Is Hate Speech Violence?


Since the election of Donald Trump, America has been faced with a increased resurgence of far-right organizations and ideology. On Aug12, various far right organizations gathered for an Unite the Right rally. They marched through the street with torches chanting, “Blood and Soil!” and “Jews will not replace us.” Heather Heyer, a 32-year-old woman there as a counter-protester, was struck and killed by a car driven by one of the white supremacist. Richard Spencer, who openly advocates for a white ethno-state was at the rally to speak. Two months later Spencer came to the University of Florida in Gainesville to speak.

Events like this have sparked a debate around free speech, and if and where we draw a line around what we protect under free speech. People are arguing that Hate Speech should be protected under the First Amendment. Many of the people making this argument, while not white supremacist themselves, believe that we should protect the right for white supremacist to openly speak their views.

They believe that white supremacist should have as much of a voice as anyone else, regardless of how dangerous that voice is. However, the voice of white supremacists is one that seeks to oppress the voices of numerous people groups that already face marginalization on a daily basis. White supremacist seek to do this through means far worse than simply stating their views. These people’s aim goes beyond speaking about them, and it is dangerous to attempt to divorce white supremacists words from their actions.

Looking at Charlottesville, white supremacist didn’t just chant and speak their racist views; they murdered a woman. Free speech is an important foundation of democracy, but it is dangerous to give credence to the concept of free speech absolutism. As a country, we cannot ignore the power of words. Protecting the First Amendment right of free speech does not mean giving equal validation to everyone’s ideas. Doing so can hold us back from any real productive dialogue. As a society we should be able to converse on a foundation that has already established that white nationalism, racism, misogyny, anti-semticism, homophobia, and transphobia are wrong. If an equal voice is given to white supremacist and white nationalist we will halt any opportunity to move forward with progressive dialogue that addresses how to truly better the lives of people in the United States.

As a society, we should most past having to explain why advocating a white ethno-state is a bad thing. We should acknowledge that hate speech is so tied up with violent action, that hate speech is itself a form of violence. Hate speech is used to attack the diverse people groups that make up this country. We as a country, should not allow hateful attacks aimed at the people that make up this country for being who they are.