Brown University. You know, the place where students are whining that they are failing their classes because they are protesting so much…
Fall 2015: “The right to free speech is a protection against the abuse of power, not a guarantee of a platform for all ideas,” a group of students wrote in an op-ed for the Brown Daily Herald.
We are taught to extol the virtues of free speech. White people in particular are taught that our voices are always worth being heard. When we believe in free speech, we do so because it works in our favor. The problem is that freedom of speech is not a universal reality. Free speech assumes a level playing field among speakers that does not exist. Power always affects interactions and what people can and do say in the context of a given relationship, institution or society. In this case, at an elite, predominantly white university, race and class are inseparable from any social interaction, let alone the curation of content in an established campus publication.
These arguments for free speech are often deployed to silence voices of color. Colonial histories of civility aside, calling for “civil discourse” implies that expressions of pain and anger by people of color are not civil and have no place in the conversation.
Censorship is the exercise of power to suppress challenges to the status quo. People of color calling attention to racism does not constitute an overbearing power structure that will limit free speech. The oppressed by definition cannot censor their oppressor. (Brown U)
This is your future. Idiocy as “sensitive” “moral” “standards”. Ignorance as Strength.
Isn’t it just grand. 🙂
Far more pernicious is the self-censorship that is promoted at many campuses that may fear ending up in the media spotlight should students protest. For instance, after Brown University students prevented former New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly from speaking, many other campuses may simply decide that it is not worth the trouble to bring a speaker to campus who is associated with controversial police practices (in Kelly’s case, “stop and frisk”). This silent fear is potentially crippling free speech.
“Free expression for me but not for you” is simple hypocrisy. However, deeper forces are also at work. (USA Today)
Last fall, the student groups held an outdoor event displaying posters with examples of expression that had been censored on campuses across the country. Three other students filed formal complaints, claiming that some of the posters were “offensive” and “triggering.” In response, USC served Abbott with a “Notice of Charge” letter and launched an investigation for “discrimination,” threatening him with punishment up to and including expulsion for his protected speech.
Abbott and the campus chapters of YAL and the College Libertarians are now suing USC for violating their free speech rights.
“The University of South Carolina is so intolerant of free speech that students can’t even talk about free speech,” said Catherine Sevcenko, FIRE’s director of litigation. “Ironically, the university’s current marketing campaign features the slogan ‘No Limits.’ But as Ross and his fellow students learned, that does not extend to their free speech rights.”.
The Futures so Bright I have to wear a muzzle. 🙂