Offensive Speech Should Be Allowed

2716 words - 11 pages

There seems to be an internal desire for freedom within the soul of every man. Men realize that freedom is something basic, and to rob a man of his freedom is to take from him the essential basis of his manhood.

The words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., spoken forty-three years ago, capture the spirit of the American dream. Since its conception, the United States of America has been the universal symbol for freedom and hope. The five most fundamental freedoms cherished by every citizen are granted in the First Amendment to the Constitution. Among them, Americans treasure the right to freedom of speech above all others. Yet, as we stand here in the birth of a new millennium, this right has become endangered. College campuses across the nation are embroiled in a heated debate over what, exactly, constitutes free speech. At the heart of the debate is the issue of hate speech, or speech that "offends, threatens, or insults" a person because of some trait such as gender or race (McMasters). Incidents of hate speech include an international student shouting racial epithets from his dorm room window (Hinds 108), complaints of email harassment (Harmon 115), and fraternity rush T-shirts depicting racially insulting caricatures (Frammolino 112). What is the solution to this fundamental conflict? Many people strongly advocate implementing speech codes into campus legal systems in order to control such displays. However, this is an inadequate and superficial response to a much deeper issue. College campuses should not regulate hate speech because such regulations violate our constitutional rights, no practical definition of hate speech exists, and there is no way to enforce punishment. Abridging freedom of speech on college campuses bandages the internal wound caused by racism, yet neglects to heal the underlying problem.

The establishment of speech codes should be prohibited because they violate our basic American rights. The First Amendment to the Constitution states: "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." Still, few agree on the extent to which the amendment protects speech. John F. Kennedy gave perhaps the greatest response to Constitutional debates. He wrote, "The Constitution was not a collection of loosely given political promises subject to broad interpretation. It was not a list of pleasing platitudes to be set lightly aside when expediency required it. It was the foundation of the American system of law and justice" (237). It is the basis for every other law in America. Why should we allow this issue to infringe on our pursuit of liberty?

No concrete definition of hate speech exists in our society. Case after case has come before the Supreme Court, questioning the breadth of the amendment in extreme cases....

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