Freedom of Speech Doesn’t Mean You Get To Be Racist

3 min readOct 30, 2019


Wendy Kenigsberg/University Photography

You ever have a moment where someone says something so ignorant that all you can do is stare at them in disbelief? That happened to me in my English class last week.

We were broken up into groups and told to discuss different readings on the subject of reparations. After finishing our worksheet, one of my male group mates starts going on a tangent about politics and other related topics while the rest of us listened halfheartedly. I don’t remember how we even started getting into it, but he and I began to get into over freedom of speech. He asked me, “Do you believe in freedom of speech?” to which I replied, “It depends.”

“See no, I think everyone should have freedom of speech. I think no matter what they’re saying, they have that right. I think people have the right to be racist. I don’t think that way of thinking is right, but they are entitled to their right to think that.”

Trying to understand his point before I go entirely in, I ask him to repeat himself. He obliges.

I ask him outright, “So you think people have the right to be racist? I want to make sure I’m hearing this correctly.” and he replies with “Yes. Again, not saying that being racist is right.”

And I just stopped talking.

Once I got past processing the massive amount of audacity someone would have to possess to say “people have a right to be racist” to a black person's face, I was angry.

The reason I shut the conversation down so quickly is that I can’t even entertain a thought like that. I mean, how could someone think like that? Especially after we’ve spent more than eight weeks reading about the horrors of slavery, the oppressiveness of Jim Crow, and the unfairness of redlining in this English102 class. “Should people be allowed to use oppressive, hateful language with the protection of the government?” Hell. No.

Freedom of speech is useful when speaking up against an oppressive government or criticism of government agencies, but freedom of speech using to be racist? No ma’am.

It’s always so funny to me when people that campaign for “freedom of speech no matter the speech” because they damn near always are not apart of the group that’s being affected.

“Why shouldn’t freedom of speech include racists?” In case the absurdity in that question doesn’t give you the answer, racism, racist language, racist ideology is inherently violent. You cannot flippantly say “black people are subhuman” without recourse. This is not the PC Police breaking your door down because you said you pour milk first, then cereal. Real lives are at stake when racist rhetoric is protected by the government. Racism is violence. Just because you’re not burning a cross on a black guy’s yard while wearing a sheet doesn’t mean you aren’t complicit in violence against minorities. Calling someone a nigger on Twitter or saying Mexicans should all be deported shouldn’t be included under the umbrella of free speech, period. It comes at the expense of the humanity of the disenfranchised, this line of thinking shouldn’t even be a thing.

In conclusion, the first amendment may currently protect your right to be racist, but it does not protect you from getting your ass handed to you.




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