A columnist with Duke University’s student newspaper has labeled Americans’ “obsession” with freedom of speech as nothing more than “an expression of white supremacy.”

The article, entitled “Free speech, Black lives and white fragility,” argues that the country’s devotion to the First Amendment has thwarted “an urgent and overdue conversation about racism” both on and off campus.

“I am thinking about how an urgent and overdue conversation about racism—on our campus and across our country — has been derailed by a diversionary and duplicitous obsession with the First Amendment,” writes Bennett Carpenter, a graduate student in the literature department, for The Duke Chronicle newspaper. “I am thinking about how quickly the conversation has shifted from white supremacy to white fragility — and how this shift is itself an expression of white supremacy.”

Carpenter states that although offensive and hateful speech is equally comparable to physical acts of violence, no “student activists” have ever attempted to stifle the First Amendment of other students.

“The first point to make is that, despite the hand-wringing, I have yet to see a single example of student activists violating the First Amendment,” Carpenter claims despite numerous accounts showing otherwise.

The author also claims that both murdering a human being and engaging in offensive speech are nearly identical “within the context of white supremacy.”

“Within the context of white supremacy, any distinction between a defaced poster, a racist pamphlet and legal or extralegal murder can be only of degree,” Carpenter writes.

The answer to combating the issue, Carpenter says, is to bypass the state while creating more safe spaces and “shouting down” anyone expressing an opinion they disagree with.

“Rather than relying on the state to censure hate speech, anti-racists can assume that task—calling out and shouting down every expression of white supremacy as we work to build a genuinely free society,” he says. “In the meantime, we can construct safe spaces for ourselves where hatred is barred at the door. In other words, the exact work that campus activists are already doing.”


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