Carlos E. Cortés is the Edward A. Dickson Emeritus Professor of History at the University of California, Riverside. He has been a diversity speaker, educator, trainer, and consultant for forty-five years. His books include: The Children Are Watching: How the Media Teach about Diversity (2000); his memoir, Rose Hill: An Intermarriage before Its Time (2012); and a book of poetry, Fourth Quarter: Reflections of a Cranky Old Man (2016), which received honorable mention in the 2017 International Latino Book Awards. He also edited the four-volume Multicultural America: A Multimedia Encyclopedia (2013). Cortés wishes to thank the University of California National Center for Free Speech and Civic Engagement for supporting his project.
This is the sixth in a series of columns based on my research as a former fellow of the University of California National Center for Free Speech and Civic Engagement. In earlier columns I argued that our nation’s system of expression is far too complex to be encompassed by the simple, misleading couplet, “free speech.” In fact, over more than two centuries, our nation has developed a complex constitutionally-based system that combines robust legally-protected speech with selective legal limitations on speech.
Therefore, diversity advocates should not be drawn into the position of opposing free speech.They don’t need to, because it does not actually exist. Instead they should defend the basic societal value ofrobust speech, while also reframing the discussion by clarifying the tensions that inevitably arise when the valuable imperatives of diversity and speech intersect. Simultaneously they should function within the American historical tradition by proposing carefully focused additions to the current list of legal limitations.
The diversity movement has raised myriad issues regarding language and the exercise of speech.Indeed, some critics of diversity efforts have accused its advocates of undermining the U.S. tradition of free speech.Yet that argument is ill-founded, for two reasons.First, because totally “free” speech does not exist in the United States.Second, because establishing selective legal limits on speech is as historically American as apple pie.
This is the fifth in a series of columns based on my research as a past fellow of the University of California National Center for Free Speech and Civic Engagement. In earlier columns I argued that diversity advocates should not be drawn into the position of opposing free speech, because it does not really exist.Rather they should clarify and reframe the issue.
Leelee Jackson and Geoffrey Stone are hardly household names in diversity circles. But in 2019, my interactions with Jackson, a talented young playwright, and Stone, a passionate defender of free speech, helped illuminate the challenging complexities of diversity and expression.
As a fellow of the University of California National Center for Free Speech and Civic Engagement, I have been examining the myriad tensions created when two laudable principles collide: the defense of robust speech and the effort to create greater inclusivity. This intersection has generated considerable controversy, including among diversity advocates.
Diversity advocates cannot avoid dealing with the intersection of inclusive diversity and robust speech. Tensions between those two imperatives are inevitable. These tensions complicate our efforts to address such speech-related issues as privilege, power, marginalization, hostile work environments, and the expression of intergroup hate.
This is the third in a series of columns based on my research as a current fellow of the University of California National Center for Free Speech and Civic Engagement. In the first two columns I argued that diversity advocates should not be drawn into the position of opposing free speech. We don’t need to, because totally “free” speech does not exist in the United States.
In my first column in this series, I began a discussion of the intersection of diversity and speech. This has grown out of my research as a current fellow of the University of California National Center for Free Speech and Civic Engagement. Let me expand upon those ideas.
The basic point is this: in the United States, free speech does not really exist. It is an inspiring metaphor, but not an actual reality. Unfortunately, the term has been overused. Today people throw “free speech” around in a helter skelter manner. Too often the term serves as an all-purpose knee-jerk response to diversity advocates when they raise issues of inequitable and non-inclusive language. At times it can short-circuit serious diversity discussions.
Our nation’s speech system is far too complex to be captured by those two words, “free speech.”
“That’s against free speech.” “That’s censorship.” “That’s unconstitutional.”
Those are the kinds of responses diversity advocates are likely to receive when they challenge hate speech or other forms of demeaning and marginalizing expression. Unfortunately, diversity supporters often take the bait and respond by arguing for the importance of limiting free speech. But they shouldn’t go down that road. They don’t have to challenge free speech because free speech doesn’t actually exist. Let me explain.
One year ago I was selected to be a fellow of the University of California National Center for Free Speech and Civic Engagement. My research project focused on the intersection of diversity and speech. In my fellowship application I proposed to address the following historical question: over the past fifty years, what factors have driven many higher education diversity advocates to oppose our nation’s tradition of free speech? However, my research quickly convinced me that I had posed the wrong question.
We in the diversity world need a new pair of words. Or maybe the terms already exist and I just don’t know about them. Here’s my concern about diversity language.
In November I had a discussion with my cyberpal Neal Goodman, president of Global Dynamics. Neal had just read “Toward a 21st-Century Interculturalism: Reflections of a Cranky Old Historian,” my keynote address at the October, 2017, national conference of the Society for Intercultural Education, Training, and Research. In that talk I had contrasted the words ethnonym and ethnophaulism.