The Speech Regulation Dilemma in On Racist Speech
To start with, it is significant to accurately understand what is meant by the term “racist speech”. Racist or hate speech is the speech that offends a group of people or an individual based on some attributes, such as religion, sexual orientation, race, gender, or ethnic origin. In the essay On Racist Speech, Charles Lawrence covers a number of reasons the government, the First Amendment, in particular should not protect the racist speech. The paper deals with the issue of racist speech that affects not only a person, but also the society as a whole.
Lawrence mentions that this topic has significantly risen, especially in universities and colleges. Its extreme development has made it one of the most discussing and disturbing issues. The author worries about the fact that a person cannot realize how it feels to undergo moral abuse caused by racist speech until he/she experiences it. The last, but not theleast, Lawrence is disturbed by the question why civil law activists challenge so quickly the efforts universities make to protect their students.
Charles Lawrence provides us with the example of racist speech – the case of Brown vs the Board of Education. It shows us how hate causes real psychological problems so that a person, abused by racist speech, is deprived of gaining a full education. The common feature for Brown and Lawrence is that both of them argue that the segregation of schools causes the disparity and unfair conditions to the aggrieved by the racist speech. Universities have tried to abolish racial harassment, although their efforts applied only to incidents of personal confrontation. Moreover, the First Amendment does not protect words that may arouse anger and result in violence. Furthermore, Lawrence defines general ideals of the First Amendment, particularly, equality. He shows the danger this balance may encounter if the speech question is admitted in a completely harmful and hurtful manner.
The author claims that universities should be responsible for their students, protecting them to the full extent. Minority students should not have to be afraid of experiencing speech offense when they walk across campus. Despite the fact that universities have tried to invent rules that forbid the use of words that intentionally hurt, their efforts have been of no effect. Although Lawrence provided very profound examples to support his point of view, there are many arguments against him. The democratic country ensures the freedom of speech, as it is the only existing way for people to counteract. On the other hand, permits are too wide and it is almost unreal to exclude racist speech without eliminating the rights of other individuals.
Talking about the racism speech issue, there are two very important questions. The first one is what is going to happen if the government places some limits on the freedom of expression. Another one is how the racism speech can be defined so that it falls under the influence of these limits. This issue is considered even more complex when it is applied to campus speech codes. Supporters of this idea agree that college’s primary goal is to create a safe environment for students to exchange ideas, so they agree to follow certain rules and regulations.
The supporters of speech codes pay attention to some moral issues. They argue that speech codes are necessary for maintaining the stability of society. In this case, these rules strengthen social values and defend social order. It is considered that racism speech does not literally represent the freedom of speech, giving a person the right to express his/her ideas, but also attacks another person. Furthermore, opponents of the racism speech reject it because it creates oppression and hostility that are inconsistent with a respect for the dignity.
In Lawrence’s article, there is one more item worth being discussed – a fighting words exception. Lawrence claims that it is unreal to prohibit speech so precisely that it does not influence all kinds of speech, even the acceptable ones. The author admits that, despite the fact that racist speech is painful to minority groups, it makes the blood of our democratic system flow.
The most striking argument is the one where Lawrence explains that the government cannot regulate the racist speech in public forums because a person has the right and the ability to avoid it or not to listen to it. It becomes the listener’s privilege not to be abused and to go somewhere else. This point of view presupposes that a speech can be considered offensive only if it is in your home and there is no way to escape it. According to Lawrence, the university is considered students’ home and respectively censorship is needed there.
In conclusion, it is desirable for these people to undergo racism for the sake of the community. Although, before regulating the speech, one needs to hear what racism speech victims want to tell, instead of thinking how it is going to influence the society. Eventually, good speech will predominate over bad and the equality will be confessed. While the judicial system cannot censor speech, every individual’s morality has enough power to control his/her speech. People can argue about the importance to fight against racist speech, but it is known for sure is that if the government does not intrude and regulate this problem, the country may face the extreme growth of racial violence. When language hurts others, the natural and immediate reaction is to punish those who utter the wounding words. Overall, the issue of whether the racism speech should or should not be regulated by the government is a controversial topic. There are many sides of this problem, and no concrete and only right answer. In Lawrence’s opinion, people have to do something about this problem, but they do not have to resort to extreme measures. Regardless of whose point of view individuals support, they have to remember how effectively free expression has advanced racial equality and believe that it will bring more good than evil.