Oppressors, Oppressed, Privilege, and Free Speech

A few days ago I wrote:

Speech codes are written by and for the privileged.  They are written by the oppressor to shut up the oppressed.  George Wallace did not need the First Amendment, black kids trying to go to the University of Alabama needed it.  So the progressive opposition to free speech (e.g BLM shouting down the ACLU over free speech) is either 1) completely misguided, as the oppressed need these protections the most or 2) an acknowledgement that progressives and their allies are now the privileged, that they are the ones in power, and that they wish to use speech codes as they have always been used, to shut up those not in power.  In our broader society the situation is probably #1 but on university campuses we may have evolved to situation #2.

Example of #1 (via Overlawyered)

A woman has been questioned by police and could face a hate crime prosecution after she waved a banner at Belfast’s Pride parade reading “Fuck the DUP”.

In a case that could have consequences for free speech and the right to offend across the UK, the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) says it will pass a file to the region’s public prosecution service (PPS) after Ellie Evans, 24, held up the placard at the August parade to protest against the party’s policies on gay marriage.

The investigation was prompted by a complaint from DUP politician Jim Wells, who told the Guardian that the slogan constituted “incitement to hatred and potential public disorder”.

Example of #2

A few months later, I received a letter from two Reed students of colour that was being distributed among alumni like a piece of samizdat. The students didn’t reveal their names for fear of being ostracised, but they described a campus that had been overtaken by militants who routinely shamed as racists anyone who didn’t agree with them. One of those singled out had been a freshman named Hunter Dillman who had been branded a racist after asking the organiser of a Latina student group an innocent question. He was ultimately hounded off campus.

The students said the Facebook shaming became even more virulent as the year went on. When another white student apologised to Amanda for being unable to attend a particular protest because he was behind on his schoolwork, Amanda accused him of being the kind of white guy who would ‘laugh at a lynching’. The students felt Amanda’s charge was so outrageous that they decided to take a big step: they would all ‘like’ the student’s apology on Facebook, even though they might be called racists as well. ‘As students of colour we felt that we had to do it’, one of them later told me. ‘It would have been 100 times worse if somebody white liked it.’



  1. GoneWithTheWind:

    "‘It would have been 100 times worse if somebody white liked it.’"

    All too often people of color fail to understand their own racism.

  2. Mercury:

    Funny how you almost never see any Asian-Americans (of any skin tone) involved in this crap.

    At ~5.6% of the American population they are WAY under-represented in municipal jobs, in Congress etc. but never whine about not having "a seat at the table" or wanting to have "a national conversation". They don't give a shit about this stuff because they know it's not important. They just put their heads down and quietly go about the business of kicking ass in business and in life.

    Like other successful ethnic/cultural groups they tend to highly value Family and Education (real, practical education, not grievance-studies BS) pretty much above all else (pretty simple!). They are also way more likely to have directly experienced or be directly descended from people who know what real, jackboot, throat-slitting oppression looks like up close.

    At some point, grievance-mongers of all colors and stripes are going to find themselves even more woefully behind and disadvantaged because they failed to heed such obvious models for success and chose instead the path of auto-retardation.

    I mean, wouldn't you love to be a fly on the wall at dinner time in an Indian or Chinese-American household when some crazy, campus-drama story like this pops up on the news?

  3. Chris Bickford:

    What I read this as saying is that had someone white "liked" the post, they would have suffered more extreme consequences.

  4. SamWah:

    Reed is about as leftie as a college can get.

  5. kidmugsy:

    Me too.

  6. GoneWithTheWind:

    I agree. Hence my point that people of color would have been up in arms that a "white" person liked in on facebook. By definition that would be racism by those who were angry that a "white" person liked it, sometimes called reverse racism but in fact simple straight forward racism

  7. wreckinball:

    Its close to always. Its now even flipped to if you don't affirm whatever racism they are preaching you are now a racist.

  8. saperlot:

    Sorry, ranting because this is one of the topics that I am passionate and angry about...

    Free speech is one of those terribly mutilated issues - it conflates a lot of issues so that the simplicity of the original thought is lost. As a side observation, compared to other countries I've lived in, it always struck me as weird how PC the US in particular is (ie how much people self-censor instead of just laying on what they really think and telling people what they might not like to but need to hear).

    The real problem here is that there are some very legitimate examples of free speech that are dicey ("My name is president Trump and I'll guarantee that I'll pardon all crimes of my friends because I can, just go and use your second amendment power on those Leftists already") and that there have been attempts to vastly broaden what speech is to any form of expression (money is speech, movies are speech, bullets are speech, driving a car is speech...)

    If you really want free speech, you'll have to accept that some people will say unconscionable things and that some people will act on it and commit crimes.

    If you really want it, you'll have to accept things like the Conrad Roy III suicide and nobody will go to prison for it, and you'll have to accept that you kid might end up hearing about gay sex and abortions. Nobody really wants to pay that price.

    Personally, I'd welcome the right for anyone to be able to say anything to anyone through any medium without that being an act in any way shape or form regulated by laws or be something that would be legally actionable, but that's where I'd want to see the limit. Money changing hands? Not speech. Pornography? Not speech.

    Seriously, half of the benefit of speech is that you can hurt people with it in a way that is nonviolent and nonpermanent and get them to examine their values. All of the BLM and safe space bullshit is a terrific example of the Fringe Left running hard in the wrong direction, but the Fringe Right does the same thing, just with a different direction in mind. As a result, we're stuck with no real free speech and a whole lot of unnecessary drama.

  9. slocum:

    Lefty, yes, but also achievement oriented. Read to the end of the article. The next year's students refused to participate in "Amanda's" pogroms. Also, the University refused her access to the Humanities 110 lecture hall (where she wanted to give an uninvited pre-class rant) and have banned her from campus when she's not enrolled).

  10. Bruce Anderson:

    Yes, but (back in the eighties, at least, and close to it today) the very best liberal arts college for the hard sciences, where left and right don't matter. And every Reedie has to take and pass Hum 110. Transfers, science majors, everyone. Yes, Hum 110 is Eurocentric—but so is modern thought, just about everywhere, including post modernism and Marxism, if that's your bent. If you don't know the history of your philosophy, art, literature, etc., you can't hope to advance it. So, my advice to Reed freshmen, erm, freshpersons today is to shut up and start reading the Iliad carefully, listen in the lectures, and save your debate (debate meaning you make your point, then listen to and think about the other student's point) for your seminar group. Then sign up for Hum 210 next year, it's worth it.

    Disclaimer—I left Reed on an exchange program after three years and decided to stay at Munich for the next several years. But Reed is still kind of dear to me, it is a boot camp for intellectuals, if you do it right. They teach you to think.

  11. Assistant Village idiot:

    You may be passionate and angry, but you aren't all that convincing. First, putting words in Trump's mouth is misleading, so your "dicey" example is disqualified. Second, you make extreme extensions and false equivalencies of what others are saying, such as "...broaden what speech is to ANY form of expression..." (emphasis mine). The money is speech argument is complex, the movie one not so much, no one is calling bullets or cars speech. Third,

    No, forget third. Just do some homework about what people you disagree with are actually saying, rather than making it up.

  12. Ann_In_Illinois:

    There's a great video somewhere of Asian kid who was trying to study in a library when protesters came in to shout, and he shouted to them "This is library."