Many people within the U.S. face discrimination on a daily basis. According to a poll conducted by NBC News, 4 in 10 African-Americans have reportedly been treated unfairly based on their race in a store, and a quarter of Hispanics have similar experiences within the span of a month. However, only 64% of the surveyed agreed that racism is a problem in America and about 47% claim to never or rarely partake in a discussion about race.
Due to our underfunded, limited schooling system in America, most children are not taught about how relevant racism actually is today. Nor are they taught how to have healthy discussions about racism and what they can do to stop it. Based on the most recent census forms from the US Census Bureau, 41.5% of Americans are not white alone. The female population is about 50.8% of the American population, with around 21.1% of those women who are not people of color. 3.9% male who recognize as LGBTQ, but around 1.6% were not persons of color. 8.7% of Americans who are under the age of 65 and with a disability. Averaging out about to 72.9% of the American population who are a part of a marginalized group or groups. That means in America alone, 237.4 million people are minorities based on race, gender, disability, and sexual orientation. Since a majority of our population is a part of a marginalized group, why do we not have policies and laws against hate speech in America?
We must create change ourselves to fix this issue of hate speech. It is crucial that as a society, we do not deem it acceptable to be bigoted and hateful. It is left for us to hold ourselves and others accountable.
One thing in the way of law is not having a concrete definition. When asking my fellow peers for their definitions of hate speech, an array of answers came about. They varied from “being a hater” to “I really don’t know” to “when one says mean things” to another based on “one identifier”. Overall the definitions had the same essence. About half said hate speech is directed towards whatever group, but the other half said it was specifically for minorities. Hate speech does affect all groups across the spectrums. However, hate speech cannot be damaging to a community at large, if that community benefits from privilege both systemically and socially.
The roots of racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, anti-semitism, etc. run very deep within our history. Oppressors throughout America’s history have made sure people of color, women, disabled people, and members of the LGBTQ stay at the bottom. This has been through terrorism, grandfather clauses, poll taxes, voter suppression, redlining, only access to inadequate education, mass incarceration, pay gaps, discriminatorily hiring and more. These acts of terrorism and oppression have evolved over the years.
These same members of these marginalized communities are the main recipients of hate speech and hate crimes. Often in history, social ideals reflect their biases in policy. Besides from having a disadvantaged, they are also ostracized from society. Using slurs and hateful speech subliminally sending messages to that community that reinforce stereotypes and creates a sense of inferiority. And no one speaking out or taking action against hate speech creates normalization for such bias to manifest further. Ultimately, hate speech can be directed towards people of a majority group, but it will not make the same impact if it were to be aimed at a member of a minority group.
The biggest argument among the question of laws against hate speech is the First Amendment. The First Amendment protects all speech no matter how offensive its content. But it does not protect when speech “crosses the line to into targeted harassment,”. The only way a person can be legally held accountable is if their words “directly incites imminent criminal activity,”. One of the biggest problems is how a case such as a hate crime is handled judicially. There is no clear-cut way to prove hate speech is directly linked to the violence. All throughout the past century, the idea of allowing hate speech has been challenged. But continually the Supreme Court protects hate speech, claiming that all of these cases had not incited violence.
We must create change ourselves to fix this issue of hate speech. It is crucial that as a society, we do not deem it acceptable to be bigoted and hateful. It is left for us to hold ourselves and others accountable. We must also educate and teach tolerance as much as we can. Lastly, we must hold our lawmakers accountable for creating a better future.
Belén Pizarro is an eighth-grade student in Denver, Colorado.
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