Saving Free Speech Essay

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Saving Free Speech

It's difficult to imagine America as a country that tolerates open discrimination and harassment of people of different race or ethnicity. Yet, somehow it is also difficult to imagine America without considering its history scarred by racial intolerance and subjugation. It's strange how a country that was supposedly founded on the fundamental assertion that all people are created equal and have the basic right to freedom from oppression continues to deal with these problems. Racial and ethnic harassment has even spread to this country's institutions of higher learning.

Iowa State University is not immune to this epidemic. Consider the following incident, which occurred as recently as fall of 2003, as described
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According to the university's official policy, the law has defined racial or ethnic harassment as "any non-consenting conduct based upon race, ethnicity, or national origin that creates a hostile work or educational environment." Such conduct includes any kind of "threats, physical contact, pranks, vandalism, verbal, graphic, or written conduct" that is aimed at individuals or groups specifically because of their race or nation of origin. Iowa State's policy calls for immediate and just action involving all parties that is not meant to infringe in any way on either the perpetrator's or the victim's First Amendment rights. This is a policy that can be—and should be—regularly enforced.

A policy regulating hate speech is necessary to protect other essential freedoms that could be threatened by harassment. Excerpts from several authors included in the text Writing the World, by Charles R. Cooper and Susan Peck MacDonald, help to illustrate the harmful effects that hate speech can have on everyday living. One author who favors the regulation of hate speech, Mari J. Matsuda, claims that "hate speech shuts down conversations" (153). Matsuda says the free exchange of ideas through words is a fundamental communication tool. Respectful conversation fosters the ability to talk across difference, something that hate speech eliminates. When one side of a conversation is hateful and condescending, the

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