Hate Crime should be Punished
Some things that have good intentions tend to have consequences. In fact, most things that have well intentions tend to be that way. A lot of ideas look good on paper, but the moment those ideas are executed, they end up going wrong one way or another. They aren’t supposed to go wrong because those ideas have good purposes. However, they end up going wrong because most people don’t acknowledge the possible repercussions if those ideas do end up being delivered. Making hate speech a crime is one of those things. Criminalizing hate speech would be a terrible idea even though it has good intentions. Of course, no one wants to be the target of any kind of hateful speech. It is horrible to speak of a group or person in a demeaning way just because of their race, gender, religion, sexuality, or any other thing of the sort. However, there would be no guarantee it would work, and it would most likely be carried out terribly. If we make hate speech a crime, we would feel better. However, there are a number of reasons as to why making hate speech a crime will either not work or be executed terribly. Criminalizing hate speech is unnecessary, would come with underlying problems, and is not the right solution to dealing with hate speech.
Hate speech laws are unnecessary when there are already laws that deal with it when it goes too far. Joyce Arthur, activist and feminist writer, says, ¨Hate Speech is dangerous because words have power and can influence others to act,” (qtd. in ¨Should Hate Speech Be a Crime?”). She also says that hate speech is destructive to people, as it can “limit people’s opportunities, isolate them socially, push them into poverty, lead to loss of self-esteem and depression, and endanger their health and safety,” (qtd. in “Should Hate Speech Be a Crime?”). Of course, all of the things stated are true. Hate speech can encourage more harmful and dangerous behaviors such as violence or criminal activities, as well as be harmful to a person’s mental and emotional health. However, gay rights activist counters back by saying, “But this amounts to harassment and can be dealt with using anti-harassment laws, without the need for legislation against hate speech,”(qtd. in “Should Hate Speech Be a Crime?”). This means that hate speech can be criminalized if it reaches the point of inciting criminal activity and it can be regulated through anti-harassment laws if it reaches the level of harassment. It also means that hate speech is already regulated to a certain extent, so there is no need for laws against hate speech. Other than laws against hate speech being unnecessary, there are also many other problems that would come with banning hate speech.
One problem to banning hate speech is that it would completely violate the First Amendment. According to “Hate Speech and Hate Crime”, the First Amendment to the United States Constitution protects all types of expression, no matter how abusive, insulting, hurtful, or offensive it may be. The First Amendment is supposed to provide freedom of speech for those who have views we disagree with. We would be disregarding the First Amendment by banning hate speech, as it is just another form of unpopular speech. In 2011, the Supreme Court decided to not punish the Westboro Baptist Church when they mocked a dead officer, the LGBTQ Community, and the United States government in order to protect the rights and freedom granted by the First Amendment (“Hate Speech and Hate Crime”). That means that if hate speech does happen to become illegal, we would no longer have freedom of speech. To ban it would mean to essentially ban free speech, and we have to protect freedom of speech for everyone or else no one will have that right. It would be pretty difficult to carry out laws against hate speech, anyway.
To make hate speech a crime would mean that someone has to define hate speech and that would be difficult and dangerous. As previously stated, hate speech is generally referred to as a form of speech that demeans and attacks a person or group based on ethnicity, race, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, or disability. However, “hate speech” does not legally have a definition in the United States. Hate speech would need a legal definition if it does become illegal and the legal definition might not match the general definition. Any type of speech can be labeled or defined as hate speech. Constitutional law expert Philippa Strum says “if we outlaw speech, that means the government or others in authority are going to be picking and choosing what we hear,” (qtd. in Ross 21). In other words, authorities would get to cherry pick what they consider to be hate speech, and allowing them the power to decide would allow them to abuse it. To allow the government or authorities to decide on what kind of things they want us to say and hear would ultimately result in censorship.
Banning hate speech only suppresses the problem instead of solving it. Hate and hate speech cannot simply be solved just by making it against the law. People’s opinions and views will not change just because they aren’t allowed to speak them. Outlawing and banning hate speech would not be solving anything. According to “Should ‘Hate Speech’ Be Free?”, freedom of speech is crucial for public debate and discussion. We wouldn’t be able to challenge, counter, or fight back against the views we disagree with if hate speech does become outlawed. Hate speech (and hate in general) is a problem that we should be working to fix. However, to criminalize hate speech would not be the correct solution.
The correct way to solve and fix hate speech is to continuously counter it by discussing, challenging, and educating people. It would be a tedious and long progress but it is a much more effective one compared to outlawing hate speech. Tatchell says that laws against hate speech only deal with hate speech after it has already happened and he would rather prefer hate to be destroyed completely before it’s said and expresses (qtd. in “Should Hate Speech Be a Crime”). He continues his point by saying that using the law to suppress hate speech is only a temporary solution and that a better solution is “education against hateful ideas” (qtd. in “Should Hate Speech Be a Crime”). The problem of hate and hateful speech cannot be immediately resolved. However, we can still respond and fight back against hate speech, even if we cannot completely destroy hate it. People who use hate speech have the First Amendment protecting them but the First Amendment does not protect them from people responding to their views. In 1977, a group of neo-Nazis (National Socialist Party of America) requested to hold a rally in Skokie, Illinois, where about sixty percent of the population was Jewish, thousands of them also survivors of the Holocaust (Ross 19).
Skokie officials tried to block the demonstration from happening but the National Socialist Party of America (NSPA) argued that it had the right to hold the demonstration, and a federal district court ruled in favor of the neo-Nazis (Ross 20). However, the residents of Skokie exercised their First Amendment rights to campaign if the Nazis were to show up, which caused the Nazis to move to some other location (Ross 21). The Skokie residents demonstrated a great example of how to counter and respond to hate speech. The First Amendment all kinds of speech, not just hateful, abusive, or insulting speech. People should exercise their own rights to freedom of speech to respond to hate speech. We do not have a quick solution to hate speech or a quick solution to hate. We can, however, respond and fight back against hate speech. We need to do continuously, too.
If we were to criminalize and outlaw hate speech, we would also be going backwards instead of making any progress. The only way we can progress and fix hate speech is by doing steadily. Hate speech is not a problem that can be fixed overnight. People must be willing to improve and make changes to this problem, just like most problems. The problem of hate speech cannot be fixed with a simple law. The majority of people can agree that hate speech is never a good thing. However, hate speech has still impacted the United States a great deal. Words carry weight, and hate speech especially can carry a heck ton of weight, and as stated previously, hate speech can be very harmful to a person in many ways. However, it is also a very necessary thing in today’s American society. America is arguably one of the freest countries in terms of speech. We should try to keep it that way. Hate speech is a terrible thing but like a lot of terrible things, it is crucial for it to stay legal. By continuing to allow hate speech to be protected under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, the United States would also be allowing us to exercise our right to freedom of speech as well.