On Racist Speech: A Critical Analysis
Charles R. Lawrence III, a professor of law at Stanford University, wrote the article “On Racist Speech” against the growing incidence of racial violence, especially in University campuses in the U.S. A college campus has the status of a “home” for the students residing therein, and as such any racist aggression or violence in general and racist speech in particular have the potential to disturb the law, order, and harmony in the social environment, apart from causing injury to the victims of such racial behavior. This paper attempts to analyze the reasons and arguments mooted by Lawrence to demand that racist speech must be regulated, more so in a college campus environment. It also examines how such regulation will impinge upon, or impact, the rights assured under the First Amendment.
Lawrence begins his article with a focus on the unmistakable message that racial speech “sends a destructive message to minorities that they are inferior and are in turn second class citizens.” (Lawrence). He further feels that the problem of racist speech “has been framed as one in which the liberty of free speech is in conflict with the elimination of racism.” He continues: “I believe this has placed the bigot on the moral high ground and fanned the rising flames of racism. Above all, I am troubled that we have not listened to the real victims, that we have shown so little understanding of their injury, and that we have abandoned those whose race, gender, or sexual preference continues to make them second-class citizens.” (Lawrence).
The essayist laments that libertarians in civil society who stoutly oppose the plea for clamping down on racist speech have turned away their ears from the cries of the real victims as they do not really understand or appreciate the nature and extent of harm suffered by the victims. Exposing the reality of how championing the cause of free speech for its own sake comes in conflict with...