Speaker discusses hate speech and First Amendment rights

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Managing Director of the Desmond Tutu Center for Peace, Reconciliation, and Global Justice Waseema Ali spoke to students at the University of Indianapolis about hate speech and First Amendment rights under the Constitution on Oct. 30 in the Schwitzer Student Center.

Ali spoke about the definition of hate speech and different court cases dictating law and regulation of free-speech. She also discussed the actions that students can take to exercise their right to free speech and opinion without practicing hate speech.

Ali said she believes that this topic is of crucial importance for current college students to understand because they are the next group of leaders in the future of our nation.

“Millennials are going to be the next wave of our leaders if they are not already. From political leaders, to legislative leaders, to thought leaders, both on campus and out in the world,” Ali said. “ So, it is only natural that I reach out to this group of people.”

According to Ali, there are four basic practices that people can use when having a disagreement with someone to have political disagreement and discourse while being protected under first amendment rights and not crossing into the territory of hate speech. These practices include: do not assume all arguments have a bad intention, ask questions, stay calm during disagreement and form the argument so that change has the possibility to take place.

In addition to these four practices Ali discusses other ways that students can safely exercise these rights.

“I think it begins with acknowledgement that each one of us has a circle of influence that we are surrounded with,” Ali said. “So, the way in which you interact, communicate and share with people who you are matters. Civility and being able to tackle differences of all kinds is important.” Ali said.

Junior nursing major Jennifer Perry said that she came to the event to learn more about hate speech and how to keep her mind open.

“I wanted to hear both sides of things, I wanted to educate myself,” Perry said. “I’m pretty liberal, so I wanted to open my horizons, I didn’t want to see things black and white.”

Freshman psychology and pre-occupational therapy major Kayleigh Smith said that the information about hate speech under the first amendment was very valuable to her and to society as well.

“I think it’s it really important that we have a good understanding of the First Amendment so that we can further society and further discussions about free speech versus hate speech.”

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