Column: Why excusing hate speech is dangerous

Attacks on innocent Americans should never be tolerable in this country, yet the number of hate-related incidents only continues to rise.
. courtesy of Ben Ostrowsky via Flickr

Madi Baughman is a freshman journalism and political science major at MU. She is an opinions columnist who writes about political and civil rights issues for The Maneater.

Hate speech — threatening speech that attacks a person or group on the basis of attributes such as race, religion, ethnic origin, sexual orientation, disability or gender — often paves the way for an atmosphere more tolerant of hate crimes, which are never acceptable. After an election based on fearmongering and trash-talking, the atmosphere over the past year has never been more inviting for hate-induced incidents, and that should scare you, regardless of your race, ethnicity, sexuality, gender or any other factors that you have no control over. An attack on one innocent American is an attack on all.

This may sound far-fetched when you try to think of people as rational human beings, but sadly, hate speech all too often leads to hate crimes when not kept in check. Last year, the FBI reported that anti-Muslim hate crimes experienced a 67 percent increase, the Anti-Defamation League reported that anti-Semitic violence rose 67 percent and the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs reported that 2017 was actually the deadliest year on record for the LGBTQ community. In just the first 10 days after the election, the Southern Poverty Law Center counted almost 900 reports of hate or bias.

The statistics become even more frightening when you take into account where a lot of these incidents happen — places we should feel safe. Schools were a particularly common location for hate crimes to occur, with the Southern Poverty Law Center counting 614 cases of hate incidents at public primary and secondary schools and college campuses between Nov. 9, 2016, and March 31, 2017. When children are put in danger, you know there’s a problem.

In a country where our president labeling other countries as “shitholes” and calling the Charlottesville white supremacist protesters “very fine people” is the new normal, we can’t expect to rely on our government when it comes to protecting minority groups — and this is where groups like the American Civil Liberties Union step in. If we want to truly make our country the great place our leaders claim it to be, then it’s up to us to protect those that are less privileged than we are by getting involved in similar groups dedicated to justice. If hateful, threatening speech becomes tolerable, then we lose safety as a nation.

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