Friday, December 25, 2009



Was it free speech to use a racial description?

We read:
"If you denigrate someone's race with a common slur, is that freedom of speech, or a crime? A 14-year-old white youth who used a racial slur to taunt a 17-year-old African American girl was convicted of "disorderly conduct" in a North Dakota district juvenile court, but now the North Dakota Supreme Court is considering whether the boy's Constitutional First Amendment rights to free speech were violated.

The incident took place last February in Valley City, North Dakota. The girl was leaving a dance at a teen center when the 14-year-boy called her a "stupid (slur word)."

The assistant Barnes County attorney, Lee Grossman, argued that the boy's intent was to harass the girl, and thus the charge of disorderly conduct. A judge agreed. Under North Dakota law, it is a crime to use abusive language "With intent to harass, annoy or alarm another person."

The same 17-year-old-girl had been harassed with racial slurs by other youths on the same evening at the same dance. A 14-year-old girl confronted her in a bathroom, calling her a (racial slur) and also told her that she did not "own this town" and that she was "not wanted in this town."

A judge found both the 14-year-old boy and the 14-year-old girl guilty of disorderly conduct, for which they received sentences of probation, an order to perform community service, and an order to attend a racial sensitivity class.

An attorney for the boy is claiming his client's right to free speech is being violated. But Southeast District Judge John Paulson said the both the boy and the girl who committed the taunting would have been guilty of disorderly conduct if they had used a racial slur, or not.

It is up to the North Dakota Supreme Court to decide if a crime was committed, or if this was a violation of the right to free speech.

Source

28 comments:

Anonymous said...

Has the First Amendment been changed, so that it now says, "your right to free speech is only protected when others agree with what you say" ?

Dean said...

IIRC first amendment rights apply to political speech. Calling a 17 year old a nigger and telling her she doesn't belong in town isn't political speech. It's harassment and intimidation. The sentence handed down is just what the teens need. Perhaps they also need parents that would tan their bottoms for showing that kind of disrespect to anyone.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, free speech is free speech. Whether you like it or not those words are a part of speech. The parents should have beat the hell out of those kids for using those words but the government has no business getting involved.

Bobby said...

This is ridiculous, why should negroes enjoy more protection than fat people, smokers, republicans, and anyone else who has ever been insulted?

I thought judges in North Dakota had more common sense than that.

Anonymous said...

Who seriously cares what niggers think any more?

Malcolm said...

This leaves open the question: is it all right to call a person a "stupid #@! meathead", but not a "stupid (racial slur)"? It would appear to me that both are just attempts to insult, rather than impart information or opinion - which is what freedom of speech is meant to protect. Abusive, obscene speech is nothing more than a breach of the peace, and has always been treated as a misdemeanour. There is no reason to treat racial slurs as something worse, nor something to be protected.

Anonymous said...

Racial slurs are political speech held by minority and fringe poltical groups. Racial slurs are an exercise in philosophical expression. Because those beliefs cause some alarm or discomfort is the reason the Constitution should prevent the government from prosecuting those who hold those beliefs simply for expressing them. If not, then there is no such thing as free speech if my alarm at the sound of a word or expression of belief can be outlawed.

Anonymous said...

Well said Anon 10:32, and right on the money.

Dean, what you may consider a "racial slur" could very well be considered a "political statement" by others. Speech is either free, or it's not. The First Amendment does not have a "comfort" factor built into it, in that, only things that you're comfortable hearing are protected. In fact, the First Amendment was created for just the opposite reason.

Anonymous said...

hard to be a racist or make a racist statement when all humans are one race

Anonymous said...

The cops who issued a summons, or detained for a noncrime, were far more harrassing than the youths who insulted the other teen.

Anonymous said...

If we keep punishing people for expressing their feelings about one another, the communication will break down causing more violence than if we had just let them had their say.

Anonymous said...

There should be some right to not comply with a frivolous summons. Any police who arrest such a person while knowing what the summons was for should be charged with kidnapping. Any government employee who tells a police officer that this is someone for whom an arrest is warranted, should be charged with making a false police report.

Ignorance of the law is no excuse, especially for judges and cops.

End qualified immunity.

Anonymous said...

Comeon. Lets just say the (racial slur) was nigger. It was obvious the kid was using it to intimidate the negro girl. She knows she's in a white town. She's obviously self consientous about the fact she's black. So when the white kid called her a stupid nigger he was preying on her insecurity. Besides the difference between a thought and a verbal attack is that a thought is more of a statement, like "Niggers are stupid". That's a thought because it can be countered. A verbal attack is saying "You're a stupid nigger" because its preying on insecurity.

Anonymous said...

The real problem is that we just don't have any words that are racial slurs for Whites. We have Nigger, Spic, WOP, Kike, the list goes on. But what do other races have to call us except maybe "motherf*cker"?

Please provide examples.

Anonymous said...

The state law is clearly in violation of the first amendment.

Harassment is in the eyes of the beholder...murder is not. One can be legislated, the other cannot.

...and who the heck calls the cops when someone insults you? Seriously!

~darko

Anonymous said...

Valley City ND sounds like quite the enlightened utopia where children run around intimidating other children because of the colour of their skin. Those children should be sternly dealt with by their parents and, had it been my kids, they would have.
That said, is this a crime and/or is it protected speech? Should these kids have been dealt with by formal proceedings?
I agree completely that the term used shouldn't be determinative, nor the fact that it is a 'racial' slur. But do we then extend the argument to say that speech can NEVER constitute a crime...???
If not that far, where is the line? Tough one.

Anonymous said...

if it was the shoe on the other foot, it would have been ok.

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