin Liao says:

      “This is not a response to the most recent piece on free speech, or any piece for that matter, but such pieces have made me feel compelled to articulate to the best of my ability my perspective concerning free speech as a woman of color, and a black woman of color at that.”

      Buddy, that’s just a couple sentences in. Angelique isn’t responding to your piece. She’s not slandering you or anything. Calm down. If you feel like you identify with whomever her audience is, it’s not because she addressed her piece to you in particular (she didn’t) but because you identify with what she wrote. That in itself should be telling.

      Also, we need to talk about going to international schools and the White savior superiority complex that these schools cultivate. Trust me. I went to one. Let’s talk. Let’s demolish the idea that going to a rich, White private school in a gentrified part of an Asian city makes you at all multicultural or at all qualified to make statements on behalf of that community.

      • Charles Walker says:

        First, I recognize that the article says that it isn’t a response, but I disagree with the claim. This is very much a piece about free speech, and while I cannot be sure, I do not think that it would have been written had my most recent piece not been written. (Perhaps I’m just a narcissist) And that’s what I’d call a response.

        I agree, it wasn’t addressed to me, but a few of her points were, I believe, clearly related to points I made. Note that the one case where I directly said she misunderstood my point I isolated from the rest of the response in case I was wrong, too.

        Indeed, let’s talk about that. I’ll invite my best friend from JIS, Advaith Suresh, so we can talk about how he’s a white savior, and has no understanding of asian culture. Or perhaps some of my friends who agree with me on the specific free speech issue, like Kuunal Mahtani, Nabil Nazri, or Indah Gunawan. All those white saviors. My school was (as of the 2007-2008 school year) only one fifth American, with the next two most common nationalities (South Korean and Indonesian) each making up 15% (total 30%). But do tell me about how going to JIS makes people think they’re “white saviors.”
        Was very gentrified though. That part’s pretty accurate.

          • Alex says:

            When they make up the majority, they’re not tokens.

          • Charles Walker says:

            Pretty sure a school that’s less than 50% white isn’t “recruiting a small number of people from underrepresented groups in order to give the appearance of racial or sexual equality within a workforce.” If anything, in my social groups, the caucasians were the outnumbered ones. Tell me, if diversity doesn’t mean having people of different identities such that the largest plurality is 20%, what is it?

            Besides, my point was just that you claimed going to JIS gave me a “white savior complex.” I was simply pointing out that this argument would fail on more than 50% of JIS students due to them not being, you know, white.

      • imnottypingmynameherebutimslightlysuspiciousyoucouldfinditifyoulookedhard says:

        “Buddy, that’s just a couple sentences in. Angelique isn’t responding to your piece. She’s not slandering you or anything. Calm down. ”

        shoot do you hear yourself? charlie here is just trying really hard to engage and explain why he’s engaging with a piece that says it’s not a response to his. no need for the condescension, “buddy”.

        im sorry, i think my response is also a bit annoying. am i making sense here?

        look here’s how i see it: cant charlie care deeply for free speech AND make the positive impact on the world that you seem to be striving for? Why do these things have to be mutually exclusive? you haven’t expressed it directly but i sense some palpable tension here. my suspicion: we’re all on the same side 🙂

    • how much time do u have on ur hands says:

      ohhhhhhhhhhhhh my god get a hobby

    • HCcommenter says:

      There is a ton in this comment, and I hope Angelique and others (s/o to Anthony) can engage with it more fully, but I wanted to speak to one thing you said specifically. You said “so what harmed you then? Words or actions?” (And the rest of that paragraph). I understand what you are saying–that words are words and that it is actions that actually cause harm (and let me know if I’ve got that wrong).

      While I agree a distinction should be drawn between rhetoric and hateful acts, actions are not committed in a vacuum. While you say something like a physical attack due to race is the work of a madman, those people are usually operating under a horrendous but fully rational framework that comes directly out of the worldview they have been taught through observing and processing the words of others. It isn’t rational to us because we’ve internalized different words to form our viewpoints. Although they are the most responsible for their actions, ignoring the people who shaped and reinforced a worldview that pushed this person to commit that act is to ignore the root of the problem. Those people are partially responsible for that action even if they themselves never raised a hand against a person of color.

      There’s a concept in political science called stochastic terrorism that isn’t used super often, but I think is relevant here. Basically, it’s when someone uses mass communications to encourage their supporters to commit acts of terror. Even though most people will dismiss those comments, they add to justifications from those “madmen” when they decide to take action. David Duke is fully aware that his comments justify acts of terror even as he denies that the KKK is a violent organization. Should he not be held accountable for that? There has been a spike in hate crimes since Trump’s election. Although there hasn’t been a study, I think most people would agree that that spike is likely the result of Trump’s words legitimizing the hatred that causes hateful actions.

      To give another example, the rhetoric that abortion is murder and therefore murdering abortion providers is not immoral has been cited by every man who has committed a violent attack against an abortion provider (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2015/11/30/the-radical-unrepentant-ideology-of-abortion-clinic-killers/?utm_term=.34b5fc1527d3). They were influenced by words to commit what they saw as a rational action. The people who promote this ideology meanwhile were able to distance themselves and say “what a tragedy” even as they continued to speak about abortion providers as evil and sub-human, which in turn inspires more violence.

      We need to acknowledge what Angelique is saying or at least implying bc I don’t want to pretend to speak for her (on both philosophical and legal free speech), which is that while words aren’t action, words are the framework through which actions are inspired and justified, whether that takes the form of making slavery okay or giving people rational reasons to murder a doctor who provides abortions even though that is inherently not pro-life. When we talk about free speech, we can’t keep ignoring the relationship between speech and the actions it causes. In order to change societal biases and bigotry that cause hate crimes, we need to get to the root of the issue (speech) instead of the symptoms (action).

      • Charles Walker says:

        I apologize if my initial comment was a bit long. I’m kinda bad at being succinct at times. That is indeed correct, as to what I am saying.

        I think I may have, however, been a bit unclear about my ‘madman’ bit. I simply meant to suggest that the cause didn’t matter to the harm inflicted, not that any such attack would necessarily be committed by a madman. I also disagree, that racism can ever be rational. Or if it is, it cannot be simultaneously fully informed. Perhaps this is just my own moral philosophy, but I feel that a perfectly rational individual (with sufficient available information) must be a moral one, as my morality arises from rational analysis of the world around me.

        I understand what you are saying, but have a few points of disagreement. First, I would point out that almost any particularly strong moral conviction could, hypothetically, be used to justify heinous crimes, especially if we consider the reactions induced in those you term “madmen.” If we were to try and remove all belief systems that could be used to justify terrible actions, we’d need to blanket ban all powerful belief whatsoever, which I just don’t believe is tenable.

        Indeed, this is a point to address which I believe you’ll agree with me on: The cause of actions are beliefs, not words. We store the information behind/of beliefs as words, and try to change people’s beliefs using words, but they are separate things. So what you really want here is to reduce the number of people believing certain things.

        However, if we want to convince people of truthful claims, we shouldn’t limit the flow of information. We should attempt the very opposite. One of the great things about truth is that increasing available information tends to make it more obviously true. Almost every time I’ve been convinced what I believe is wrong, it has been via the presentation either of new evidence or new argument. I’ve never been convinced I was wrong by being prevented from presenting my point of view.

    • Angelique Spencer says:

      “While knowing about the past is important, don’t get me wrong, what was and was not, and what is and is not legal, has no bearing on what should and should not be legal.”

      Part of the reason why we learn about the past is supposedly so that we don’t make the same mistakes again, so I would say that it weighs heavily in determining the future course of actions of anything including the law, but if you have a different perspective on history and its overall purpose in society, do let me know.

      Second, “As for words having power, I feel like this (despite your article’s claim to the alternative) is in response to my argument in my previous article,” mmmno I literally said this wasn’t a response to your piece or any piece, just trying to articulate my reaction to pieces AND events that’s been happening on campuses across the country, for instance, what’s been goin on on Berkeley’s campus amidst backlash towards bringing Milo Yiannaziopolous and Ann KKKoulter, so no, I’m not responding to you, even though I do allude to a part of your article, you’re not the first person to say that.

      Also “As for talking to people, I cannot speak for anyone else, but I have actively engaged with those who disagree with me. Look at my article. The very first comment is actually by me, encouraging discussion about the piece and telling people I will try to respond to any disagreements about my piece. This promise was one I fulfilled: You will see that of the 25 comments, 9 (36%) of them are by me.” Yeah so you didn’t have face-to-face conversations with people of color. Cool.

      It seems that in the critiques you have of parts of my piece, you’re missing the entire point: that, in this case, you think republican/alt-right folks vocalizing their ideologies is more important than the victims of alt-right/republican-inspired violence. Historically, allowing violent words a platform of any kind has allowed them to be put into action, and it doesn’t mean people don’t have a right to respond to such words/actions if it means making the violence that they inspire to stop. Oh and you should do some more thorough research on how those dictatorships were installed, because a good chunk of them had the U.S. play a large role in their installation. But anyways, thanks for truly showing me where your priorities lie.

      • Charles Walker says:

        I agree that a major purpose of history is the collection of data which can be used to drive further policy. What I was trying to convey was that, if we imagine two otherwise identical worlds, one where a certain law had been passed, and one where it hadn’t, in the general case the law would be equally moral or immoral in both worlds. (The main exception is laws pertaining to things like which side of the street to drive on, which is one of those things where you just need to arbitrarily choose one.)

        The point I was getting across with this argument is that if one group was less able to speak freely in the past, it shouldn’t affect who should be able to speak freely today, aside from perhaps being evidence that free speech is an important issue. And a philosophical view on free speech, by reason of being part of an a priori subject, should absolutely be distinct from history, except for in understanding previous historical arguments on the topic.

        Fair enough. I noticed a lot of similarity in that section particularly, and perhaps was overly defensive, having been used to arguing about my piece.

        What difference does it make how I talk to people? Is there something essential that can only be transferred through talking face-to-face? If so, I’d love to hear what it is, though I suppose that’d be (definitionally) impossible through a comment section… Or are you just moving the goalposts re: having “talked to anybody feeling this pain and fear?”

        So what you are suggesting is that because allowing something has historically led to something else, we shouldn’t allow it? Because, historically speaking, every single murderer was alive at the time they committed their crime. Perhaps we should just embrace the complete negative utilitarian point of view and all off ourselves? (I mean, it would do the ecosystem a world of good…)

        People absolutely have a right to respond to actions, and also to words, insofar as their responses take the form of opposing arguments. For example I see absolutely nothing wrong with your piece being written or posted, even though it is in favor of something I oppose since it falls under the umbrella of free speech just as much as the opinions you would have banned.

        As for the tie between the US and dictatorships, I don’t deny that. I’m simply saying that if we’re playing a game of correlation-causation-equation I should point out that groups pushing for censorship seem to tend towards the “dictatorship” end of the spectrum. Personally, I think the processes are related due to similarity of ideals.

        So where do my priorities lie? Judging from the method you suggested in your article for determining priorities, they’re with animal welfare and science, since that’s where I’ve dedicated myself the most. Or perhaps you mean how I care more about essential components of the democratic process than I do about people’s emotional states? To this I plead guilty. Emotions are less important than the essential liberties which allow our democratic process to self-correct. If that is what you think my priorities are, I see nothing wrong with them.

      • Alex says:

        If you were really listening to history, you’d understand the danger of violently repressing free speech. It’s not a coincidence that the first post-classical free democracy in the world came after the Enlightenment, the period during which this whole notion of free speech got started. And read some Orwell. The mechanism of free speech is so important to a democracy, you have no idea. Without it, democracy becomes a majoritarian mob morality that can violently oppress anyone who dares disagree with its rule. Actually, that sounds kind of familiar…

        Without free speech, there can be no freedom. End of story. Nor do I like all this moral shaming. It reeks of ad hominem weakness.

        You also skirt around thoroughly addressing Charlie’s points by using the whole “you side with Nazis therefore you’re EVIL” argument which is just plain lazy. For one thing, it’s a false binary: either you allow Nazis to speak OR people of color die. We have these lovely institutions called LAW and LAW ENFORCEMENT that prevent people from doing nasty things like murder, and certainly, if a Nazi attacks you, you have every right to defend yourself. But speech isn’t an attack any more than it is a soccer game. Textbook category fallacy. For another, you’ve come to define Nazis as inherently evil a priori, incapable of kindness and decency, when we should instead be looking at human beings. Human beings can have particular violent beliefs, sure, but does that make them inherently violent? Are they beyond all measure of reform? Neuroplasticity says no. So do all the ex-Neo-Nazis. There is a danger is labeling a group as beyond reform. In fact, it’s a tactic used by totalitarian regimes the world round. Yippee.

        I also realize you’re going to bring up the whole “law enforcement is racist” argument. Before you do, let me ask you this. If law enforcement is institutionally racist, why do they patrol black neighborhoods and dissolve crime that takes place there? Why not just let them bleed each other out? And why do police officers defend black people AT ALL if the institution is itself racist, and why do they prosecute white people AT ALL if they’re so white supremacist? Individuals are racist, certainly, but the institution of law enforcement? Doubtful. You’re going to need to show me a lot of evidence to convince me that the police are in cahoots with the Nazis.

  8. Here is a novel idea Angelique, if you agree with restricting free speech then start with your own. Reactionary twits like you are the problem here, not free speech. Repeat after me butter cup, “My (your) feelings do not matter!!” If hearing ideas that make you feel bad seems intolerable, society isn’t the best place for you, much less college. As my dad used to tease me when I was a kid, “If you have a problem with other people then maybe you should move into a mine shaft in West Virginia where they can’t bother you.” Wake up little girl, freedom of speech is important no matter who exercises this right. We live in a society of racists (like yourself since you brought up your race as the great crucible of this issue), homophobes, heterophobes. People intolerant of Christianity, Judaism, Islam. It is essential they be allowed to voice their belifes. Because we get to exercise that same right. And thats what you do when they exercise that right, you respond by exercising the first ammendment yourself as you see fit. There is a word for people who advocate violence as a reaction to speech they don’t like rather than vigorous discussion, that word is fascists. And someone once said when fascists finally came to the US it would be in the guise of people claiming they are fighting fascism and oppression by practicing fascism and oppression. And honestly if I had to pick an morally superior party between two detestable individuals right now, you a college student trashing free speech and a neo nazi defending it, as detestable as that bald headed bigot may be he is still morally superior to you who talks of tolerence and then promotes opression in the same breath. So think about that. Or don’t because I doubt you really will. The problem with this generation is people like you with a radical fascist Us vs Them mentality.

    • Angelique Spencer says:

      I’d argue against you but you legit just said you’d side with a Neo-Nazi over me and called him “morally superior” to me so thanks

      Also what are you doing commenting on an article from a school publication when you don’t even go to said school? Maybe stick to your blog, which could use improvement btw boo

    • Hannah Krohn says:

      I don’t want to argue with you because you’ll just insult me and I don’t argue with Nazi-sympathizers (who are fascists by the way). However, I am curious to know if you are a Haverford student or alum? If you are, do you remember nothing of what Haverford tries to espouse: trust, concern, and respect? (Or how to construct an argument for that matter?) If you’re not, what are you doing, commenting on this article?

      • Angelique Spencer says:

        He doesn’t go here/never did lol he runs a blog on conservative politics and video games and it’s too much of the former not enough of the latter

  9. Lee, Class of 2015 says:

    This op-ed states two painfully obvious facts: 1) This country was founded by men who held racist and sexist (but at the time mainstream) views and 2) Words have the potential to do great harm and hurt feelings.

    An important question that the author does not address: What does she think of the recent thuggery and violence on campuses around the country aimed at contrarian speech? While some speech is hateful, hurtful and bigoted, it is protected speech. Attacking people physically for what they say is a very slippery slope. Words may hurt, but they do not draw blood.

  10. Skip Bayless says:

    Man, how I see free speech is the freedom to have an argument. And if you’re gonna bring up a controversial point Charles, expect an argument. If someone says something racist, we are free to denounce the shit out of that racist statement ten times over.

    If something escalates to hate speech, hell yah that ought to be met with consequences, legal or scholastic, etc. And, last I checked there is a distinction between free speech and hate speech. Are we free to say “bomb” in an airport? Is hate speech not equally threatening of people’s safety?

    Going with what I said, I guess Lee of 2015 is also free to use the word thuggery which I freely say is a racist term.

    • Charles Walker says:

      It is indeed. And I do expect an argument. I’m actually glad that there is one, actually. I’d hate it if my views were simply taken to be correct without any push back or counterargument. Then I’d never be able to be proven wrong, and therefore never be able to become right if I initially erred. I’d be a poor proponent of free speech if I was unwilling to engage with people actively using their right to it!

      I disagree with you there, naturally. Not that they are different things, I mean, they are different words? One is an ethical position/right which emphasizes the importance of the ability of all individuals to be able to express themselves, while the other is a specific unsavory subset of that expression. In other words, while one may protect the other, they are not of the same class of object at all.
      I addressed the bomb point in my article actually (I refer to something similar as a “statement of empirically untrue claims”), though I would be happy to reproduce that section here if you want me to. And no, it isn’t, actually, and the danger it possess is of a very different nature.

      As for your last point, he is indeed.

  11. Björk says:

    Let people have their freespeech! It’s much easier to spot loud and proud neonazies; let them open their mouths and remove all doubts.

  12. Skip Bayless says:

    I just don’t believe that as a white dude I am in a position to say that people don’t feel genuinely threatened by certain racist vocabulary. And that while certainly vocabulary is derogatory and ought to be denounced, others should be met with further retribution, i.e. that comment about seeing n-words dead.

  13. Skip Bayless says:

    Certain vocabulary, not certainly. And to clarify, I am in no position to police what is derogatory and what crosses a line to threatening.

    • Charles Walker says:

      That’s the problem, isn’t it? Who is? Because if everyone (literally everyone) agrees, then there is no need to agree, and as long as there is a single voice of dissent, in order to justifiably prevent them from using whatever term or rhetoric they would use you would have to be able to demonstrate why you are in the right, a process which requires allowing them to speak, in order that they may speak in their own defense, and in defense of their claims. And so the system requires its own failure to be justified.

  14. Skip Bayless says:

    Ok, “police” isn’t the right word, as I can definitely help spread the opinions of others who genuinely face threats. That’s all I have left to say.

  15. Skip Bayless says:

    I am sympathetic to your intentions, Charles. I do believe educating is a great way of preventing hate. But I think we need to have a little more pragmatism regarding the daily threats people face due to hate speech.

  16. Sarah Willie-LeBreton HC '86 says:

    Thank you for such a thoughtful and thought-provoking article, Angelique.

  17. Man with the Axe says:

    There is probably no intellectually and emotionally safer place for various minorities, whether racial, sexual, etc., than the modern American college campus. The campus is obviously safer than the work-world, or the typical city neighborhood or small town. So why is there a constant stream of articles in every college newspaper bemoaning how unsafe it is for minorities?

    The students at Yale became apoplectic over an email suggesting that they should be adult enough to deal with insensitive halloween costumes. Students at Middlebury and Berkeley rioted because a speaker’s ideas might upset them, even if they didn’t attend the speech, claiming hysterically that the speaker threatened their very humanity and existence. Students at Oberlin had to shut down school for a while because someone saw a girl walking around at night wrapped in a blanket, but someone thought it was a klansman. Even after they learned that it was just a girl in a blanket they still insisted on cancelling classes. Various colleges cancelled exams because of what happened to Michael Brown. And even in colleges where things are quiet, there is a staggering number of colored students who fill the pages of their school newspapers with cris de coeur over how horrible it is to be at Haverford, or Princeton, or Williams, or Stanford, or Carnegie Mellon, etc.

    They are going to have a separate black graduation at Harvard. Some schools have all-black dormitories. There are never enough black students or black faculty. You know the complaints.

    I’m convinced that these problems cannot be solved, because they are internal to the students themselves, and not external, i.e., of the institution. Some people do not have the internal fortitude to thrive in an environment in which they are members of a minority. The solution may be for them to find a more congenial environment.

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