There’s been plenty to talk about these last days, most notably the primary results from Super Tuesday. But we won’t be focusing on that too much. Here’s our obligatory take: Clinton takes the majority of states with little surprise, helped in part by her husband’s shady tactics. On the other side, good news for Rubio, who won his first state. And, while Trump managed to exceed expectations, at least he didn’t win everything. With that out of the way, what we’d like to talk about instead is two fold. First the KKK’s recent encounter in Anaheim. As we all are hopefully aware, the Ku Klux Klan represents a disgusting and backwards way of thinking we wish would be long gone in today’s society. But it is with little pleasure that we find ourselves defending the clansmen in Anaheim after they were attacked.
Before you stop reading and start telling everyone that the Trinitonian endorses and supports white supremacy, let us clarify. We do not defend the KKK’s views or beliefs. What we do defend however are their rights to hold such beliefs. Notably their right to assemble, protest and express themselves. These are all fundamental rights as outlined in our first amendment. While we are in no way endorsing violence either, does the thought of some Klansmen getting beat up keep us awake at night? Hell no. But should their ability to exercise their rights be taken away out of disagreement, we might find it harder to sleep. We should not, it should be noted, protect all groups equally; if a group is using their right of expression to incite violence then they are no longer protected by that right, What we should do however, is protect all peaceful groups equally. The Westboro Baptist Church protests peacefully. The KKK, in this instance, was protesting peacefully. Despite the views they may hold, their right, not only to express themselves, but to also defend themselves from attackers, is something that needs to be defended. Just as we have the right to call the KKK racist bastards whose existence sickens us, they have the right to express their own opinions. If a group as low as the KKK is granted those rights then we can all feel at ease knowing our rights are granted too.
The problem in America is that too often words like “abuse” or “harassment” have been bastardized by portions of the population; this population has generated a cognitive framing around these words that cause them to see peaceful protests or expression, especially those that offend them, as an act of violence that needs to be suppressed in order to protect everyone else. This highlights a fundamental notion of freedom of speech and it’s, often unknown to them, opponents. No one, at least ostensibly, wants to just ban freedom of speech. They don’t say they are restricting speech, they are instead “protecting the children” or “protecting women.” Countries don’t ban protests or speech because they want to be jerks. They do it to protect the country’s stability, to protect from purveyors of war or to protect values and ideals they see as threatened. All honorable aims when taken without sacrificing fundamental rights. We understand. Freedom of speech is dangerous. It can cause wars and riots. It can lead to untold violence. It can hurt us to our deepest fiber while creating fear, anger and sorrow.
But it also creates progress.
Freedom of speech allows for change and innovation, debate and discussion. Through the mixing and blending of various ideas we can move forward as humans. Bringing all ideas to the table allows us to combat and debate those we find wrong or repulsive, with the hopes of correcting and changing them. This is when freedom of speech not only works, but excels. If the KKK presents a voice of racism that we, as society or individuals, deem unacceptable, the answer is not to ban it. The answer instead lies in correcting it. We can debate and argue, and through generations, create a new dialogue that we find more appealing. But this new dialogue cannot be created through force. Moving from the KKK to our second point, closer to home, at our own university, recent allegations of racism on Trinity Snaps were brought to light by senator and SGA president Brenna Hill. Hill, in a post to the Facebook page Overheard at Trinity, made it clear that SGA does not endorse such racism on the Snapchat platform and urged others to stand beside them in unfollowing the account. A racist five second snap measures far from the messages of the KKK. But it’s acceptance and existence are a harsh reminder of views we would strongly rather be without. Shortly after Hill’s posting, the Trinity Snaps’ story was wiped clean, the moderator deleting the snap in question and starting anew. Sure, Trinity Snaps is not the United States. It’s more akin to a private organization run by a single entity; an entity who is solely responsible for the content published and the decisions to allow racist ideas onto the platform. As such their decision was to remove the snap. And that is their right to do so. But if we look at the situation as reflective of a free society, then such ideas, even racist ones, have the right to exist. We can create dialogue about not supporting them and urge others to voice their concern against it, not in a hope to get the ideas banned or deleted, but to correct them. By urging a community to stand up against an opinion they find wrong, Hill and her supporters are showing the other side, a side of acceptance and equality as opposed to racism and exclusivity. We want to make it so that the individuals perpetrating such views can correct themselves, not simply silence them. Many people following the posting have been calling for Trinity to publicly renounce and condemn this behavior. Such action by the university would be welcomed; we would be ashamed to attend a university where racist behavior and ideals are upheld by the institution. But condemning such expression and ideas is, and should remain, far from banishment. If Trinity were to silence racist, sexist or otherwise offensive language at every level we would likely find ourselves in a blissfully ignorant state. But the views would still exist, now only silent, growing stronger through a combination of disdain and suppression.We should not simply unfollow the account or fall into complacency. And while complacency is not a measure of endorsement, it is a dangerous step. Remaining silent is to not exercise the very right we are striving to protect. We should be vocal about our opinions on the matter. Should we ban racist statements or other ideas we find wrong? No. Should we lash out in violence against these ideas? Of course not. Should we make it known that we, as a community, do not support these types of ideas, in an attempt to correct and dissuade them? Definitely.