Politics & Policy

UC Student Op-Ed: America Must ‘Reevaluate Free Speech’

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Racism, sexism, and hatred are serious, pervasive problems in our society, but the best way to combat them is to use our own speech to condemn them.

A student at the University of California–Santa Barbara wrote an op-ed calling for the United States to do away with the First Amendment.

“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,” Emma Xing writes in an essay for the school’s student newspaper, the Daily Nexus, titled “America’s Need to Reevaluate Free Speech.”

“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,” she continues.

According to Xing, the whole point of free speech should be “to allow the country to grow and change for the better” and “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,” she continues.

Besides, Xing argues, other democratic countries don’t have totally free speech. In Germany, for example, it’s illegal to deny the Holocaust, and because Germany does it, that’s basically another reason why we should do it, too!

Let me be clear: There’s absolutely no doubt in my mind that racism and white nationalism are real issues in this country, and it’s true that the people who perpetuate those ideas do add disturbing things to our discourse. When I criticized President Trump’s response to white-nationalist terrorism in Charlottesville, I was met with a whole host of vitriol — including wishes that my Polish Catholic ancestors had been exterminated. It was less than pleasant to deal with, but I did not respond by calling for these people to be silenced. In fact, I responded with a column doubling down on my support for unmitigated free speech, because I understand that no amount of relief from my discomfort could ever be worth giving up my freedom to the government.

Of course, Xing attempts to defend her position by repeatedly clarifying that she wants to outlaw only the speech of “movements that try to oppress . . . minorities.” Certainly, that may seem like a simple, clear-cut solution — but the truth is, everyone has a different idea of what does and does not qualify. Believe me: In covering college campuses and politically correct culture for the past few years, I know firsthand just how many things some people would put on that list.

Earlier this month, protesters at Harvard called Education Secretary Betsy DeVos a “white supremacist,” presumably just because she believes that individual choice is a better solution than government control for our country’s education problems, including the disparities that those in minority communities face. Last year, the University of California–Davis student government brought a sumo-wrestling fat suit onto campus for a fun event, only for it to be declared an “expression of white supremacist anti-Asian structural racism.” One offended student got so upset that he insisted even the student government’s subsequent apology was not enough to make up for something so terrible. This past April, a group of at least 30 students at Pomona College wrote a letter to their school declaring that “truth . . . is a myth and white supremacy,” because “historically, white supremacy has venerated the idea of objectivity . . . as a means of silencing oppressed peoples.”

If we didn’t have free speech, speaking out against a sacred Founding principle could easily be seen as illegal or even treasonous.

Yes, wanting simply to silence only “movements that try to oppress . . . minorities” might seem simple — but when you consider the fact that there are, for example, at least 30 potential future leaders at Pomona who consider the objectivity “movement” to be among those, then it becomes clear why it may be better to think twice.

Like it or not, the First Amendment is one of our most sacred Founding principles — and Xing should like it. After all, as someone arguing against our Bill of Rights, the only reason that she even has the freedom to speak out against it is because it is there. Think about it: If we didn’t have free speech, speaking out against a sacred Founding principle could easily be seen as illegal or even treasonous. Racism, sexism, and hatred are serious, pervasive problems in our society, but the best way to combat them is to use our own speech to condemn them.

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