Opinion

DaShanne Stokes: Don't confuse free speech with hate speech





DaShanne Stokes says defenders of racist mascots often resort to hate speech:
Fans of popular sports teams like the Cleveland Indians and the football team in Washington, for example, have become well known for their use of racial slurs like the R-word, for shouting obscenities and profanity, and for telling Native Americans to “Go back to the reservation.” Members of the Westboro Baptist Church have also become famous for their homophobic placards proclaiming that “God hates f*gs.” These are signs which, it appears, may soon be replaced with offensive signs proclaiming that “God hates Indians” or “God hates savages” if the group carries out its planned protest of the Alaska Native Heritage Center on June 1.

As if such proclamations weren’t disturbing enough, people often come to the defense of such groups, claiming their right to free speech.

But, while it is true that they, as American citizens, have a right to freedom of speech, it becomes a completely different ballgame when they infringe on the rights of others.

Numerous studies have shown that racial slurs and other hate filled commentaries can have a strong negative impact--that words, like sticks and stones, really do hurt. They have been shown to promote aggression and hostility and to incite hate. And such hate comes with a price, such as that witnessed recently when white supremacist Frazier Glenn Cross murdered three innocent people under the mistaken belief that they were Jews.

In the end equation it therefore becomes very clear that many of instances of people supposedly exercising their right to free speech are actually instances of hate speech in disguise.

Get the Story:
DaShanne Stokes: R-Word Lies: Don’t Confuse Free Speech With Hate Speech (Indian Country Today 5/5)