Hate Speech versus Free Speech

Posted on November 17, 2011 by


By: Julia Smith

Should hate speech which specifically targets people be restricted or not? In a country that values the First Amendment right to freedom of speech, censorship of free speech is often commented on and debated about. Yet what most individuals don’t realize is that there already are several restrictions on speech. Some examples are: slander, libel, defamation, false advertising, plagiarism, “disrespectful” communication to an authority figure (ex. judge, police officer), words of threat, copyright, sexual harassment, and media limitations on TV. A perfect example of limitations on free speech was when Kobe Bryant was severely reprimanded for calling a referee a “faggot”. Although these reprimands weren’t government enforced, they were NBA enforced. Additionally, in other western countries like Canada and Germany, there are now regulations on hate speech and the regulations have not hindered or created tangible effects on free speech itself (Delgado p. 220).

These countries have simply learned from the great ramifications that have been repeated throughout social history, due to lack of regulation on hate speech. Both the Rwandan genocide and the Holocaust are prime examples of the use of propaganda, and both are prime examples of what hate speech can produce. When hate speech is continually repeated within a society it becomes naturalized, then is seen in everyday rhetoric, and then it becomes what is considered true. It is the naturalization of hate speech that causes these movements which no one questions, consequently concluding in catastrophe. It is further explained that, “Recent work on the psychology of hatred, far from normalizing it, shows that every society that commits genocide or other mass atrocity on another population first engages in a campaign of propaganda and belittlement aimed at the group” (Delgado p. 39).

More specifically, relating to college campuses, there has been a recent increase in hate speech produced on college campuses (Delgado p. 22). There has been evidence reported that minorities are often psychologically affected to the point that they avoid the campus and consequently perform poorly in school; studies show that minority students actually get lower GPAs and test scores as a result of these effects (Delgado p. 15). Studies have also gone on to reveal that Mexican Americans who experience discrimination have more stress and depression (Delgado, p. 14).

Studies show that prejudice and a racist mentality increases as the competition for limited resources increases. This was shown on our own campus when someone wrote derogatory terms for people of certain ethnic groups, and stated that immigrants were taking up all the classes, on the bathroom wall. This mentality will only increase as tuition increases, and as financial aid continues to decrease along with available classes. Furthermore, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration find in their research that the number of messages tolerating hate speech is significantly more than the actual messages of hate. It is also found that unpunished hate speech enables the perpetrator’s mentality, and they only become more prone to harm to minorities later (Delgado p. 36). CSU San Marcos is harboring this speech and the students who are perpetuating this type of rhetoric. By doing so, the administration is saying, to the victimizers and the victims, that this type of behavior is permissible. What kind of message is the administration of Cal State San Marcos giving the students when they fail to address the messages of hate on campus? If the education system doesn’t set the standards for a proper rhetoric that promotes equality and critical thinkers, who will?


Delgado, Richard, and Jean Stefancic. Understanding Words That Wound. Boulder: Westview Press, 2004. 1-232. Print.