Posted on May 21, 2018

Hate Speech Is Not Something That ‘We Can Agree To Disagree’ About

Brandi Miller, Huffington Post, May 20, 2018

White people feel entitled to a lot of things, but their opinions ― especially on what America should be ― are at the top of the entitlement list. Last week, lawyer Aaron Schlossberg embodied this reality as he went on a public rant at a New York restaurant/market, berating and threatening employees for speaking Spanish at work. {snip}

Schlossberg is a caricature of something that is very normal in America ― the unyielding defense of the notion that “white is right” and that anything that diverts from whiteness as normative deserves not only public verbal abuse, but needs to adjust to cater to him, to his whiteness. This sense of entitlement is easy and lazy, it doesn’t require truth or empathy; only conviction, a platform and some gusto.

This is the danger of a white supremacist society ― it always seeks to defend and legitimize itself to the detriment of everyone else.

What is more concerning than the incident itself (which is par for the course in Donald Trump’s racist America) is that people have come to the defense of Schlossberg. {snip}

The notion that his verbose and hyperbolic rant deserves space and consideration ― even at the expense of the people he was harassing ― reflects a culture that often acts as though the right to free speech is equivalent to speech without consequence. {snip}

Our national indifference to the oppression of people of color is reflected in a deeper concern for Schlossberg’s feelings and comfort than for the safety, well-being and humanization of an entire group of people.


{snip} He isn’t an anomaly in his beliefs, only in his presentation of them. This guy likely has friends and family who probably sit across from him at meals and either through their silence communicated approval, or they agree with him in ideology but not in expression.

Bigotry shouldn’t have to go viral to be addressed. We enable everyday white supremacy to take root by abdicating nice and well-intentioned white people of their responsibility to deal with the dangerous messages they believe about people of color, even if they are not brave enough to communicate out loud.

Hate speech and harassment are not neutral or something that we can “agree to disagree on.” We aren’t talking about opinions on ice cream flavors, we are talking about xenophobia and racism that impacts the day to day experiences of people of color rooted in historic othering and explicit racism.

Brandi Miller