Advanced Essay #2: The Freedom of Speech

Introduction: I feel as though the goal of this paper was to address the different ways a person can use or violate the freedom of speech. I am proud of the research I conducted, but feel as though the paper in general could flow better, and I could include more scenes.

On September 25, 1789, Americans were given something that some take for granted and others do not use to its fullest potential. Yes, I am talking about the freedom of speech/expression. The law that allows us to partake in symbolic expression, give money to campaigns involving politics, gives us the right not to say anything, etc. The law that is not a safe haven for any type of inciteful speech that does not pass the Brandenburg test, a test spawning from the arrest of a KKK leader who made a speech that advised violence. What comes from the freedom of speech/expression and how do people find loopholes? Protests, activism, and the right for newspapers and such to criticize the government are all proper uses of this section of the first amendment. Even though people use words that the freedom of speech protects, some are highly offensive and can cause outrage, which can ironically result in the above proper uses of the freedom of speech/expression ( i.e. protests because of ignorant statements from well known people). In “How to Tame a Wild Tongue”, Gloria Anzaldúa discusses an action that would be against the freedom of speech when she states, “Attacks on one’s form of expression with the intent to censor are a violation of the first amendment” (34). When analyzing different ways to look at freedom of speech I stumbled upon how freedom can affective the user in negative ways. The National Review examines how verbal abuse can affect the one who uses it, claiming, “Racist hate speech has been linked to cigarette smoking, high blood pressure, anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, and requires complex coping strategies. Exposure to racial slurs also diminishes academic performance. Women subjected to sexualized speech may develop a phenomenon of ‘self-objectification,’ which is associated with eating disorders”. This, as cheesy as it sounds, shows that what you say won’t just hurt others, but can also hurt yourself. People are also allowed the luxury of lying or stretching the truth without consequences from the government depending on the situation. It is also true that people can say things that others do not agree with, and this can create a healthy argument. Mike Rose, the author of I Just Want to be Average, gives a realistic scenario of when one could possibly encounter an argument when he comments, “No matter how bad the school, you’re going to encounter notions that don’t fit with the assumptions and beliefs you grew up with”(4). A school is a setting where one can alter, completely change or, solidify their ideas by talking with their peers. A real life example of an attempt at a healthy argument was last April, when I was sitting on my bed, dialing the phone number of one of my black male friends for the first time after I’d seen him at the bus stop on the way home and exchanged contact info with him. I had always been self-conscious about talking on the phone because there were always awkward silences that ensued when I had no interesting conversation starters. However, before we could even get to the inevitable awkward silence, right after I said “Hey, what’s up? I just got home,” , he couldn’t stop himself from claiming, “You talk lik’a white girl.” That completely stopped me in my tracks. “What do you mean?” I fired back. I had talked to him in person before and he’s never said anything remotely close to that. Was there some type of vocabulary that was associated with white people that blacks were presumed not to possess? If so, how could he have picked that up from me simply saying “Hey, what’s up? I just got home,”, or was this a cumulative question out of all the times I’ve talked to him, which was still minimal? Did my voice sound like a white girls’? If so, who cared, and since when was designating types of voices to certain races a thing? Of course, I didn’t overwhelm him with all of those thought provoking questions. I personally felt and still feel that everyone has their own unique voice, including myself. He went on to give a desultory answer, but it made me question where this idea of his came from. Judging someone for the way they talk is not uncommon. However, he must have given a white voice high expectations after experiencing it at least once in his 17 years of life and subsequently lowered the expectations of a black voice, much like the rest of society. Overall, the freedom of speech is a human right that we are lucky to have. Whether people choose to use it or not, demean people or compliment them, lie or be honest, is a reflection of that person.

Works Cited:

“The 1st Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.” National Constitution Center – The 1st Amendment of the U.S. Constitution,
“What Does Free Speech Mean?” United States Courts, Abusing the Limitations of the First Amendment – Columbia Undergraduate Law Review. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Dec. 2017. French, David. “National Review.” Free Speech Violations — Radicals for Censorship Persist | National Review. N.p., 22 June 2017. Web. 10 Dec. 2017.