A Ban on Hate Won’t Stop the Downpour

Stefany Chen/Guardian

Things have been pretty mellow around here this week.

Maybe our minds are too fried from finals adderall abuse or spring break binge-drinks to remember anything. Maybe all this La Jolla sunshine is distracting us. Whatever the case, it’s safe to say most have forgotten the racial tension and free-speech debates that plagued the campus last quarter.

That is, at least all those who didn’t notice the tension until their paths were blocked from Rubio’s to Center Hall by a deafening “Real pain, real action!”

Now that Chancellor Marye Anne Fox has agreed to meet the Black Student Union’s list of demands and the local news channels have cleared Library Walk, efforts to create a more tolerant campus community have moved indoors. In particular, walkouts and picket signs have been replaced with an effort to pass statewide legislation that would ban hate speech.

A.S. Vice President External Affairs Gracelynne West and BSU co-chairs David Ritcherson and Fnann Keflezighi are currently working with the UC Student Association to implement a law that would make slur-loving publications like the Koala illegal.

Downright unconstitutional, if you ask us. A lot of other people think so too. But that’s an issue that — if challenged in court — will soon be hashed out with lawyers. The real problem with California Law AB 412 is that, in attempting to protect those who are hurt by racist remarks, would end up regulating individual thought.

Of course, most would rather poke fun at such legislation than care about what’s behind it: a group of students who feel ostracized when they hear their peers throwing around racial slurs with such causal callousness. But even if an umbrella policy swooped in and forced every hurtful word out of public discussion, the ignorance would remain.

Any policy which forces tolerance would most likely polarize the community further. Just think how determined Koala members were to release a sufficiently offensive issue once A.S. President Utsav Gupta slapped their paws and froze their funding. When a group of students feels their right to free speech is being threatened, they will come out in full force — focusing on their right to say something rather than how it might affect someone living a different experience.

That’s why we feel student leaders shouldn’t waste their time with broad legislation that trickles from the top down and gives even more power to administrators. Instead, they should focus on enlightening a student body that’s still got a lot to learn about the system. Along with pumping up outreach efforts and maintaining retention programs for minority students, why not plan campuswide campaigns that invite students to learn more about where organizations like MEChA and the BSU are coming from? Education cannot stop at a few impassioned rallies — we need to engage in an active dialogue about why hate speech is hurtful.

At the very least, the authors of the bill could focus on writing a strictly on-campus policy. They might not be able to eliminate hate speech or convince a group of righteous bigots that their public charade is a detriment to our community, but they could at least push for localized penalization where possible.