There is no difference

Much has been written and spoken of the recent elderly white woman’s verbal tirade at a J.C. Penney store – correctly written and spoken, in my view.  There is no place in society for such offensive speech, though such is protected under our Constitution.  However, there is no substantive difference between her actions and the racist words of some college and university professors, such as at Boston University.

In our country, proud of its First Amendment-protected free speech, the pride comes at the cost of being offended by the speech of some.  And make no mistake: offensive speech is not limited to one racial, ethnic, gender, political, age, economic, religious, or any other grouping.  Even a moderate amount of research provides countless examples of people from all groups offending others.

Though offending words can be aggravating and infuriating, let’s not lose sight of the fact that they are a byproduct of free speech.  And free speech, whether from a college professor, political candidate, white female shopper, radio host, TV commentator, or your neighbor, is worth protecting.

Protecting free speech means recognizing and accepting that it comes from all sectors of our society.  We can certainly criticize free speech we find offensive, exercising our own freedom.  But in doing so, let it not be in a manner that ascribes the offense to all folks of the same grouping as the offender.

So there is no difference between the racist rant of one white person and the racist rant of one black person.  Both rants are offensive.  Both rants should be repudiated.  Both individuals deserve criticism, because there is no difference between them.  As distinctly different individuals, they have a constitutionally protected right to the exercise of their free speech.  They also have the right to demonstrate, by their free speech, their distinctively individual racism.

Our nation would do well to remember the distinctions and similarities.

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