In the following essay, Charles R. Lawrence encompasses a number of reasons that racist speech should not be protected by the First Amendment. In this document, he exhibits his views on the subject and what he feels the society should confront these problems. In this well- written article, he provides strong evidence to prove his point and to allow the reader to see all aspects of the issue.
Charles Lawrence has been active in his use of the First Amendment rights since he was a young boy. When confronted with the issue of racist speech, he feels that it needs to be diminished by society as a unit, because this discrimination does not just effect one person, but society as a whole.
There are many reasons that this issue disturbs Lawrence. The first being the fact that the use of racist speech on college and university campuses has greatly risen since the past. Another reason he is troubled is the fact that there are actual people being victimized and being perceived as a minority because of race, sex, class etc… and he feels that until we have been put into this position, we have no idea how these people feel. Lastly, Lawrence questions why it is that all civil rights activists are so quick to challenge the weak efforts that are trying to be made by universities to protect the students.
The case of Brown Vs the Board of Education is, in a roundabout way, a case of racial speech. By not allowing mixed schools, a message is being conveyed that segregation is all right. This is a prime example of how this hate can cause real psychological problems and how a student can be so tormented by racist speech that he is deprived from gaining a full education. Although university officials have tried to eliminate racial harassment, their efforts have proven to be futile except in incidences of personal confrontation. Only words that arouse anger and result in violence are not protected by the First Amendment.
Although the First Amendment states that we should award the greatest amount of speech, racial speech is not deserving of this award because these words are meant to do nothing but harm another individual. The only time that speech may be regulated is when the victim is unable to get away from the racism such as in the home or in college bathrooms and common rooms. Lawrence feels that it is the responsibility of the university to protect the student to the fullest extent, and it is the right of the student to be able to walk around campus without being harassed. Although universities have attempted to make rules that ban the use of words as weapons to intentionally hurt, their efforts have been futile. Public speeches and rallies are permitted because the victim may have time to prepare for retaliation.
As with many topics of debate, there are many arguments against Lawrence. Some say that freedom of speech is the only way that people can counteract, and others say that the perimeters are too wide and that it would be nearly impossible to eliminate racist speech without eliminating other rights. Therefore we ask these victims to be subjected to this racism for the benefit of the community. Before we regulate speech, we first must listen to the victims, instead of mainly thinking how the society is going to suffer.
The main point is that eventually good speech will prevail over bad and equality will be recognized, but not without everyone’s help. All people concerned with this issue must do whatever possible to over- ride the First Amendment protection of racist speech. It is a win or lose position, you are either for them and are willing to help, or you are against them.