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Racism and Freedom of Speech

by Izzy Kalman (November 2004) I am a strong proponent of Freedom of Speech, and demonstrate repeatedly at my seminars through role- playing that the true practice of Freedom of Speech is the solution to bullying. It even works with racial, religious, gender, and sexual-orientation harassment. I have volunteers come up and play a bigot. When I try to stop them from expressing themselves, they continue to insult me and my group, and have no respect for me or my group. When I let them say what they want and treat them with respect, they inevitably stop insulting me and my group, and come away with more respect for me and my group. Despite the obvious positive results of these demonstrations, some participants are so locked into thinking that no one should be permitted to insult anyone’s background that they continue to insist that Freedom of Speech should not be permitted for such expression. One participant wrote that forbidding racial free speech has led to “civility” among the races. These people don’t realize that all it has led to is “civility.” It has not led to meaningful relationships and friendships between the races. The races still, for the most part, stick to their own kind. And there is a good explanation for this. If I have to be so worried about hurting your feelings that I can be sued for saying something you might find offensive, I would rather stay away from you. I will be pleasant to you, but I’ll stick to my own kind, where I don’t have to worry about being sued for offending you. Because of this fear of being prosecuted for hurting each others feelings, it prevents us from eradicating our stereotypes. Destroying stereotypes requires us to get to know each other as human beings. By avoiding each other, we continue with our stereotypes. We keep them locked up inside, but they don’t go away. And we deprive ourselves of the opportunity to get to know each other as fellow human beings. On a few occasions, people – all from Hispanic countries – said to me following my presentations, that they were so happy to hear my views. They said things like, “Here in the United States, we can’t make fun of anyone. Where I come from, everybody makes fun of each other, and if you are in a social situation and nobody insults you, you feel neglected.” One psychologist approached me after a seminar and said he lived half of his life in Hawaii. Hawaii, he told me, has the greatest racial mix of all fifty States, but it also has the highest percentage of interracial births. In Hawaii, he told me, all the races make fun of each other. They don’t go for this “political correctness” business. They can laugh at each other, and this breaks down racial barriers, bringing people closer to each other. The subject of racism has always concerned me, and in recent months, I have been contemplating tackling it – a rather daunting task. I have been a bit reluctant to do so because it is has become such a sensitive subject that I may be setting myself up for hateful attacks. Anyway, I have decided to take on this mission. To keep myself relatively safe, I will do it by advising my own group, the Jews, rather than tell other groups what they should do. In my forthcoming newsletters, I will be presenting my approach to ending discrimination, not by curtailing Freedom of Speech, but by correctly employing it. By the way, a horrific incident occurred this week. A hunter of Asian decent killed five of his fellow hunters. He said in his defense that he was racially insulted. I’m sure that those who fight for limiting freedom of speech will capitalize on this as proof how destructive racial insults are. It is easy to forget that the insults did not do the killing. People who don’t know how to tolerate insults did the killing. And rather than teaching people how to tolerate insults without getting upset, we are teaching them that they SHOULD get upset by insults; that words kill and insults should not be tolerated – particularly insults about people’s group affiliation. We are thereby unwittingly increasing the likelihood that people will want to kill when they are insulted.

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