We Must Stop Hate Speech

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During the turbulent tides of the 2016 election, the question of whether or not hate speech is protected under the First Amendment has been brought up multiple times. Hate speech is defined by the American Bar Association as “speech that offends, threatens, or insults groups, based on race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, disability, or other traits.” One side argues that hateful comments should not and are not protected due to the oppression they bring. After all, why would a nation that promotes freedom and equality for all allow the harmful words of others to persist? Conversely, others argue that the First Amendment covers all forms of speech, hateful or not, and to not allow hate speech is both a violation of…show more content…
In the R.A.V. v. City of St. Paul case of 1992, a 14-year old white boy burned a cross in the yard of the only African American family in St. Paul, Minnesota. Minnesotan law prosecuted him under the pretense that it was illegal to place, on public or private property, a burning cross, swastika, or any other symbol likely to arouse “anger, alarm, or resentment in others on the basis of race, color, creed, religion, or gender.” However, the young man appealed, and the case was taken to the Supreme Court, which ruled the law unconstitutional in that it infringed on the First Amendment. While the law did not condone the boy’s actions as legal, they did condone the law to be defective due to it focusing on his motives rather than his actions. A similar case, Wisconsin v. Mitchell, was done the following year and dealt with Thomas Mitchell and several young African American boys beating a white boy. Mitchell allegedly instigated the fight, shouting, “There goes a white boy; go get him!” before both he and the other boys proceeded to chase and beat the boy in question. Wisconsin law dictated that the penalty for battery be increased if the assaulter chooses the victim “because of the race, religion, color, disability, sexual orientation and national origin or ancestry of that person.” However, unlike in the R.A.V. case, the Supreme Court stated that this law did not infringe First Amendment rights because the act was directed towards a particular victim rather than
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