America was founded on the belief of freedom for all. And with it came the most important right, freedom of speech. Freedom of speech is extremely broad, and perhaps it’s because our founding fathers never thought slavery would be abolished and America would be a country of white European refugees. But in today’s age, with the third KKK movement and the kneeling during the national anthem, there is no doubt that the freedom of speech has been stretched way too thin. With two different ends of the spectrum, there should be a fine line where free speech stops being a right and starts being a threat to the very idea of America.
The idea of free speech is to allow the country to grow and change for the better; at least, that’s what it should be meant for. Our founding fathers spoke out against the British because they oppressed the settlers, and they needed freedom of speech so that the people of America could speak out against a corrupt government and oppressive institutions. This way, America wouldn’t ever be in a situation in which its people feel contained instead of free. The KKK and the white nationalist movement, however, infringe on the idea of freedom and threaten to cast away minorities into a lower class. And as they are movements that try to oppress, disenfranchise and strip minorities of their freedom to their own pursuit of happiness and success, their free speech is not guaranteed by the Bill of Rights. The Bill of Rights is supposed to, in an ideal society, protect citizens from the government and not feed them to the hatred emulated by hate groups.
America, where we like to say we’re the greatest and freest country in the world, was built on the blood of minorities.
Restricting free speech in democratic countries is not rare. In Germany and other European countries, it is illegal to deny the Holocaust ever existed, and this makes a lot of sense. Over six million lives were killed, and it has no doubt cast a shadow over the entire country. But it is about moving forward, too. Learning about the Holocaust allows the country to move forward after recognizing the damage it caused.
America, where we like to say we’re the greatest and freest country in the world, was built on the blood of minorities. The settlers marched through what is now New England with a trail of Native American bodies behind them. America forced Africans into slavery and attached the word “American” after it as though it made them a part of our country. We disenfranchised every minority group and stripped them of their rights to vote, to prosper and to achieve economic equality. We advocated ourselves as a free country and then imprisoned minorities in a cell of discrimination. America pushed minorities into corners and forced them to watch as their white counterparts achieved what they thought they could achieve as well. While America was built on freedom, it was also built on the blood, sweat and tears of various minority groups.
Allowing people to speak their opinions is a right, but allowing people to advocate for the eradication of minority groups should not be.
However, minority groups have made enormous strides toward equality. They can hold public office, vote, for the most part, and rise through economic classes to achieve a certain level of success. Racism isn’t uncommon in American history, but it needs to be something we need to work actively to get past. What happened in Charlottesville was an attempt to pull the country back and drag minorities back down. Neo-Nazis and the KKK are given platforms to recruit more people, an act that is a threat to the rights of POC, minorities and immigrants who come to this country for a chance at freedom that no other country can offer them.
Proponents of free speech argue that an infringement on free speech is an infringement on human rights. Allowing people to speak their opinions is a right, but allowing people to advocate for the eradication of minority groups should not be. If America is to promote freedom and equality as we always say we do, the white nationalist movement should not be given a public platform to express their ideas.
In the 1920s, the KKK was so widespread that at one point they had over three million members, and these members had the opportunity to hold public office and influence legislation. While we have not circled back to that point yet, people are angry. White people are angry at the influx of immigrants, and quite frankly they’re scared of people who do not look like them. We like to think that America is so far from the idea of racism that the neo-Nazis and white nationalists could never take off. But the truth is that people are angry and our mistake will be underestimating their anger. We’re a country that proclaims equality for all, but if we are to proclaim that, let’s remove the platform white nationalists think the Bill of Rights guarantees.
Emma Xing advocates against allowing the first amendment to pardon hateful, threatening speech.