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 of robust 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.