My friend Jess Hope wrote this insightful article about the proposed changes to the Racial Discrimination Act in Australia. http://doinghistoryinpublic.org/2014/03/26/on-the-right-to-be-bigots-the-dehistoricisation-of-racism/
I value what she wrote because although physical violence is ‘worse’, spoken violence and other kinds of social alienation fully embody the essence of what has been done to a community in the past. I’m actually hesitant to write that physical violence is worse, because… although people are obviously relieved when it is over… whenever a history of bodily violence exists, there is something of exactly the same thing alive in other aspects of racism. It brings traumatic fear, real or imagined (a painful uncertainty), and is a genuine danger on every level for the future. It also creates a heart within the public that will not see the severity of anything that is done… and that is exactly the point at the moment because of this situation with indefinite and cruel imprisonment of refugees 😦
To quote from her article, “Disturbingly, Brandis’s statement that racially-targeted offence, insult and humiliation amount to nothing more than ‘hurt feelings’ reveals an attempt to embed a ‘just-kidding’ approach to racial discrimination in Australian law. Allowing the majority to define what is and what is not racial vilification of the minority results in further disempowerment where there is supposed to be protection, rendering the minority’s historical and social experiences irrelevant and unheard.”
I think there are times when things should be said that may make ethnic groups uncomfortable, but definitely never through humiliation or without attention to truthfulness. How can a legal system promote the very opposite of justice? Racism is wrong and it makes no sense, it has no value, it only hurts societies, communities, and families.
Jess also spoke about how racial hate-speech can’t do anything but harm, since race isn’t intrinsically linked to any of the values or ideas that we might need to target or discuss. “The amendments normalise the unalterable fact of one’s race, rather than one’s conduct or ideas, as a target for abuse.”
As to freedom of speech… I know that ‘justice’ is culturally controversial, but maybe not so much as other values. And I guess though that if no one sees something as just (fair, true, and reasonable), then it simply shouldn’t be said, and to do so goes against everything that ‘freedom of speech’ protects.