I have about 80,000 things to say about the First Amendment & Free Speech right now. My fingers cannot keep up with the flow of words in my head. I’ve started several posts about Free Speech & Freedom of the Press because of the crap #45 is doing, but just as I get into the meat of the writing, he does something else that requires revision or scrapping it and starting all over again.
I am determined to get this one out!
Is Hate Speech Protected?
There is a pervasive belief that Hate Speech is not included under the Free Speech umbrella. It actually, absolutely, is.
What is not included are words that incite violence… a thin, often controversial, court-examined difference.
“But while the Constitution gives latitude to hate speech and offensive rhetoric, court decisions in the last century have carved out notable — though narrow — exceptions to free speech guarantees and authorized prosecution for language deemed to fall out of bounds.
“Comments intended as specific and immediate threats brush up against those protections, regardless of a person’s race or religion. So do personal, face-to-face comments meant to incite imminent lawlessness, such as a riot.”
I don’t even need to say his last name, this person has been in the news enough times in the last few days that you know exactly who I mean.
Milo created a great deal of controversy regarding his hateful words hurled at Jews, the LGBTQ community (especially transgender folks), Muslims, liberals, Blacks, women… pretty much anyone that isn’t a straight American White Republican male.
Despite so many finding his beliefs repulsive, a significant number of others clearly find him entertaining, welcoming (and embracing) his vitriol.
But even this vile caricature stumbled over the line of common decency (and you know it had to be really bad if the alt-right kicked him to the curb!). His book deal and his speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference were cancelled, followed by his making the decision to quit the Fake News organization Breitbart. If you need more information, Google his name and “Free Speech” and a bazillion sites will come up for you.
Even in our politically-correct, ultra-sensitive-to-verbiage times, folks have every right to express their feelings and beliefs about others, even the nasty ones, but only if they don’t trigger violence. Absolutely a paper-thin difference at times, right?
We are, most assuredly, in for a lot more hate speech as the president uses his pen to limit the abundance of rights and privileges we had gotten used to with President Obama.
The ultimate question is: Which side has the most anger?
And now I move on to #45 trying to strangle our First Amendment freedoms.
The Washington Post relayed the information from a CDC & Trump Administration meeting Thursday night, December 14, 2017 that when the CDC presents their upcoming budget paperwork, they are forbidden to use the above 7 words.
I thought this was fake, ran to Snopes… nope. It is real. Checked Twitter. Real. Checked valid news agencies. Real.
I’m shaking I’m so angry… and even scared… of what this administration is doing to our democracy. By forbidding words, it is no longer a democracy.
Democracy has been dying since Trump took office.
“Treating science as a matter of opinion rather than an objective, evidence-based reality appears to have become a hallmark of the Trump administration, particularly when it comes to climate change. So, too, is scrubbing certain words and information from discussions, documents and websites that don’t fit with Donald Trump’s vision. The Department of Health and Human Services has dropped information on its website about LGBTQ individuals.”
This edict is one of the most terrifying things that have happened and are surely not the last we will see.
We cannot sit quietly and let this happen. I know many many people have been out protesting, but we have to find another way to be heard.
I have been on the Internet since 1995, although I am hardly a geek or adept at the goings on behind the scenes. However, listening to these lawyers (surely, quite well-paid) not explain what happened with the “Russian propaganda group called Internet Research Agency that created a conflict….” within the Americans reading their content, terrified me.
I loved Facebook. For 9 years. People left during the election and I was flabbergasted how anyone could leave, especially during such an important time. At times I pulled back from the more political groups I followed, but generally, I was present throughout the election experience.
Until now, I’d never considered leaving Facebook, but as the information has begun unfolding about how Russia infiltrated Facebook, some of which it seems they even knew about, I began getting uncomfortable there. I closed my Navelgazing Midwife FB Page, seeing small seeds of political discontent there, whittled my Facebook Friends down to 50 from over 400 at one point, but still, these past weeks, I began squirming more.
As a writer, the Freedom of the Press and Freedom of Speech are enormously important to me. I’ve had a hard time watching as far-right speakers (that have not incited violence) refused a place to speak and share their thoughts. Do I wish they would shut up and go away? Absolutely. But, they are Americans, too, and deserve to add their voices to the discourse.
But that isn’t the same as having to endure propaganda from inside or outside our country.
I can be pretty discerning, especially when it comes to medical or scientific data. But, I have always been easily swayed with some arguments. I’ll lean one way hearing one side, feeling sure that is the right path. Then, I’ll hear the other side and re-think my whole belief system based on that information.
I am really vulnerable to slick talkers and those with psychological skills I cannot recognize or counter. I try to stay away from these arguments, but during the election (and especially now), it is impossible to do. I have said several times recently: I love my Echo Chamber. I simply cannot process the other side’s views without a near breakdown of my values and beliefs.
I’m not sure if it’s a mental illness in me that makes me so vulnerable or if others are like that, too. Knowing it, though, whatever the cause, I had to make a move to protect my mind and heart.
Stepping Away from Facebook
So, I deactivated my Facebook account with a message to them stating my concern about their lack of Internet safety. Not sure if I will ever go back, but certainly not before massive changes have occurred to protect my spaces there from the propaganda that lured so many of my former friends.
I will write instead of perusing the Trending topics, saving that for Twitter, which I am still debating about leaving. I need to write. I have so many things I want to say.
Hopefully, without Facebook, I will find the time to do just that.
I was tempted to defend myself (I use PC terms when I can, I am not prejudiced against these folks, etc.), but I am leaving this piece to speak for itself.
Thank Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir for the Craft for this vomiting of things I have been too afraid to say out loud. He tells writers to “Be brave!” and write the things that are the most difficult to say.
“I know how jarring it may be to hear a non-white person, or maybe anyone, even say the words “white people,” as it can take on a pejorative connotation. That’s fine. This isn’t always comfortable to have to say, but that doesn’t make it any less true, necessary, or timely.”
The challenge is for white people (myself included) to stand UP, (and kneel DOWN), speak UP and stop being complicit in the systematic and so-deeply-ingrained-whites-don’t-even-see-it-anymore prejudice and hate against People of Color.
“Sorry, but not sorry, you’re going to have to take a side. And yes, you have to do it now.”
The United States has always had a divide between races. But now, with the dotard “president,” it has become a chasm, one that grows more visible and wider with each new tweet. White people just cannot keep their… OUR… mouths shut anymore. We have kept silent and turned our backs for far too many decades.
Blacks are being killed by the police nearly every day. Latinx are being confiscated from their homes, from schools, their places of employment and even in hospitals and churches. Muslims are accused of violence simply because of their religion… one many of us do not understand (myself included), but the harassment and death threats are just not what the United States was founded to represent. All of this in order to fulfill the dotard’s horrific ideas… and plans… to rid the country of anyone not white.
“It’s very likely, and understandable if you feel this is unfair, this is inconvenient, it’s frustrating, it’s difficult, it’s embarrassing, it’s going to alienate you from people you know, love, work with, watch the game with.”
Too fucking bad. SPEAK UP! Speak for those who get killed when they open their mouths, receive death threats when they kneel at a football game (exercising their First Amendment exquisitely). We whites cannot leave Black & Brown people hanging out there alone anymore.
I read an article yesterday (that I cannot find again for anything) where a Black Medical Resident was leaving work after a more-than-30-hour shift in the Emergency Room and a white man in a car started screaming the N-word at him, over and over again. He added some other racist epithets, but mostly it was the N-word. He said the white man was laughing so hard at his hilarity the doctor thought he would have to give him aid when he finally collapsed in hysteria.
While that part is gross enough, the part that was the most offensive to him (and me) is the whites in the parking lot who said NOTHING.
He said they skittered away, trying not to get involved.
What the holy fuck, white people!
SAY SOMETHING! SCREAM BACK!
Yeah, I know… they might have a gun. If they do, they do. You are supporting/protecting/showing love for another human being that is in the line of fire. If you believe in a God, He will surely reward you for speaking up.
“That’s privilege. Someone once said, “when you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression.” This is a taste of equality.”
It’s tough to say something when we are so used to just walking on. We cannot just walk by anymore.
WE CANNOT IGNORE THE ISSUE ANYMORE.
WE HAVE TO SPEAK UP!
OPEN YOUR MOUTHS, WHITE FOLKS!
SCREAM when others simply cannot or are hoarse from doing so.
The horrific events in Charlottesville August 12, 2017, where the beautiful Heather Heyer was killed, were despicable acts of domestic terrorism. An outspoken beacon for ending racial and xenophobic behaviors, she will be honored always for her sacrifice to the cause of equality and peace.
My Sordid Family Legacy
These clashes between the “right/alt-right/white supremacists/white nationalists/Nazis/etc. brings out, once again, the shame I hold in my heart because of my family’s history in the Ku Klux Klan.
I remember when my family moved from northern California to Orlando, Florida in 1966; I was 5 years old. As we drove deeper and deeper into the south, I saw more and more segregation. I had no concept or context, of course, but absolutely remember the different water fountains and different bathrooms. Today, I am horrified at those memories.
USA. North Carolina. 1950.
In 5th grade, Mrs. Moore made it clear where she stood on the race issue. We still had no blacks in the school… the first and only black person came the next year… but as she taught American History, she lingered on the south’s views in the Civil War segment.
A friend of mine, Angel, brought in something that she wouldn’t even show me, but went to Mrs. Moore to ask if she could share with the class. I was near the desk so could hear it all, still not putting it into context for several more years. Angel had brought in some Civil War memorabilia, all southern in origin. I can still hear Mrs. Moore saying, “I believe the same as you do, but we aren’t allowed to talk about those things.” I went to sharpen my pencil and saw a photo of the white hoods and a burning cross. It was the first time I had ever seen the KKK.
My Nana, whom I was named after, was married to my Johnston great-grandfather. I distinctly remember her seeing black children, pinching their cheeks and telling them what cute “pickaninnies” they were. How I wish I could remember the faces of those children’s mothers; they had to have been disgusted.
When we spent weekends with my great-grandparents, watching television became an adventure in racism. The Flip Wilson Show, one of the first TV shows that starred a black person, was popular, but my great-grandfather would holler epithets at the blacks on his show and kvetched the entire hour it was on.
When we played the game it was “catch a n-word by the toe.” I had zero clue what I was saying. When I had kids, they would play the game and sing “catch a tiger by the toe,” but there was not one time I didn’t flinch when they began singing the song, fearing they would say that horrible word. They’d never even heard that version of the rhyming game; I still braced myself.
Peppered around the south are Brazil nut trees. We called them “n-word toes.”
Add the KKK to My History
I was about 10-years old when my racist great-grandfather lay dying in a hospital from emphysema. The stories began being told about his life, one of which was his history with the KKK. Apparently, he had been an active member in the 1930s and 1940s when my family lived outside New York City and then again when my great-grandparents retired to Florida in the early 1960s. Hints that he might have been a grand wizard wafted about as well. I have no idea either how to find out if that is true nor do I have any desire to learn more about his/my shameful history.
How I Was Raised
My father, a Cuban, was called the n-word in high school (in Miami) and my mom’s family became apoplectic when they became engaged. Not sure if my mom had some inherent understanding of racial issues, but she was a supporter of civil rights issues in the 60’s. Not that she could march or anything having 3 kids one right after the other, but she said she did speak up as much as possible with friends and family.
For whatever reason, we just didn’t say the n-word at home. Except for what I mentioned above, I cannot recall ever using that word to describe anyone or use as an epithet.
It took until junior high, which bused in blacks, before I heard the word used regularly. I didn’t connect the word with racism until long after I graduated from high school. I remember, in high school, hanging out with band members who “joked” about being in the KKK, how they were looking for local meetings and even talked about burning crosses. I sat mute, confused and lost. How much more oblivious could I have been? I’m baffled at my inability to see the graphic evil stewing around me.
Somewhere along the line, my mom gave me the book, Black Like Me… a not so subtle teaching of stepping into another’s shoes… black shoes. I remember reading it as if it was yesterday.
After my parent’s divorce, my dad married a deep south-thinking bitch. When she met my Dominican husband, her face pinched tight and she asked, “Are you black?!” the word “black” spit out like a bitter pill. Somewhere in me, I sat up straighter and mentally stuck my tongue out at her.
In fact, his grandmother was black, 2 of my children being brown, the last white like me.
Confronting My Own Racism
It took (too) many years coalescing all that I’d seen and heard into some semblance of understanding.
I’m sitting looking at the blinking cursor, not even sure where to go from here.
pausing some more
I need to amend a sentence I wrote above.
“I cannot recall ever using that word (the n-word) to describe anyone or use as an epithet.”
Amendment: Out loud.
After not using that word in my life, how did it jump into my mind when I was frustrated or angry with a Black person (usually in the car)? Where did that (disgusting) habit come from?
The 1980s were a really introspective time for me. I tackled issues like boycotting, feminism, inner-homophobia, non-violent communication & childrearing… and began exploring my beliefs (and lies) about racism and xenophobia.
(This is much harder to write than I expected.)
I am the embodiment of white privilege. I might have Cuban blood and a Latinx surname, but I have been indoctrinated in the ways of the white culture.
Despite working with Latinx migrant and immigrant women for a couple of decades, learning Spanish, and being able to make platanos maduros, I remain steeped in whiteness.
I acknowledge there is very little I can say to alleviate the damage done by me and my family, but I have to apologize, nevertheless. I am deeply sorry to everyone affected by those in my family… and perpetrated by myself, even inside my mind. I do not want forgiveness, would never ask for it because I do not think forgiveness is in order. I want blacks to know, in my heart, I do apologize every day. I try to use the privilege I have to rectify, support and lift up the blacks I see and interact with. I am so, so sorry. There are not enough words to express myself.
Some Things I’ve Learned
“For a black American, a black inhabitant in this country, the Statue is simply a very bitter joke… Meaning nothing to us.”
Black Lives Matter is an amazing group that holds black people in the esteem they deserve. I love their goals of ending the country’s systematic incarceration, ending police violence with regards to black folks and being “unapologetically black,” fighting for reform of the justice system that is overwhelmingly against blacks and standing tall in their shared problems and successes. I’m listening.
It makes my heart ache seeing what’s happening with this country because of 45. Each of us has a role to take in ending the pain and growing chasms tearing our country apart. I cannot march, but I can write. I need to write more.