Racism, Harmful Speech and the Criminal Law

I don’t believe that we should criminalise speech
On the grounds that it is offensive or harmful
Different people find different things offensive
And so who would get to chose what is banned?
The tyranny of the majority or a vocal minority?
Maybe “offence” is too vague a concept on which to legislate
And could be interpreted too broadly
Of course, racist speech isn’t exactly that vague
Racist comments are usually pretty obvious to most
It’s like: hey, you’re a this because you’re that
Or: you this! You that.
Or like: oh, I don’t know about her
Because of her race, I mean
But should making a racist comment be a criminal offence?
If racism is ignorance
And ignorance is a lack of knowledge
Then racism is a lack of knowledge about a group
That leads to the making of assumptions
And I don’t know how we could justify criminalising something
That is the result of a lack of knowledge
Unless we were to assume that our education and social systems are perfect
And that anyone with a lack of knowledge
Is entirely to blame for being in that situation
And should be punished when their speech reflects this fact

Even if harmful, speech probably should not be criminalised
Not just because criminalisation won’t stop it from happening
But also because the group who sympathise with the said view
Feel persecuted and get pissed off
And will become further radicalised
Which is the exact opposite of the effect you wanted to have
And as with racist language, punishment is among the many actions
That some people use to cause harm to others
And reduce another person’s welfare in some way
So the less people who become trapped in the net
Of the criminal justice system, the better
Because it is a system which through punishment, degredation
And the permanent changing of a person’s identity
From non-offender to offender
Fails to resolve social conflicts
And tends itself to cause severe, long-term harm
To offenders, victims and their families
And to the wider community as a whole


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