My grandparents were French-Algerian Jews who moved to nearby Morocco in the late 1930’s to seek better economic opportunities. They decided to stay there when Mohammed V, then king of Morocco, vowed to protect members of the Jewish community during WW2. Hence, I grew up in a household where xenophobia and antisemitism were very much frowned upon and actively fought.
I also grew up in France, a country with strict hate-speech laws designed to protect minorities, including Jewish people. However, antisemitism is alive and well in France. In fact, reports of antisemitic acts have increased by 27% last year.
The thing is, antisemitism lives in the shadows or hides behind semantic tricks (many anti-Semites like to call themselves “anti-Zionists” these days, though not all anti-Zionists are anti-Semites). Hence, hate-speech laws protect no one. They merely make racists find more creative ways to express their distasteful ideas.
Recently, I saw in the Observer that OSD had approved a new anti-hate speech policy. Reading the first lines of the article, I thought that such policies made sense. After all, I expect employers to have guidelines ensuring civility in the workplace, so I could see why schools would too.
What I find problematic is this: the policy is meant to apply off school grounds and on social media. As much as I find racism repugnant, I believe that this is the wrong way to go about combating it.
Young people say stupid things on social media or among themselves, when they are out and about. Adults too. Let’s engage them in a constructive way, rather than in a repressive way.
Threatening teenagers with sanctions for saying things that they might be hearing at home would at best encourage them to do it more creatively, at worse lead them to do so in secrecy. Yet, how do you convince someone that their opinions are offensive when they won’t express them in fear of being punished?More importantly, can you really convince someone that their ideas are wrong just because they are forbidden? Not to create a moral equivalence, but interracial marriage was forbidden in the USA until 1967. Thankfully, that did not stop interracial couples from forming.
The Black Lives Matter movement is a much-needed catalyst of cultural change. Repression, on the other hand, creates false martyrs. I dislike racists too much to give them the privilege of becoming martyrs.
Village of Oregon