Sierra Canyon High School

Microaggressions threaten free speech

A thick skin, an open mind, and honest dialogue. That’s all I ask…

Freedom of speech is one of our most basic rights, but the growing micro-aggression generation is censoring our free speech, notably, on college campuses.

Although it is protected by the Constitution, freedom of speech is often not protected due to political correctness, which is, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, the avoidance of political expression in order to avoid offending or insulting a group of people. People, largely on the left, become so sensitive and worried about being offended, they stop speech before it even starts; thus limiting their ability to learn new ideas and perspectives. College campuses, where America’s future leaders are educated, must not only value the diversity of race and religion, but also the diversity of ideas.

On many college campuses and in public places, there are free speech zones, places set aside for organized protest. The idea of a free speech zone is ridiculous in itself. We are a country built upon the idea of freedom and we should not be assigned certain areas where we can assemble. We should always have the right to peacefully assemble when, where, and how we want. After all, freedom of assembly is another constitutional right.

As the left continues to silence speech they do not like, our ability to speak our minds freely slowly disappears.  For example, at Emory University, a group of pro-Donald Trump students wrote “Trump 2016” on the sidewalk of the university, simply expressing their favor of one candidate in a peaceful manner. But, a student-led group of 40 liberal activists confronted the president of the university, James Wagner, about these chalkings, saying they were offensive, painful, and should be erased immediately. So, Wagner took down these chalkings because of the feelings of some. This is deliberately silencing one’s rights. Not only were these marks not offensive or painful, they were nonviolent and peaceful. This example demonstrates how micro-aggression is negatively affecting college students.

The problem with silencing free speech is that without hearing speech that we disagree with, we can never engage in any kind of debate or discussion because we are not getting both sides of the story.Without friendly debate, our knowledge will be very limited. We will only know what we agree with and will never be able to expand our understanding of the world today.

Conservative commentator and author Ben Shapiro’s freedom of speech was silenced when he attempted to speak at California State University Los Angeles on Feb. 25. His speech was titled, “When Diversity Becomes a Problem.” News traveled fast around campus and the speech was cancelled by CSULA President William Covino after two professors objected.

But, Shapiro disregarded this cancellation and tweeted that he was still planning on attending the event and making his speech. Students were outraged and began protesting; shouting, “Racists go home!” They prejudged him as a racist before hearing his speech. His speech was not motivated by racism; it was about how the left favors a diversity of people, while the right favors a diversity of ideas.

When these mobs hear speech they dislike, they think that it is acceptable to meet these thoughts with violence; neither Shapiro nor his supporters could leave the building because of physical violence that had occurred and that might occur after the speech, according to the campus chief of security and Breitbart.com.

Shapiro’s speech contained language that hyper-sensitive people on the left find too painful to acknowledge, and so will not accept. This language is essentially any opinion that differs from their own. These people are constantly complaining, protesting, and shutting down speech, opposing on others’ freedoms.

Along with Shapiro, about 200 conservative speakers have been disinvited from college campuses in the last 14 years, all by liberal activists and protesters, according to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. Some of the conservative speakers disinvited from their own events were former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, feminist and critic of Islam Ayaan Hirsi Ali, and International Monetary Fund Director Christine Lagarde.

Not only has free speech been silenced outside of the classroom, but it might also be censored in the classroom. The precursor of censorship is trigger warnings — alerts that warn students that they are about to hear or read something that triggers a negative emotional response, according to Prager University.

Trigger warnings also cater to hypersensitivity and create an atmosphere more conducive to true censorship. In 2014, for example, a Rutgers University student called for trigger warnings on the classic novel “The Great Gatsby” because it contains scenes that reference abusive violence, rape, and war; but, were soon repealed.

Without free speech, including speech that might offend or that might cause disagreement or conflict, our society would be unaware and misinformed and we would miss out on a world of opinions and information that shape us as people, citizens, and voters. We should not turn our heads away from opinions we disagree with so quickly. Personally, I am not afraid to voice my conservative views in class, with my friends, and on social media. With debates and discussions, my classmates and I learn more about each other’s, and even our own, political views.

I am extremely lucky to attend a school where controversial political and social topics are frequently discussed. We have controversial books that have been banned from more restrictive educational institutions available in our library, and our arts department frequently tackles sensitive issues. All of these things allow us to continue to expand our knowledge as young adults.

The solution to this problem? A thick skin, an open mind, and an honest dialogue. Without these three things, and without guaranteed freedom of speech, people will live in fear and stop developing new ideas. The moment the left stops communicating with the people they disagree with, and the right begins to live in fear of retaliation, is the moment we no longer have the freedom of speech.

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