Forest Grove High School has been the topic of controversy this past month after a student used a racial slur toward a teacher. The student referred to the teacher as the “n-word” while walking past her classroom in the hallway.

This incident has left the small town community wondering, at what point does freedom of speech need to be regulated?

While it is true that freedom of speech is one of our inalienable rights, it should not give people the right to use racially charged language against others, especially a teacher. As a writer, I am a strong advocate for the concept of freedom of speech, but when a derogatory term such as this one is used, than the only intent is to be harmful.

Freedom of speech does not give people the right for a verbal attack but rather the ability to speak their concerns in a manner in which they will not be judged.

When I first heard the news of the incident, it bothered me because not only was it a direct form of bigotry and discrimination, it was also an insensitive remark made toward a teacher. Being the son of a high school teacher, I’ve seen how hard it is to teach hundreds of high school students each year.

Many of them work very hard to treat students equally and give them the education they deserve while not receiving enough credit for their job.

Racism has been an issue in the United States since the mid-19th century and over the past three decades has progressively declined in the U.S., but it is still very much alive. It is unfortunate to see this happen, especially in an era where we have seen our first black president.

However, many people have defended usage of the word, claiming that pop culture and hip-hop music references it all of the time. This is a valid point, but we also see murder on shows like Law & Order: SVU and Criminal Minds, does that make murdering someone okay? I think not.

The reality is no matter how many times a rapper says it in a song, it still doesn’t mean there isn’t a sensitivity that goes along with the word when it crosses racial lines. Honestly, I wish we didn’t have racial lines in society and we could finally accept everyone as a human being.

The only way we can start is by understanding these derogatory terms and why they shouldn’t be used because some may be more sensitive to certain words than others. There is not a need for the use of derogatory terms regardless of your race, gender or your sexuality.

When everyone can understand this notion, that is when we will be able to get rid of discrimination as a whole.

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