Professors Matthew Rungaitis and Pamela Williams-Paez debated the merits of free speech at a seminar held May 15 at College of the Canyons.
The panel, titled “A Campus Dialogue: Freedom of Speech or Hate Speech?” opened dialogue up between two ideologically differing professors on whether hate speech should be allowed on college campuses or not.
Rungaitis, a law professor, cited the constitution as evidence for the allowance of hate speech. He states that college students nowadays are too sensitive, and need “tougher skin” when navigating the differing opinions one can potentially be offended by at a college campus.
However, sociology professor Williams-Paez countered that there is a definite difference between being offended and being oppressed. When language and behavior is used to stifle the opinions of people based off of their skin color, religion, or identity, this constitutes hate speech, not the opinion of a “whiny college student.” Many marginalized people are at risk of being oppressed or worse, according to Williams-Paez, and the belief that these students are merely too sensitive is misguided at best and dangerous at worst.
Santa Clarita has a long and storied history in terms of systemic racism. In 1924, a Saugus deputy named Ed Brown was killed, and his funeral was paid for by the Ku Klux Klan. The valley’s issues with the Klan didn’t stop there, as LA County’s hate group squadron is now located out of Valencia.
In more recent history, hate crime statistics have been on the rise as of 2016, for the first time since 2011, according to The Signal. 2011 was also the year Anthony Bedgood’s car was set on fire, with his garage door sprayed with a racial epiphet.
Perhaps the most telling sign of Santa Clarita’s problems with systemic racism lie in its leadership; in 2010, former Santa Clarita mayor Bob Kellar announced at an anti-immigration rally that he was a “proud racist,” stating, “The only thing I heard back from a couple of people was `Bob, you sound like a racist.’ I said, `That’s good. If that’s what you think I am because I happen to believe in America, then I’m a proud racist. You’re darn right I am.”‘
Hate speech is not presently covered under constitutional law, and due to the ever-evolving nature of offensive language, there is no clear cut definition on what constitutes hate speech. Since most of what can be considered hate speech can therefore be considered free speech, one that uses hateful speech should not then be surprised if someone speaks their mind in response.