No, you don’t have the right to your opinion: on tolerance for bigotry as “free speech”

hate-speech-is-not-free-speech-e1333808600761
Hate Speech is not Free Speech

“You have the right to your opinion.”

This phrase is everywhere in our culture. People trot out the first amendment (though people misunderstand what it means), quote “Voltaire” saying “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it” (was actually from his biographer), and it’s always mentioned any time someone decides to speak out against intolerant speech.

People argue that we need to respect all views as equal, that maybe people may have a reason for their bigotry, something that makes their hatred valid. Maybe they’re not actually saying the hateful thing they said no matter how obvious it is.

That’s wrong, morally so.

I already posted once on how I blame tolerance of intolerance for Trump winning. In the end I said:

We need to combat the hateful and protect the Outcast under threat, actually act against the hatred with our words and our feet, they are now actually attacking people countrywide in large numbers. We didn’t rise up then, but we need to now.

Instead I quite often see people do this stuff…I’ve dealt with it twice personally. The first time was a response to my article Tell Me I’m Exaggerating (CW: Inhuman hatred towards autistics, eugenics, swearing). In that, I share where a woman told me “Science WILL find away (sic) to abort autistic people. This is what we are moving towards,” after she told me that autism was a horror show and telling me that I wasn’t “(autistic, autistic)”, a common tactic to silence autistic adults by telling us that because we can talk and explain stuff we’re not autistic and don’t know what we’re talking about. This was an event that had me shaking with rage and shock for days after (and as I write this, to be quite honest) as I didn’t expect it to happen (especially on that speech) and I didn’t realize that people would be so vile, advocating eugenics, to my face.

I shared it on my page and someone started trying to find some nuance of “maybe she meant that people will be able to choose to abort.” This was extremely invalidating (when people are hurt, the best idea isn’t actually to find why they may be wrong), as well as complete nonsense based on the context clues that even I could see (I’m admittedly not always the best at that).

The second time was more recent, when I shared this article about Ann Coulter tweeting “14!”, something that relates to white supremacy (considering her words in the past, it’s quite understandable why the responses from my friends, especially my non-white friends, were quite unsurprised, saying that we already knew this). In response, someone started looking for other reasons for this and found something that was mentioned and countered within the article itself.

Here’s the thing: Devils neither need nor deserve advocates.

Hate speech is harmful. Views of degradation and bigotry towards the oppressed and Outcast hurt. Being told we’re subhuman, that we’re going to hell, that how we were born was wrong, that we’re horror shows, is seriously damaging and happens all the time. It causes fear that we may get even worse from these people, especially when it’s actual threats like the woman who was told that she’d be lit on fire if she wore her hijab. It traps us in a cage of fear for our safety and not knowing who thinks that or wants us to be hurt or dead. It inflicts emotional trauma that these people think we deserve for our existence. Their speech takes away our freedom to be ourselves.

But you know what just adds to that hurt?

You who do this.

Each time you say this stuff, if you tell us any of the things that I mentioned, what you’re saying is that they have a right to say stuff that hates us. They deserve to be able to think that stuff about us, to think that our existence is morally wrong or deserving of suffering or just overall lesser. You’re saying that you’ll defend to the death the voices of people who want to hurt us, to kill us, to cause emotional pain solely because of how we were born (and yes I mentioned Muslims and am saying the way you’re born [considering it as racism], as let’s be completely honest here, when people call Muslims evil, they’re thinking about people from the Middle East and equating the two, it’s no coincidence that every time someone who looks Arab is involved in a terrorist attack everyone says they’re automatically Muslim). You’re looking for reasons to justify people thinking or saying that we are unequal to humanity, and saying we’re bad to defend our right to exist. When we’re feeling hurt, instead of caring about our feelings and standing by us, you rush to find alternate reasons for what the people who hurt us did to tell us we’re wrong to feel that way, to invalidate us. Beyond that, you enable this hatred to continue by deciding to silence us by letting those who feel these ways about us to keep speaking and bringing suffering to us. You choose to stand with our oppressors and their right to cause us suffering over our right to exist freely. You’d rather give them the benefit of the doubt than give us the benefit of your trust, care, and validation.

We notice this, and your choices to do this makes you just as great as a threat to our lives because when it comes down to impact, you have shown that, while you might not say those things, you’d much rather stand by their hatred than support us against them. By not standing against the system of oppression you help it continue. You normalize it, treat it as something that should exist no matter what harm it causes, no matter what stigma it might perpetuate. You let us know that when our backs are against the wall we should distrust you just as much as them because that’s when you’ll go to their side.

Nobody has the right to hate others, to cause harm, and now that this hatred is happening more and more, it’s time to start condemning it. If you don’t, we know where you stand.

-Laoch Onórach

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