Freedom of Speech Does Not Justify Hate Speech but Validates Protests

By Adeline Tao
On November 14, 2016

Photo by Hope Patti

Last Thursday night was a normal night for me – well as normal as a night can be after a highly controversial man was just elected President of my country only two days ago. I was sitting in the Laurel Hall lounge, hanging out with my friends and painting wooden fans as a part of a Hall event to destress. I sure needed it, and so did my friends who were just as shaken up by last Tuesday night’s results.

And then, we heard it. We heard shouts and chants and to be honest – at first, I got scared. I thought that it was a Trump rally, that one of those hateful protests had finally arrived on my campus. My friends insisted we go outside and see what all the commotion was and even though I was terrified inside, I still felt a streak of courage and nerve. I was determined not to be scared by these people.

Once outside, my heart flipped upside down. It was not a riot of enflamed Trump supporters, but a protest of emblazoned anti-Trump supporters shouting: “Love trumps hate! Love trumps hate!”

In that moment, I felt safe, I felt encouraged, I felt strong.

What has upset me so much about the presidential election’s results is that it seems like Trump’s victory was an invitation for the racist, sexist and homophobic members of America to be even more openly, unapologetically and antagonistically so. I feel like these hateful people were using “freedom of speech” as an excuse to justify their nasty, combative words. The First Amendment states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

Clearly, the aggressive Trump supporters are violating the spirit of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. However, I also know many Hillary, or simply anti-Trump, supporters are being just as hostile and are doing the same. So what hurts is that since election night, many of the more riled up people on either side of the political spectrum are forgetting the true meaning of being a plain, decent human being in America.

We need peaceful protests. We need freedom of speech that does not attack others in cruel and malicious ways. 

Last Thursday night was a heart-warming and eye-opening experience for me. Seeing the group of almost a hundred students courageously and resolutely protesting against the hate that has been going on ignited the small spark that had already started burning in me.

If I got anything positive from the hate that has been spewing all over America this past week, it’s that I must join the movement that protests against it. We must restore and protect the true meaning of freedom of speech, which is not the hateful “free speech” that some Americans are abusing today.

This election might not have turned out the way many thought it was going to, but the reality will not change. Trump was elected and people are going berserk over it. We must come together strong and realize that 'love trumps hate.'

atao@ramapo.edu

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