I stumbled upon an article about free speech and why we shouldn’t have it in The Chronicle, published at Duke University. Being bored and insane, but mostly insane, I’m presenting it to our audience to better demonstrate what cultural libertarians are fighting against.
Duke University costs nearly $50k per year. That is a lot of white privilege to work off, so PhD in Literature candidate Bennett Carpenter is starting early. That is what you’d call smart, readers. Lets learn from his years of knowledge and wisdom as forced into his mind by the good professors at Duke.
We already have our first problem. Since this is the title of an opinion column, I believe more words should be capitalized. This probably isn’t the fault of Bennett Carpenter, so don’t think he is an idiot because of a poorly-formatted title.
As I write my first column, I am thinking a lot about speech. I am thinking about how an urgent and overdue conversation about racism—on our campus and across our country—
Hold on, Bennett. This is not exactly a new conversation. Before your contribution in your premier article, we had the civil rights movement. Before that, there was a civil war. Before that, there was a constitutional convention, nearly ripped apart by the very notion of racism and slavery. In fact, we’ve been talking about this issue since the colony of Jamestown, Virginia imported slaves in 1619.
I don’t see how the ongoing 400-year discussion can be called “overdue”.
has been derailed by a diversionary and duplicitous obsession with the First Amendment. I am thinking about how quickly the conversation has shifted from white supremacy to white fragility—and how this shift is itself an expression of white supremacy.
That is quite the linguistic judo there, Bennett. I sure hope you can tell us what you mean by white fragility.
White fragility refers to a range of defensive behaviors through which white people (or more accurately, people who believe they are white) deflect conversations about race and racism in order to protect themselves from race-based stress.
So let me see if I’ve got this right. White people talking about white culture is white supremacy, but every time this is pointed out to them they get defensive, which is proof they are, in fact, white supremacists? But not all white people are guilty of this crime, only people who believe they are white? So there are non-white people, who may or may not actually be white, who may or may not be actual white supremacists, failing to participate in a 400-year long conversation which you are just now finding out about? Likewise, there are white people who don’t believe they are white people failing to uphold their end of the 400-year long conversation because they just can’t handle race-based stress.
Thank you. I think we understand now.
Because white people tend to live in environments where whiteness is both dominant and invisible, they grow accustomed to racial comfort, as a result of which even a small amount of racial stress becomes intolerable. This helps explain why talking about white supremacy can feel more painful to white people than white supremacy itself, why…
I’ve cut you off there to make a point. I mention this so my readers understand you are not an idiot because of your grammar.
I’ll give a concrete example. I just returned from the grocery store. While waiting in the check-out line there were white people, black people, hispanic people, asian people, people wearing saris, and people wearing hijabs. The only stress I felt was the white Boomer at the front of the line paying with some form of large rock, because I really wanted to get home to read your article.
When I started the conversation about the poor old white guy, everybody laughed. I failed to ask how everybody felt about their race. So the odds were pretty good that everyone there either was or was not a white supremacist in some way?
I mean, we sure as hell were all ageist.
This helps explain why talking about white supremacy can feel more painful to white people than white supremacy itself, why the ostensible “stifling” of debate can feel more pressing than the literal strangulation of Eric Garner and how “free speech” seems more important than Black lives.
So asking basic questions like Why can’t we ask questions about your racial theories? is even more painful than strangling people? You know this how?
Needless to say, it requires an astounding degree of narcissism, ignorance and— yes—fragility to scan headlines –
Cutting you off again. I entirely agree that it does require an astounding degree of narcissism, ignorance, and fragility to scan headlines, particularly if you are reading Buzzfeed, The Huffington Post, the New York Times, or the just-added-to-my-list Duke Chronicle.
Note to readers: the last dash does not actually appear in the original text. Again, Bennett is not an idiot because of poor editing skills.
– detailing the daily, state-sanctioned slaughter of people of color and somehow conclude that speech is the real problem.
Then you went and ruined our moment with this assertion. Are there lists of black people in post offices or police stations who are to be murdered by death squads? Is that what is really going on in progressive paradises like Chicago, Detroit, and Baltimore? Does the press, who covers every single Black Lives Matter protest of any size, anywhere, know about these lists?
I’m just asking because you’ve linked extensively to your other assertions up to this point (readers: see original article if you care to wade into that corn maze). I hope I’m not being racist. I’m a metallic-colored spork, so I’m cool, right?
White fragility weighs the minimal discomfort of being confronted with painful realities about race and racism against the literal death of Black and brown bodies and decides that the latter matter less than white discomfort. Which is how we end up here, talking about speech on campus and reading a dozen iterations of the same editorial in which students describe—with utterly unintentional irony—how being called out by anti-racist activists makes them feel upset and hurts their feelings.
Every time a white person denies they are a racist, a black person dies. Got it.
Also, excuse me? “Black and brown bodies”? I believe they are people, but then thinking that is racist. Don’t worry, I’ll figure out how.
This leaves those of us committed to abolishing white supremacy in a double bind. To engage with this debate is to fall for a diversionary tactic in which we again center the conversation on white feelings. To refuse to engage grants the latter a monopoly on the airways, drowning out more vital issues in an ocean of white noise. Still, in the interests of the open, honest debate the free speechers ostensibly advocate, let me try to address the constitutional and philosophical principles at play here.
That is very magnanimous of you. Aren’t you concerned that engaging in such a debate will make you culpable for literally killing more black people? People who would have otherwise lived if you’d just stayed on target and continued ranting incomprehensibly to your Racial Studies prof?
Does the “white noise” refer to actual, real incidences of hatred such as Teen Praised After Cutting Off Own Hand When Called ‘Blasphemer’, Political Prisoner’s Mother Forced to Disrobe in Front of Grandchildren, or Afghan Man Seeks Taliban Support After Chopping Off Wife’s Nose, all of which were reported in the last 24 hours?
The first point to make is that, despite the hand-wringing, I have yet to see a single example of student activists violating the First Amendment. Indeed, it is hard to imagine how they could do so, given that the latter proscribes government abridgment of speech while student activists are private citizens.
There are other private citizens you share a campus with that print materials and host speakers with viewpoints that differ from your own. They regularly have said materials confiscated, destroyed, and defaced. Speakers are disinvited or violently protested. You haven’t seen student activists violating the First Amendment because you refuse to look. FIRE is an organization that tracks these incidences.
The internet is your friend, Bennett. I personally promise that no black people will die if you look up an idea that might be critical of something you believe.
Many seem to confuse “free speech” with some banal notion of civility, forgetting that the very freedoms they invoke to defend racist drivel permit anti-racists to respond—whether by calling someone out or calling for their resignation.
Thank you for clarifying this. Civility has no place when social justice is at stake! Looting and burning businesses? Great! Shooting cops? Perfectly fine! Destroying peoples lives by getting them fired, reporting them as criminals, or making baseless complaints to child services? It’s all good!
What could possibly go wrong when private citizens toss away civility?
This would seem to set up a nice equivalence between racists and anti-racists—both exercising free-speech freedoms, which must be equally and indiscriminately defended.
That is the concept of free speech. I’m frankly shocked you figured it out.
What this ignores, however, is the centuries-long history of racialized oppression to which hate speech contributes. Hate speech is thus both violent and an incitement to further violence.
Wow, beautiful sleight-of-phrase there, Bennett. We rubes haven’t received the benefit of your professors’ wisdom, so please permit me to explain what you are saying here.
Bennett has just claimed that when he speaks, it is Wisdom and Truth and by even questioning it you are killing people. Well, black people. Or, more accurately, people who think that they are black people.
When anyone with a different viewpoint speaks, it is hate speech, because of oppression.
The courts already prohibit walking into a crowded theater and shouting “fire.” How is this any different from walking into a white supremacist society and shouting racial slurs?
Offhand, I’d say that shouting “fire” in a crowded theater puts everyone else in mortal danger. Shouting racial slurs into a white supremacist group would put only yourself in mortal danger. Is there a downside to this scenario?
I’m chopping out your next paragraph or two. It is frankly long and weak. You are a literature student, Bennett, not a lawyer. Spout all the theoreticals you want, but when you can’t properly distinguish “libel” from “hate speech” you look like an idiot. Don’t be triggered! When it comes to the law, everyone is an idiot.
We’ll pick up again here:
Key to this new interpretation is a firm separation between speech and action, a legal variant on the old childhood adage: “sticks and stones may break your bones, but words will never hurt you.” The problem—as anyone who has been the victim of hate speech can tell you—is that this simply isn’t true. Words hurt as much as actions; indeed, words are actions. Within the context of white supremacy, any distinction between a defaced poster, a racist pamphlet and legal or extralegal murder can be only of degree.
There are 11 dead Charlie Hebdo cartoonists silently screaming in disagreement with this assertion. Of course, they were white, so by your logic they don’t matter.
Very well. Let’s try a simple thought experiment. Go stand in front of a mirror and shout “You are a dewberry” at yourself. What level of pain did you feel? It’s a severe insult, you are outside your safe space, and you seem mentally fragile, so let’s call it a 6.
Now grab a hammer and hit yourself in the crotch. Did you feel more pain? Was it a lot? You might want to do it again, repeatedly, and average the data. This is Science, Bennett, and nobody said it would be easy to conduct it.
If our thought experiment didn’t convince you, how about this? If someone hurls an “insult” at you on Twitter, you can turn off your device and medicate with chocolate chip mint ice cream until you feel better. If someone kills you, it is very difficult to recover and feel better about yourself or the world you no longer live in.
At the same time—and here I’ll throw a bone to the civil libertarians—I’m unconvinced that hate speech legislation can resolve this. Not because hate speech isn’t violent, but because the state is. As others have noted, we often view the state like some strange sort of Jekyll and Hyde—as if the very government quite literally built on white supremacy could somehow save us from its effects.
You pretty much don’t understand civil libertarians, who view government as a disease masquerading as it’s own cure. Government is all Hyde. As it is also a necessary evil, it needs enough power to carry out it’s responsibilities and not one iota more. Trust me, you really do not want a government that has the power to dictate what speech will be allowed and by whom.
After all, what happens when a new party sweeps into power? Let’s say it is Donald Trump. Everything you are saying in your article, which is pretty much patently racist, and I don’t mean in the modern sense of the word but the actual “you hate all white people” sense, is suddenly actionable. What you are prescribing be done to those who disagree with you now will suddenly be done to you.
Do you think anybody will argue on your behalf? What if they do, but are the wrong color?
I’ve sometimes noticed the same double vision among campus activists, who both call out Duke (quite rightly) for institutional racism yet also call on the administration to fix it.
I think you mean “double standard”, but whatever. I can see your dilemma. One good solution would be to tear the campus down stone by stone, invalidate all degrees since 1924, when James B. Duke established The Duke Endowment with tobacco money, and had the school renamed to Duke University. Mark Zuckerberg has some billions sitting around that could be used to rebuild Duke into a shining beacon of racial tolerance. No white people allowed. Or people who think they might be white.
I expect a non-identifying white dude like yourself will be readmitted, as long as you cough up a few more years of tuition money. Adjusted upward for white privilege, of course.
So where does that leave us? With the painful yet empowering realization that no one will save us but ourselves. Rather than relying on the state to censure hate speech, anti-racists can assume that task—calling out and shouting down every expression of white supremacy as we work to build a genuinely free society.
Your new, empowering technique already has a spiffy name: crybully. Cultural libertarians like myself feel obligated to counter your hate speech with speech of our own. Nothing personal, Bennett.
In the meantime, we can construct safe spaces for ourselves where hatred is barred at the door. In other words, the exact work that campus activists are already doing.
I did a little digging and there is a safe space at Duke University missing it’s special snowflake! They don’t want it back, though.
Cowardly racists and homophobes who deface posters or vandalize dormitories are not heroic defenders of free speech. The true heroes are those who have spoken out against injustice, time and again, in the face of both material and psychological retaliation. Everything else is just white noise.
No Authoritarian screed is complete without throwing in the charge of “homophobia”. Way to shove that in out of the blue in your final paragraph. Achievement: Virtue Signaling Level 2, UNLOCKED!
I’d personally put the 5000 Blacks who served in the American Revolution, the 186,000 Blacks who served in the US Civil War, the 350,000 Blacks who served in WWI, and the 125,000 Blacks who served in WWII in the “heroes against injustices” category. I stopped counting for the sake of brevity. There are many, many more.
You think bravely calling everyone who disagrees with you a racist in the name of racial justice puts you into the same category. That, Bennett, is what makes you an idiot.