Hateful Speech vs. Hate Speech

U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Bloomington
Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Bloomington, Illinois, March 13, 2016. REUTERS/Jim Young

There are two things of note in a recent article in the the LA Times about Students successfully rallying to Stop Trump’s recent scheduled appearance at the University of Illinois in Chicago.

The first is regarding the angry assertions of Trump and his supporters that their rights to “Free Speech” were violated because the rally was shut down. (Which, by the way, is despite Trump stating at the time that he agreed the rally had to be cancelled because safety must come first.)

We need to remember that there is a difference between “Hateful Speech” or “Angry Speech” and “Hate Speech.”

I may see someone’s stances on various issues as “hateful”, but that is my own opinion, based on how I see that particular issue. And, it is the Other’s right to have that opinion, a right I will defend on their behalf even though I may strongly disagree with their position. The same goes for “Angry Speech”: Anger is a valid emotion, and must be given space to be expressed. That it is present in a dialog is important: the Other’s anger must be acknowledged and appreciated as real and important.

It is important for such speech to be heard, even if we disagree with it. It is part of the fabric of a healthy Democracy.

Hate Speech is different, in that it promotes violence against another. It is an attempt to use violent means to shut down or alienate those we differ-with or whom we do not wish to associate with. This is what Trump is doing. Hate Speech is NOT a right, nor can it be allowed to poison our relations with others.  It must be resisted.  It cannot be allowed to go unchallenged, and resisting hate is exactly what these students were determined to do.

My second observation is that students of many races and faiths joined together to protest Trump’s hate. They emphasized their commonality and their concern for each other. This is a wonderful thing, especially in a place like Chicago, where racism and alienation of “The Other” is a way of life for many.


Author: Allen

A would-be historian turned IT Professional who responded to the call to the Ministry, and is now focused on social justice and community service. He is the proud father of a daughter and son, and enjoys life with his wife near Boston. You can follow Pastor Allen on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/PastorAllenV/.

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