Contrary to the opinions of some people, free speech and hate speech are not synonymous.
Hate speech is any speech or form of expression that offends, threatens, or insults a group based on their race, religion, sexual orientation, and other traits. Hate speech is frequently confused with free speech, the right to express one’s ideas or opinions, especially by those who do not realize they themselves hold prejudiced beliefs and by those seeking to exploit popular misconceptions about what free speech is as a cover for inciting hate, bigotry, and slander.
In June of 1998, only a month after I turned twenty, I learned, by accident, that I was adopted. The experience (described in my forthcoming memoir, Recomposition) threw me into an identity crisis. It also had the curious effect of teaching me the value of something about which, up until then, I, like most Americans, had never given any thought: the value, and necessity, of having an original birth certificate (OBC).
For me this lesson all started with carefully guarded family secret about my true origins, a secret that was brought to light when, as an adult, I attempted to get enrolled in my tribe–which for me was necessary to secure my religious freedom.
Some years ago, while I was an undergrad living in South Dakota, I had the honor and privilege of being part of a group of people who were becoming a traditional akichita (warrior) society called Ocheti Okolakichiye, the “Fellowship of Fires.” The experience, which I describe in the memoir I’m completing (entitled Recomposition), taught me a great deal about how important it is not just to fight to combat racism and discrimination, but, through service, helped remind me who it is we’re fighting for.
Ocheti was formed in 1998 in the wake of Native American students at the University of South Dakota uniting with faculty and our larger indigenous community to change a discriminatory university policy that targeted Native American students and prohibited our religious freedom. So many of us, myself included, had been prohibited from burning a small amount of sage, cedar, or sweetgrass while we prayed, a common Native American spiritual practice called “smudging.”
Every so often I hear complaints about how tired people are about being politically correct in what they say when they talk about people of a different race, religion, or sexual orientation. They call transgendered people offensive terms like “tranny,” and when they disagree with a Native American, they say things like “Yeah, okay, Tonto” (this latter is but one of many I’ve gotten myself). These are but a couple of examples from a list of slurs and offensive phrases that grows longer every day.
And when the people speaking these offensive things are called on it, they often get offended. They act as if the impact of their words should be discounted. They act as though others who have been on the receiving end of their discriminatory words and actions, should just “know” what they meant, and that what they said, necessarily, wasn’t actually discriminatory.
In his recent speech at CPAC, conservative Ben Carson came out swinging against gay marriage.
Referencing his now infamous comments made last year on Hannity, in which Carson connected homosexuality to pedophilia and “people who believe in bestiality,” the author and former neurosurgeon said that he is “not a fan of political correctness” and that be believes “marriage is between a man and a woman.” He also said “Of course gay people should have the same rights as everyone else, but they don’t get extra rights… They don’t get to redefine marriage.”
Dan Snyder’s recent success in gaining the support for continued use of the Red*kins team name from a group of Navajo code talkers illustrates the lengths that people will go to in order to legitimize the racist use of ethnic team names and mascots.
As I discuss in my latest article in Indian Country Today, the Red*kins have been involved in an attempt to deflect attention from their own contribution to the oppression of indigenous peoples by posturing as an organization concerned with the issues confronting Indian country.
The coming-out of celebrities and other high profile public figures like Ellen Page and Michael Sam provide an invaluable service. They show that love sees all orientations and serve as sources of much needed pride, acceptance, support to many people who have had to resort to hiding their sexuality out of fear.
Many news media outlets are supportive of our GLBT brothers and sisters, and rightly so. But I wonder, can media coverage of people coming-out actually hurt LGBT rights?
I recently had the distinct pleasure of hosting an in-class debate and discussion about children’s rights with the students in the Social Problems course I’m teaching at the University of Pittsburgh.
In preparing to teach the class, I did my usual prep work, reading up on the issue and collecting facts and figures to illustrate some larger points I hoped to make. In the course of doing my prep work, I was horrified to discover that there were some 686,000 children were the victims of abuse and neglect in the U.S. in 2012. This figure works out to over 1,800 cases per day, or about 1.3 per minute.
In the United States few rights are as central to our liberty and identity as the right to religious freedom. It is a cornerstone of American society, enshrined in the First Amendment to our constitution, which holds that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”
This establishment clause has generally been interpreted to provide protections for religious practices and beliefs, to prohibit the creation of a national religion, and to curtail a federal government preference for one religion over another. Many Americans are not aware, however, that the federal government has, in fact, created laws that prohibit the free exercise of religion and which may amount to an establishment of religion and a regulation of belief.
The Convention is the most universally ratified treaty of all time, but the U.S. exceptional in that it, along with Somalia and South Sudan, is one of the only countries in the world yet to ratify it, to vote it into federal law.
Opponents of ratifying the Convention often claim that passing it into federal law would violate state’s rights to craft and implement laws. They say it would impinge upon parents’ rights, mandating sex education at the age of four. They sometimes claim that it would create what amounts to, in effect, a police state in which parents’ decisions and actions are constantly monitored and potentially thwarted by an over-bearing state. Some also claim that with so many state and federal laws already in place in the U.S., ratifying the Convention really isn’t necessary to protect children’s rights.