Archive for January, 2017

Free Speech, Hate Speech, & Intolerance

Free speech only seems to be free when it doesn’t oppose what another person chooses to believe. In the United States of America we have the 1st amendment which is supposed to guarantee the Freedom of Speech and Religion. Time and time again we see people rise up to challenge and condemn the speech of others when said speech is in direct opposition to a person or groups own beliefs. There are times in which that challenge is definitely warranted. There are other times when it isn’t.  What gets me annoyed in this day and age is how the term “hate speech” is thrown around so casually.  “Hate speech” seems to be the catch-all term to throw around when someone says something that isn’t actually hateful but is diametrically opposed to what a person believes or lives. Somewhere in the middle of all of this is when a person is also labeled “intolerant” for when what they say is in opposition to a “popular belief/opinion” but doesn’t quite get labeled as “hate speech” because it seems to be more specific than a broad generalization. The New Year is only 3 days old and between the media and people outside of it this issue is coming up so being who I am, I decided to try to break this down to see if we can have a positive and progressive dialogue and I think the first place to begin is to define a few of these terms and some of the key words in them.

Lets start with Free Speech aka Freedom of Speech.  Freedom of Speech is defined as: the right to express any opinions without censorship or restraint.  If we look at this definition carefully it says that if you have freedom of speech you can say/express any freedom that you have without censorship or restraint.  If you live in the United States especially with all of social media you have this right only in the confines of your own personal space as you don’t have this right in public being that we have laws that censor certain types of speech.  There are plenty of court cases on this issue that say this, one example I will cite here is Schenk v. United States says that you don’t have the freedom to use speech to incite actions that would harm others (wonder if our president-elect knows that).

Hate Speech is defined as: speech that attacks a person or group on the basis of attributes such as gender, ethnic origin, religion, race, disability, or sexual orientation. an incitement to hatred primarily against a group of persons defined in terms of race, ethnicity, national origin, gender, religion, sexual orientation, and the like. Hate speech can be any form of expression regarded as offensive to racial, ethnic and religious groups and other discrete minorities or to women. For the sake of this conversation since the word attacks is a part of the hate speech definition lets define that as well: aggressive and violent action against a person or place.  So for hate speech to truly be hate speech you have to actually be intentional to attack a person or group on the basis of the attributes listed above.

Lastly let’s get to the definition of intolerance: lack of tolerance; unwillingness or refusal to tolerate or respect opinions or beliefs contrary to one’s own; unwillingness or refusal to tolerate or respect persons of a different social group, especially members of a minority group.  So someone being intolerant isn’t necessarily someone who says something you disagree with now is it.  They would have to refuse to respect your opinion, stance, or choice that is in opposition to yours.  I wonder how many people who call someone else intolerant would be quick to label themselves as intolerant in light of the actual definition of intolerance.

Recently gospel singer and pastor Kim Burrell said some things in a sermon about the “homosexuality spirit”. She also spoke about “homosexual behavior” which from the short clip posted on the internet was defined as homosexual sex acts.  She called it perverted and talked about how she perceives it within the contexts of professing Christians and how it is affecting and effecting the Christian Church. There has been all kinds of words and comments about Kim Burrell being hateful, spewing hate speech, being a hypocrite as well as many other nasty things that by the very definition of hate speech is hate speech and is in violation of her freedom of speech and freedom of religion as her sermon is based on her religious beliefs.

There is a difference between being tolerant of someone’s speech and beliefs versus being in agreement. Tolerance by definition is the ability or willingness to tolerate something you are in opposition to. That shows that you have a choice. But to call someone intolerant because they don’t agree with your stance/beliefs/words and you refuse to respect their stance/belief/words by definition makes you intolerant and a hypocrite. If you want tolerance of your beliefs then you should make sure that you extend that same tolerance to others especially when it is in opposition to what you believe. We don’t have to all agree on everything or believe the same thing. You have been given free will so that you can make the choices that you deem fit for yourself. However when you say that someone is intolerant or spreading hate/hate speech choose your words wisely otherwise they may reveal that you are truly the most intolerant and hypocritical person around.  I will say it again, tolerance does not mean agreement, it means respecting someone’s choice to believe what they choose to believe they have because it is their right to make their own choice.I vehemently disagree with 99.99% of the stuff that has come of the president-elects mouth, especially when it has been proven time and time again to be a lie and some of which by the definitions of hate speech and intolerance are hate speech and intolerant, but I do tolerate and respect his right to have the beliefs that he has chosen to have.

Tolerance and agreement are 2 different things.  You don’t have to have agreement in order to have tolerance. The sooner we all learn that the better we all will be.

Free Speech, Hate Speech and Intolerance have been turned into buzzwords today that are thrown around when it is convenient or to serve an agenda as either an excuse to justify intolerance towards someone/a group of people or to divide all groups against each other in order to maintain control over them as well as anonymity as to what is being done “behind the scenes” that some people want to keep hidden.  Selah (which means stop, pause, and think about that).



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Happy New Year!!!

2017 is here!  The end of 2016 saw my attempts at regular writing in this blog get halted by the loss of my eldest brother Bruce Michael James Sr.  His death was unexpected and had a major impact on me but now I can assuredly say that I’m ready to get back into writing again.  So for 2017 I am going to try to commit to writing at least 1 blog post per week (not including this one) and I hope that you will not only read them, but comment and have dialogue as we tackle some interesting and (for some people) controversial topics.  I write in this blog because it’s my way of commenting on what I see going on in the world and expressing my viewpoint on it as well as to encourage positive dialogue on issues.  Positive dialogue doesn’t mean that we will always agree.  It does mean that agreement or not we will be respectful of one another and learn (if you don’t know how to already) how to agree to disagree when necessary.

So here’s to a great and challenging 2017 everyone.  I look forward to where we will all go and what we will all achieve.  The first post will be out later today and it will be on Free Speech, Hate Speech, & Intolerance.





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