For the past two years I have been writing a series of columns about the complicated intersection of inclusive diversity and robust speech. Although my last column appeared just two months ago, in some respects it seems like ancient history. Maybe it is.
Because on Memorial Day, May 25, 2020, a Minneapolis Police Officer named Derek Chauvin jammed his knee against the neck of George Floyd, an African American man, for eight minutes and forty-six seconds, until Floyd was dead. Those 526 excruciating seconds, recorded and widely disseminated, may have changed the course of U.S. history. That incident has certainly changed the way that we are currently talking about race in particular and about diversity in general.
Continue reading Diversity & Speech Part 12: Systemic Racism – by Carlos E. Cortés
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.
Continue reading Diversity and Speech Part 4: Navigating the N-Word – by Carlos E. Cortés
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.”
Continue reading Diversity and Speech Part 2: A Changing Context – by Carlos E. Cortés
“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.
Continue reading Diversity vs. Free Speech Part 1: An Invented Conflict – by Carlos E. Cortés