There are certain ways to properly combat hate speech

Throughout the years, the First Amendment, which grants freedom of speech, has lived through a number of significant events and changes since its addition to the U.S. Constitution.

In current times, there has been an ever-increasing amount of debates attempting to define what falls under freedom of speech and what doesn’t. For many people, especially among millennials, hate speech is on the side that should be regulated and even suppressed, regardless of First Amendment rights.

For clarity, hate speech is defined as speech that offends, threatens or insults groups, based on race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, disability or other traits. It’s not synonymous with right-wing or left-wing political views, although there can be an overlap at times.

As seen in the University of Florida’s case against white nationalist Richard Spencer, hate or not, it’s fully protected under the amendment and these speakers have a right to express their views without question, no matter how offensive they are.

Such decisions only serve to add more fuel to the frustrations of those with opposing views and as tensions already exist between the divides, this isn’t necessarily a good thing.

College administrators may feel that the restriction of hate speech will fix any potential problems on campus, but it does nothing to meet the rights of all their students. Instead, there are ways to combat against such speech while also avoiding violent altercations and abridgment of First Amendment rights.

Recent counter-protests have proven that hate speech and extremist ideologies are topics that will not be tolerated under any circumstances at university campuses.

Although low numbers of counter-protesters appeared at the Charlottesville rally, they were still able to garner a lot of attention and spread their message in a peaceful manner.

Protests against invited speakers to the campus have also been shown to be effective without the involvement of hostile behavior, as seen with the constant counter-protests against Milo Yiannopoulos speaking at U.C. Berkeley.

While the First Amendment does protect hate speech, it doesn’t protect behaviors that cross the line of harassment or creating hostile environments for other students, including certain hate symbols that are meant as threats. In cases that fall under such situations, disbandment of group activities is allowed to avoid an outbreak of violence.

In the end, combating hate speech doesn’t have to come with the cost of lives, nor with restrictions to others’ speech. By allowing the exchange of ideas and encouraging peaceful demonstrations and protests, social change will be inevitable among students.


Photo taken from Flickr.

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