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America guarantees free speech, not freedom from criticism

Sohini Nath
Connector Staff

Yes, it is true- unfortunately, bigotry is allowed under the First Amendment in our Bill of Rights. Freedom comes at some price, and this means there is legally nothing stopping a person from making despicable comments based on a group of people and insulting them for it.

Most people would agree with me that banning certain speech by law would result in the United States not being a democracy anymore and there- fore, we cannot ban hate speech, no matter how reprehensible it is.

However, the idea that a person should be shielded from the non-legal consequences of hate speech is ridiculous. The First Amendment guarantees legal freedom from Congress and the government to say or write whatever you want, as well as the freedom to say nothing at all.

This doesn’t mean that your school, workplace or other institutions cannot prevent you from spewing hate speech, and it is not an encroach- ment of your First Amendment rights to do so. This also means that other people have a right to refute your nonsense and promote positivity, as

well as criticize you publicly and protest hate. You possess the right to free speech, not free-

dom from criticism.
Often, when someone in the public eye says

something bigoted and is promptly criticized by other people, they will insist that the “woke mob” is “trying to stop free speech.” This is, of course, a great way to avoid responsibility for one’s own comments.

It’s the perfect strategy. Why would I, as a per- son, take responsibility for what comes out of my mouth? Why would I do that when I could simply throw a tantrum, present myself as a victim and insist that the world is out to get me because I spewed hate?

A complaint I often hear from people who want to say bigoted things is that institutions don’t let you express hate speech freely, and they insist that it is a violation of their First Amendment rights.

But here’s the thing: private institutions such as schools, workplaces, restaurants etc. have the right to put in rules. If you break them, you pay the consequences.

Often, people are at these institutions by choice anyways. You chose to be there, it’s not unreason- able for them to assume you will follow the rules that they set against hate speech.

Let’s talk about that recent racist email sent to all the Black students at UMass Amherst. One could argue that “It’s free speech! Nothing can be done about that!”

No, the student(s) who sent that letter isn’t/ aren’t, under university policy, allowed to do so. UMass Amherst’s Non-Discrimination Statement explicitly says, “University policy includes prohi- bitions of harassment of students and employees, i.e., racial harassment, sexual harassment, and re- taliation for f iling complaints of discrimination.”

The email that was sent could be considered ha- rassment and yes, UMass Amherst has stated that it is looking into whoever sent it so that they can be dealt with. This is a perfect example of how something can be free speech but is still against the rules.

Whoever sent the email deserves the conse- quences that are directly placed on them from the university, as well as the current scorn that they may face from others in their community.

Let’s hope that, as Americans, we learn to final- ly take responsibility for ourselves and to use our freedoms responsibly and maturely.

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