The Freedom Of Speech Vs. Racism

1047 words - 4 pages

The freedom of speech is an effective tool for the discovery of truth and the exposure of falsehood. The freedom of speech also uses central importance to a democratic government. The right to cast a vote means nothing if the vote is not well informed. Citizens can only make a confident decision when faced with two competing policies if they are certain that they have heard the strongest possible arguments for both positions. Freedom of speech, of the press, of association, of assembly and petition are protected by the First Amendment, and together they comprise what we refer to as "freedom of expression." Benjamin Cardozo has written that this freedom is "the matrix, the indispensable condition of nearly every form of freedom. Without it, other fundamental rights like the right to vote, would wither and die."Government however, can limit some protected speech by imposing "time, place and manner" restrictions. Requiring permits for meetings, rallies, and demonstrations are the most common ways to do this. But a permit cannot be unreasonably withheld, nor can it be denied based on content of the speech. That would be what is called viewpoint discrimination--and that is unconstitutional. When protest crosses the line from speech to action, the government can intervene more aggressively. Political protesters have the right to picket, to distribute literature, to chant and to engage passerby in debate. But they do not have the right to block building entrances or to physically harass people. Censoring so-called hate speech also runs counter to the long-term interests of the most frequent victims of hate: racial, ethnic, religious and sexual minorities. We should not give the government the power to decide which opinions are hateful, for history has taught us that the government is more apt to use this power to prosecute minorities than to protect them. At the same time, freedom of speech does not prevent punishing conduct that intimidates, harasses, or threatens another person, even if words are used. How much we value the right of free speech is put to its severest test when the speaker is someone we disagree with most. Speech that deeply offends our morality or is hostile to our way of like warrants the same constitutional protection as other speech because the right of free speech is indivisible: When one is of us denied this right, all of us are denied. One type of communication that is not protected by the First Amendment is called "fighting words". This type of intimidating speech directed at a specific individual in a face-to-face confrontation amounts to "fighting words," and the person engaging in such speech can be punished if "by their very utterance (the words) inflict injury or tend to incite an immediate breach of peace" as written in the Black's Law Dictionary.Racism is the mistreatment of a group of people on the basis of race, color, religion, and national origin, place of origin or ancestry. The term racism may also denote a...

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