Don’t protect hate: Slurs are not part of free speech

Freedom of speech is essential to democracy but cannot be used to justify hatred and discrimination.

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Freedom of speech is essential to democracy but cannot be used to justify hatred and discrimination.

Free speech is one of the most vital parts of American democracy and freedom in general. But there are some words beyond the protections of free speech. Slurs and otherwise derogatory speech are detrimental to the emotional well being of minorities and are tell tale signs of bigotry that threaten the well being and lives of minorities.

Slurs are negative and often constitute as hate speech as they come from long-standing prejudice and histories of persecution. Slurs against black people have been used throughout American history to harass and dehumanize the entire race and various other cultures.

This was how slavery became a solid part of American culture; white people did not see African-Americans as humans and would degrade them through speech as well as action. All of the human right’s abuses committed against African-Americans are tied to the racial slurs used against them to this day.

“Historically, n—– defined, limited, made fun of, and ridiculed all Blacks. It was a term of exclusion, a verbal reason for discrimination. Whether used as a noun, verb, or adjective, it strengthened the stereotype of the lazy, stupid, dirty, worthless nobody…the word n—– has not left and its relationship with anti-Black prejudice remains,” Phil Middleton and Doctor David Pilgrim wrote for African-American Registry, a nonprofit education organization.

Another infamous slur is r——-, commonly used as an insult against anyone perceived to be mentally ill or stupid and is one of the most vile slurs out there. The New York Times described the word as having an “assaultive potency.”

Many try to justify their usage of the word by claiming it’s a medically correct term. However, the word has such negative connotations that a law was passed to remove the term from federal lexicon.

“Although originally a clinical term and introduced with good intentions, the term ‘mental retardation’ and its pejorative form, ‘r—–’ have been used widely in today’s society to degrade and insult people with intellectual disabilities,” according to the Special Olympics website.

The same goes for slurs against other minority groups, including Jews, Muslims, Asians, Indigenous peoples, and the LGBT community. Slurs have been used against minority groups during hate crimes and other instances of identity-based bullying, giving them more modern links to hatred.

Slurs and other derogatory phrases used against any of these groups carry the weight of centuries of prejudice and oppression on their back. That anyone would want to use derogatory language is a sign that there is something deeply wrong with society.

It is a small and simple thing but acknowledging the history of slurs and removing them from everyday speech will help lead to a more accepting society and pave the way for equality.