Swearing is Free Speech

November 29, 2007
The other day a friend of mine was called a “D***.” While she was upset that someone had used the word, she did not call me crying. She did not lose sleep over the insult. Later that same day I was listening to Kanye West’s new song “Stronger.” One of the lyrics is “I’d do anything for a blonde d***.” Again I was confronted by the word and upset by its presence in my world. That said, Kanye West is an artist and I would assume he has a reason for his word choice. I may be upset by the words I hear in modern vocabulary but I do not think they should be eliminated from our society. The movement to create an inoffensive vocabulary has become a violation of our constitutional right to free speech.

Those who want to create a world free of hate speech have turned to banning words as an extreme form of control. Mayor Corley of Brazoria Texas for example proposed a law that would fine $500 for the use of the word “n*****” (Bonisteel, “Texas Mayor N-word Ban” www.foxnews.com). New York City council placed a “symbolic” ban on the words “n*****” and “b****” earlier in 2007 (Grynbaum, “Female Dog, or Worse.” www.nytimes.com). These are just some of the many efforts to ban words in our society and it must stop.

Indeed the first amendment of our constitution states “Congress shall make no law… bridging the freedom of speech, or of the press…” and banning words is a direct violation of this amendment. If we are to ban the word “n*****” or the word “b****” what is next? Censorship is the first step toward becoming a totalitarian society. It is impossible to forbid one word without allowing for all words to be banned. And then there arises the question of who is doing the banning of these words?

The government would be the only institution with the ability to override the constitution and ban words. However, the government’s decision would affect those who do not use the words offensively. What about the people who use proposed banned words as terms of endearment. Or what about an artist like Mos Def who uses the word “n*****” as social commentary. For example in his song “Mr. N****” Mos Def says “State trooper wanna stop him in his ride, pat him down/Mr. N****” to comment on racism in our society. Banning these words is a violation of our rights as citizens of the United States,

While I personally do not condone certain uses of the words “n*****” or “b****” or other derogatory terms, I think it is imperative that they not be legally banned. I am uncomfortable saying or even writing the word “n*****.” But banning it is not the right solution. As Voltaire once said “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it” (Voltaire www.brainyquote.com). Most of these words have negative history and negative connotations but the word is not inherently bad. Therefore the real problem is not with words that are given negative connotations and used to hurt people but in the question of why. Why have they been given these negative connotations? Why are they so prominent in our society? Why do people find ways to put others down and verbally abuse them? It is an underlying issue of discrimination and prejudice in our society that needs addressing. Banning words would serve only as a distraction from the larger issue and it is an infringement of our constitutional rights.

Bonisteel, Sarah. “Texas Mayor Singles Out N-Word for Ban.” 24 Jan. 2007.
www.Foxnews.com. http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,246279,00.html (25
Grynbaum, Michael M. “It’s a Female Dog, or Worse. Or Endearing. And Illegal?” 7
Aug. 2007. www.nytimes.com. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/08/07/nyregion.
(25 Nov. 2007).
Voltaire. www.brainyquote.com. http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/v/voltaire.

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Nikoli K. said...
Jun. 3, 2009 at 1:04 am
Brilliantly stated
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