Wednesday, February 22, 2017

The True Freedom of Speech

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

–The United States Constitution

A few weeks ago, I was laying in bed while scrolling through posts on my Facebook feed. I watched a couple political videos about how bad Trump is, read a few posts written by my more conservative relatives about how Islam is a violent religion, and then to top it all off I watched a few videos of puppies trying to do cartwheels. The last one was definitely the best way to end the night.

And then I got a text from someone I knew. Let's call him Joey.

He was drunk off his ass, that much was clear. But it wasn't the drunkenness that bothered me. What bothered me was the video he sent.

Joey and the group of all-white male friends of his were standing in a circle, jumping around and chanting, "Fuck the niggers, fuck the niggers!"

The video lasted ten seconds.

Joey is 16 years old.

Last night, I read an article about hate speech. More specifically, an article about a man named Milo Yiannopoulos who's mission is to promote hate speech. He's even said, "I hope to offend every reader." His reason: it is his right to be able to say whatever he wants, and he wants to encourage people to do the same.

After the election of Donald Trump, there has been a surge of people moving away from political-correctness. I know people who admire Trump because he isn't politically correct all the time, because he is unafraid to speak his mind.

Legally speaking, you don't have to be politically correct. But legal or not, why is it okay (I'd go as far to say that it's becoming more socially acceptable) to say things like "fuck the niggers"? What sort of backward nation are we living in where people think it's alright to say that?

I've focused this post a lot on the statement Joey made, but it doesn't stop there.

I'm a quarter Asian, and people have called me a chink. I have Muslim friends and when I hear the term "towelhead" it hurts. My boyfriend is Jewish, and I know people who use the word "kike". I have LGBT friends and know people who say "faggot".

In America, we have the ability to say whatever we want without legal consequences. I am a firm believer in this right. I would go as far to say that the first amendment is probably the most important of them all, it's what gives us power over the government.

But is there point when it can go too far? Just because it's legal does not make it right, or okay.

Yes, it can go too far. This right which gives us so much good is also the source of so much hate.

We have to realize that this is not just about being politically correct or your right to the first amendment. It's about being a good person. It's about treating people the way they should be treated: as human beings with wants and needs and fears no different from your own.

The true freedom of speech is not saying whatever comes into your head. It's not about hate speech. The true freedom of speech is also about being able to hold back. Just because I can doesn't mean I should. Political correctness is not an infringement on your right to free speech, it's a choice to be a better person.

So instead of using your power of free speech to make disgusting, hateful remarks, put it to good use. The way Rosa Parks, Nelson Mandela, Colin Kaepernick and Tank Man did. Use your freedom of speech to make the world a better, less hateful place.

Choose to be better.

With a hopeful heart,