The Pacific Index

Europe leads the way with legislation while America trails behind

Erika Vives

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In countries around the world, hate speech is viewed as a threatening and vilifying offense. In America, it continues to be tolerated with little to no consequence. Denmark, France, The Netherlands and the United Kingdom are a small handful of countries that all consider hate speech a crime to one extent or another.

Although originally created to combat antisemitism and xenophobia, hate speech laws criminalize racially insensitive remarks. And also insensitive remarks towards one’s ethnicity, religion or nationality in Europe. In America, freedom of speech is protected by the First Amendment to an unnecessarily high degree. This lack of regulation of hate speech is the very reason neo-nazi’s are allowed to openly rally all across the United States.

Although America highlights extreme importance of the idea of freedom of speech and the First Amendment, it should by no means allow people to have free reign to say things that are blatantly racially, religiously or otherwise insensitive. If the United States government moved toward a European style of censoring, by making hate speech a criminal offense, it would cause a lot of uproar.

The idea that the government is allowed to control what one can and cannot say is a scary idea for a lot of people, especially for those with a more conservative background. The problem with protecting hate speech is that it does not tolerate the existence of others. Hate speech is necessarily intolerant, just by virtue of its existence.

If we continue to choose to tolerate the intolerable, we run the risk of the tolerant ones being destroyed and tolerance with us. Although there is a difference between being uncomfortable and being unsafe, that does not mean one should be more important than the other.

What would make America great is a feeling of belonging for all members of the community regardless of things like race, ethnicity, religion, sexuality or gender. Allowing the outdated First Amendment to control all aspects of life is counterproductive and cannot be tolerated.

Hate speech in any form cannot be accepted as normal or tolerable. Watching as bystanders as we allow hateful rhetoric to be openly expressed only means that outdated ignorant ideals win. Incorporating stricter laws against hate speech similar to systems in Europe would be a perfect initiative to prove the United States will not condone such language.

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Europe leads the way with legislation while America trails behind