Sunday, November 17, 2013

Tazi's Corner #66 - Hate Speech

Dear Readers:

This week I would like to take about hate speech. I was going to talk about the differences between chivalry and sexism (if you do it for both sexes its chivalrous; if you only do it for women its sexist) when I read a blog/commentary in The Washington Post about hate speech online; about how various protected groups receive better blocks against it than non-protected groups, and how the writer believed that, as odious as she found hate speech, it has its place in a free society; to complain about it can lead to feeling a backlash that can only hurt you or your career.

Hate speech is just that – speech, and in America we have the freedom of it, so long as it does not cross the line into harassment or destruction of property. For example, the YouTube channel Simple Pick Up documents both rude and crude behavior by men, who shout to women in the street in an attempt to get their attention, if not their phone numbers. The channel has received plenty of negative press, as well as a petition to have it yanked from YouTube, yet it continues with its antics. Why? Because it isn’t against the law to broadcast bad behavior; the harassment that is being filmed could be considered a legal misdemeanor, but it is up to the victims to file a complaint – not the American public. Personally, I think this online “show” serves a purpose: to weed out the types of men women do not want in their lives. Can you imagine surfing through videos and seeing the guy you’ve had your eye on treating women in this manner?

I have always argued that it is better to know what someone thinks of you – even if it is hurtful – than to not know and allow them to secretly sabotage you. For example, if you are a person of color would you want to work for someone who is secretly racist? If you had the option of knowing someone was racist before you accepted a job working for him or her, would you still take it? Women, if you knew a male employer was sexist would you still work for him? Generally speaking, if a person (man or woman) was anti-Semitic would you want to know this before accepting or refusing to work for that person? What if your employer is a member of NAMBLAWould you still want even the most tenuous association with this person? Okay, so that last example wasn’t of hate speech, but it does drive home the point: when you associate with someone, people associate that person with you. This means that the habits of those with whom we gather are reflected back upon us.

Personally, I find hate speech odious – a word I have already used but I cannot think of one that better describes my feelings. Odious sounds like odor, which reminds me of a foul smell, and nothing makes me want to retch as much as a foul smell…except for the bigotry that is hate speech. 

Not even being forced to eat cat poo...

As much as I hate it, I, too, believe that hate speech has an important place in a free society: hate speech strips away the polite veneer we put forward for the outside world to see and reveals a person’s true colors. I would ask that those who participate in the act of expressing such opinions have the courage to speak them publicly, and not to hide behind an anonymous online handle like “aryan4life” or “KKKMan”; hiding behind the safety of your computer screen in the warm cocoon of anonymity shows the world that you are nothing more than a pathetic sack of human meat.

I live in the Northeast, which is to say I live in a part of the country where racism and bigotry are unacceptable in polite society, but I am not foolish enough to believe they do not exist in my corner of the world; hate is there, but it remains buried. I have seen women who work unpaid overtime in an attempt to earn a promotion, only to see it go to a man (who did little more than show up at the right place at the right time) because the boss is a sexist who thinks that women belong in the home, raising children, not in the workplace. I have heard tales of Black students being pushed out of a crowded elevator before it reaches their floor, the sounds of white laughter echoing in their ears as they held their heads high in the face of humiliation. With people packed elbow to elbow, it is hard to tell who did it…and the culprit too cowardly to come forward and stand behind their actions. I know gay men who have been beaten for no reason other than their sexuality. I have awoken to find swastikas spray-painted on Jewish temples and Satanic symbols on the walls of my own church. All I ask is that if you are going to cause such damage – to someone’s career, someone’s psyche, someone’s body, or someone’s property – at least have the courage of your own convictions to come forward and admit to them. This way, those who find your beliefs as odious as I find them can know to stay away from you, lest people start to think we are on your side. 

Snuggles to the rest of you, dear readers,


Ask Tazi! is ghostwritten by a human with Bachelors degrees in Communications and in Gender and Women's Studies. Tazi-Kat is not really a talking feline.

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