Hate groups, NeoNazi and other white supremacy groups like the KKK should be illegal. Groups based on white hate pose a terroristic threat to African Americans–whether those threats are acted on, spoken, or unspoken. The very existence of white hate and terror groups is a significant stressor and an unspoken threat to people of color–and to the fabric of a civilized society. The fact that our society tolerates the existence of these groups is unacceptable–and honestly–shocking. These groups are also a threat and a stressor to any person in this country who values peace and inclusive community–and especially those who take a stand against hate and racism. One woman was killed in Charlottesville this past Saturday August 13, 2017 and 19 people were injured when a car intentionally drove straight into a crowd of people protesting a “Unite the Right” coalition of white supremacy groups who had organized the rally to protest the removal of a confederate statue, according to CNN. Two police helicopter operators were killed when their helicopter crashed–the cause of the crash is under investigation. If these groups were not allowed to legally exist, it would be harder for them to organize and recruit, harder for them to communicate hate, and impossible for them to hold public demonstrations that endanger both police and other citizens.
The freedom of speech argument does not hold up as a reason to allow hate/terror groups when we as a society have been able to create legal categories to define sexual harassment, racism in the workplace, bullying, and other defined categories of speech that are emotionally violent or incite violence. When groups have a long and horrific history of violence, threats of violence, or mobilization for violence combined with racist speech, their existence clearly should not be protected under freedom of speech. That is not what the concept of freedom of speech was meant to protect. Freedom of speech was meant to refer to the right of citizens to express their opinions–not to bully or terrorize other people based on physical characteristics that are part of their physical being–whether it’s gender, skin color, size, disabilities, or any other aspect of their createdness as human beings. Rebranding or renaming these groups as “alt-right” is not acceptable.
Other countries have managed to find legal means to say that racist and hate speech as well as hate groups are not protected. For example the international treaty against racism (called the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination) has been around for decades and many countries have signed it without any reservations. The U.S. on the other hand has signed it–but our country opted out on key aspects of the treaty. The U.S. opted out of clauses that would have outlawed groups like the KKK and other white supremacist groups–and made them illegal. The U.S. opted out several of the most important clauses in the document.
Here is the text of Article 4 of the treaty:
International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination
Adopted and opened for signature and ratification by General Assembly resolution 2106 (XX) of 21 December 1965
entry into force 4 January 1969, in accordance with Article 19
States Parties condemn all propaganda and all organizations which are based on ideas or theories of superiority of one race or group of persons of one colour or ethnic origin, or which attempt to justify or promote racial hatred and discrimination in any form, and undertake to adopt immediate and positive measures designed to eradicate all incitement to, or acts of, such discrimination and, to this end, with due regard to the principles embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the rights expressly set forth in article 5 of this Convention, inter alia:
(a) Shall declare an offence punishable by law all dissemination of ideas based on racial superiority or hatred, incitement to racial discrimination, as well as all acts of violence or incitement to such acts against any race or group of persons of another colour or ethnic origin, and also the provision of any assistance to racist activities, including the financing thereof;
(b) Shall declare illegal and prohibit organizations, and also organized and all other propaganda activities, which promote and incite racial discrimination, and shall recognize participation in such organizations or activities as an offence punishable by law;
(c) Shall not permit public authorities or public institutions, national or local, to promote or incite racial discrimination.
It seems so obvious that Article 4 should be ratified by the U.S. yet it was one of the clauses that the U.S. opted out of. Opting out based on freedom of speech seems like more of an excuse than a legitimate reason–especially today–now that we have anti-bullying laws, sexual harassment law, and so many other anti-discrimination laws, etc.
As a therapist, I believe that hate is an addiction and a social disease. Hate as an addiction is often accompanied by other addictions such as substance abuse. White hate and prejudice are social diseases and moral dysfunctions that have been used to divide our nation by politicians who have scapegoated African American citizens and played on existing white racism to win votes largely in the south. For too long racism has been used as a tool by corrupt politicians to get elected and to divide and conquer this nation.
It is time for this country to define hate and terror speech as categories of speech that are NOT protected under freedom of speech–and to expand legal definitions of terror to outlaw hate and terror groups from legally existing in the U.S. There is a legal framework for this within the international treaty against racism that has been acceptable to many other countries for many decades. It is time to sign this treaty without reservations! There is no reason why the international treaty against racism cannot legally coexist with American understandings of freedom of speech when we have already been able to make illegal other types of harmful speech–and other types of terror groups are already illegal. It’s time to stand up and say ENOUGH!!!!
For more information on the treaty go here and here. The Meiklejohn Institute also provides information on human rights and human rights treaties.