Racist Speech As The Functional Equivalent Of Fighting Words

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A speech code is any university policy that forbids the use of hateful or contemptuous expressions towards any social group, particularly those categorized based on race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, nationality, religion, etc. In this essay, I will explain why such regulations are justifiable for the reasons that Charles R. Lawrence Ⅲ states in Racist Speech as the Functional Equivalent of Fighting Words. He argues that speech codes “[do] nothing more than prohibit intentional face-to-face insults”(pg 175), and that “racial insults are undeserving of First Amendment protection because the perpetrator’s intention is not to discover truth or initiate dialogue, but to injure the victim.”(pg 175) A prime reason for many universities…show more content…
Hate speech includes, but is not limited to, gesture, conduct, writing, or verbal communication that might encourage discriminatory behavior to a protected individual or group of individuals. Many universities are committed to creating an atmosphere of equal opportunity that harbors talent, creativity and ingenuity. Speech codes are not only justifiable, but are also essential to campuses because they do not allow the use of hate speech. One who is for the use of speech codes on campuses may argue alongside Lawrence in saying that it is unacceptable to use hate speech in any scenario or environment because it suppresses the voices of minorities. Lawrence presents the idea that “the subordinate victims of fighting words are silenced by their relatively powerless position in society.” (pg 176) When someone is a victim of…show more content…
The First Amendment aims to protect the right of freedom of religion and the right of freedom of expression of all United States citizens. However, Lawrence states “The Supreme Court has held that words that ‘by their very utterance inflict injury or intend to incite an immediate breach of the peace’ are not constitutionally protected.” (Lawrence, pg 175) The First Amendment does not protect speech that maintains a sole purpose to inflict harm on other people. “Racial insults are undeserving for First Amendment protection because the perpetrator’s intention is not to discover truth or initiate dialogue, but to injure the victim” (Lawrence, pg 175) If someone is going to have a conversation with another person, than their freedom of speech should be protected, however; if someone had the sole intentions of causing harm or discomfort to the person that they were speaking with or at, then their freedom of speech may not be so protected. This should be of no concern to any persons on a college campus who are worrying about their right to freedom of speech or expression being neglected, considering that speech codes only work to prevent harm inflicted by hate speech to all students. I agree with Lawrence in that if we are going to end racism, we, as a society, have to take small steps in protecting minority
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