In light of the recent events at Mizzou and other mostly college-based incidents, many people have shared the opinion that my generation (mostly current students) have become overly sensitive and are being coddled with things like “trigger warnings” and the term “hate crimes.”
Now I have long been a defender of freedom of speech. As a writer, and one whose opinions are often somewhat inflammatory, I need the first amendment to support my rights. I would even go so far as to say I am on the fence when it comes to unlimited free speech, which is essentially the concept in question as Mizzou. However, historically the line that has been drawn between things protected by freedom of speech and things not protected has been found in the concept of “clear and present danger.”
Quick history lesson: essentially, your speech cannot be limited by government action unless it involves a clear and present danger, based on the Supreme Court Ruling in Schenck vs. United States in 1919. Basically, you can’t yell “fire” in a movie theatre, unless there is a fire.
What does that have to do with my generation? The argument some are making is that free speech is too limited now because my generation is overly sensitive to things like racial slurs, cultural appropriation, and anything else that “might” be seen as discriminatory. I would agree, in some cases it has gone too far, Mizzou is not one of them. There is a difference between someone claiming or even feeling “offended” and someone feeling threatened.
We get it. You’re tired of hearing about race issues. You’re tired of hearing that black lives matter. You’re tired of someone’s name becoming a hashtag every single week, but let me tell you: people of color ar tired of living in an oppressive society. They are tired of being told that their feelings are not valid because we’re a postmodern society that doesn’t see color. They’re tired of being told that racism ended when every week another name becomes a hashtag. Another group of white students thinks it’s funny to make fun of a people that has been enslaved, marginalized, and outright disrespected in this nation from the minute they were shoved onto a boat. It’s one thing if a white friend says the n-word in a playful way. It’s not okay, but it might not cause much uproar. It is another thing to use the n-word for its original intention- to dehumanize black people. That is what is happening at Mizzou, among other real threats.
We’ve all heard of the old question, “If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?” Today, social media is the sound. Police brutality, racist fraternities, hate crimes are not new. They have been here forever, but no one was around to tweet about it. My generation seems “oversensitive” because we’re the first generation where every single one of us has a voice online. I don’t have to try to get my name on a newspaper or spoken in the news. I type #ConcernedStudent1950 and hundreds of people see what I’m saying. Issues like this feel so loud now because they’re all around us on every website.
To say that Mizzou students are “oversensitive” is offensive. By saying this, you are contributing to the systematic racism that started the whole thing. It’s your fault. Do not tell them that their feelings are invalid because they are finally saying something about them. If fear is an invalid feeling, let me remind you that George Zimmerman got away with murder based on his “fear.”