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Letter to the editor

Should we fight against offensive speech?

December 11, 2015

Speak out against bigotry, now. The bigot in our country has free speech rights to say things that are offensive and propose policies that would trample on the civil rights and civil liberties of those they scapegoat. But free speech, fortunately, also provides others a forum to disagree, to point out the fallacies and hatred that are being proclaimed. However, just because that forum exists, does not mean the hatred is automatically confronted. We, as individuals and communities, need to use that forum to confront the bigotry. Don’t wait for someone else to confront the bigotry. Don’t wait until the bigot has singled out your race, religion, gender or other demographic characteristic. Do not let all Muslims be demonized and discriminated against because some Muslims are violent. Remember what Martin Niemöller, a prominent Protestant pastor in Germany said about the regrets he had for not speaking up earlier against bigotry in Nazi Germany: “First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”

David Alperin
Professor, Department of Political Science