The call for a formal, legal-structural response to racist speech goes against the long-standing and healthy American distrust of government power. It goes against an American tradition of tolerance that is precious in the sense of being both valuable and fragile.
Dean Lee Bollinger has concluded that a primary reason for the legal protection of hate speech is to reinforce our commitment to tolerance as a value. If we can shore up our commitment to free speech in the hard and public cases, like Skokie, perhaps we will internalize the need for tolerance and spare ourselves from regrettable error in times of stress. Given the real historical costs of state intolerance of minority views, the first amendment purpose identified by Dean Bollinger is not one lightly set aside.
Recognizing both the real harm of racist speech and the need to strengthen our dangerously fickle collective commitment to freedom of discourse, this writer intends to feel and to work within the first amendment tension armed with stories from human lives. This Article suggests in the following Part that outsider jurisprudence – jurisprudence derived from considering stories from the bottom – will help resolve the seemingly irresolvable conflicts of value and doctrine that characterize liberal thought (brano tratto dall’introduzione all’articolo).
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