When Does ‘Hate Speech’ Encroach on ‘Free Speech’?

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Protests Wednesday night at UC Berkeley prompted university officials to cancel the scheduled speech by Milo Yiannopoulos. This self-proclaimed “supervillain of the Internet” and reckless provocateur at Breitbart News does not discuss or exchange differing viewpoints with the audience; he simply spews incendiary and extremely offensive vitriol (a.k.a. ‘hate speech’) to stir up his base of bigoted, like-minded haters.  Two weeks ago on Friday, January 20th, the University of Washington in Seattle capped off its “MLK Week 2017“–in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr.–by holding a discussion with Kathleen Cleaver, Civil Rights activist and African American law professor, at the Kelly Ethnic Culture Center. In 1967, Cleaver was the first woman to join the Central Committee of the Black Panther Party. Juxtaposed to this “signature event”, which was cosponsored by Seattle Office for Civil Rights ‘Race and Social Justice Initiative’, was a speech by Yiannopoulos held at the same start time just 1,600 feet (500 meters) away at Kane Hall. UW College Republicans received official approval to invite this overt misogynist, racist, and homophobe (ironic given he is an openly gay man). Just the day before, he was scheduled to speak at Washington State University in Pullman. WSU cancelled the speech, not due to the outrage and protest of his hateful rhetoric; it was because of inclement weather.

 

If this hatemonger is so verbally abusive, why do universities and colleges allow him to speak at their halls and auditoriums? What are the responsibilities of an institution in letting a controversial figure speak publicly, whose beliefs are based prominently if not solely on hatred and antagonism? What are the vetting criteria and discretion of guest speakers in regards to the guiding principles and restrictions pertaining to ‘free speech’ under the First Amendment? With regards to public safety, what is the justification of allowing harmful and inflammatory speech, especially in light of a current climate of divisiveness and hostility?

 

There is no definitive answer, at least not one that has been unambiguously defined under the First Amendment, or unanimously agreed upon by the Supreme Court of the United States. You would have to look at individual court decisions to determine which cases ruled in favor of or against the use of ‘hateful speech’. Here is an excerpt of the U.S. Constitution First Amendment ‘Permissible Restrictions on Expression‘:

 

Fighting words—defined as insults of the kind likely to provoke a physical fight—may also be punished, though general commentary on political, religious, or social matters may not be punished, even if some people are so upset by it that they want to attack the speaker. Personalized threats of illegal conduct, such as death threats, may also be punished.

No exception exists for so-called hate speech. Racist threats are unprotected by the First Amendment alongside other threats, and personally addressed racist insults might be punishable alongside other fighting words. But such speech may not be specially punished because it is racist, sexist, antigay, or hostile to some religion.

 

I have not studied law—let alone Constitutional law. As a layperson, my understanding and interpretation of the First Amendment is that ‘hate speech’ is not explicitly or implicitly defined. The phrase “might be punishable” under the ‘Permissible Restrictions on Expression’ gives latitude to “so-called hate speech”. Consequently, persons and groups can speak publicly about their superiority or denigrate another group’s race, sexual or gender orientation, political affiliation, or religion so long as it does not incite violence or threaten the livelihood of people.

 

Erik Tucker, who covers the Justice Department for The Associated Press, wrote this piece on the not-so clear delineation between ‘free speech’ and ‘hate speech’ as it pertains to how federal law defines ‘hate crimes’: “How federal law draws a line between free speech and hate crimes“. Searching the web, you are more likely to find an article like the one by Eugene Volokh which explains why “hate speech” is permissible under the First Amendment: “No, there’s no “hate speech” exception to the First Amendment“. If hate speech was clearly defined and deemed unlawful then the former Republican nominee and current U.S. President would be guilty of engaging in hateful speech and incendiary tweets many times over.

 

 

A week following the right-wing provocateur’s speech at UW, host of Seattle’s KUOW ‘Week in Review’, Bill Radke, brought up the controversy on the Friday, January 27th show with guest panel: Hanna Brooks Olsen, Seattle writer/feminist; Randy Pepple, Republican strategist; and Seattle Council Member Lorena Gonzalez. The debate about ‘free speech’ versus ‘hate speech’ begins at 18:30 into the show, but it’s worth listening to the full 53-minute podcast “This week we’re rehashing the first days of Trump’s presidency“.

 

Upon playing a clip of the hateful speech at Kane Hall, Radke started by asking Olsen if the University of Washington “should have allowed this man to speak.” The crux of Olsen’s argument for why UW should have cancelled the event is because “it’s a false equivalency to say ‘we allow free speech on both sides’ when one [side] is demonstratively hate speech.” Olsen added “there’s a difference between things I disagree with, and things that are actively hurtful. And things that create an unsafe space on campus.” When Radke argued that “Milo Yiannopoulos would say it’s not actively hurtful to say obnoxious tired jokes,” Olsen responded: “Telling women to kill themselves is actively hurtful.” [Notwithstanding the assertion of telling women to kill themselves, there are many other extremely misogynistic, racist and abhorrent things he’s written (on the conservative fake news site of Breitbart), and tweeted–so offensive, in fact, that Twitter permanently banned him. Here is a sample of what went on at Kane Hall.]

 

It was the Council Member’s turn to give her perspective. CM Gonzalez, who is trained in Constitutional law and as a Civil Rights lawyer, urged to “look at the First Amendment with the understanding and context that there are restrictions. It’s not an unfettered right to free speech.” She also raised the concern “about whether the University of Washington went through the rigor it should have in its First Amendment evaluation of this particular event.” With regards to public safety CM Gonzalez offered “Your tactical response in that environment has to be commensurate with that level of heat and passion that is coming from both sides.”

 

When Radke asked if his “speech was too threatening to be allowed”, CM Gonzalez did not go as far as Olsen in saying UW should have prohibited him from speaking, but she went on to explain “If… you know what the contours and the depth and the significance and the weight of that speech is going to be then you, as a public institution, have a responsibility to make sure that everybody is safe. Not just the people who are delivering the speech, but also the people who are there to protest the speech.” Gonzalez thought “the mark [with regards to the university’s public safety preparedness] was not met.” [Note: There was a large presence of protesters at Red Square, outside Kane Hall. One of the protesters got into a heated altercation with a Trump supporter, who reportedly was trying to get in to see the sold-out speech. During the scuffle, the Trump supporter shot the protester.]

 

Radke asked the Republican strategist his thoughts on the topic. Repple thinks Yiannopoulos is “obnoxious and stupid”, but he does not feel his contemptible and vile rhetoric should be restrained. He basically said ‘it’s only hurtful if you allow it to hurt you’.  Repple’s solution to protesting ‘free speech’ that you don’t agree with is to “vote with your feet. Don’t go [to the event].” In other words, he thinks we should dismiss callous and hateful speeches as nothing more than inane and distasteful talk, whether or not it is directed at us. And if we let it affect us–if we let it get under our skin–then it is our fault for being fragile and insensitive. In Repple’s mind, the verbal offender has no accountability for the vicious things he says. Moreover, he thinks we should demonstrate our First Amendment right to protest by ignoring the offensive antagonist and staying home. It is an absurd and dismissive argument for allowing ‘hate speech’.

 

Putting Milo’s harmful and irresponsible venom into perspective: Yiannopoulos is so extremely racist, misogynistic, xenophobic, transphobic and homophobic that the Twittersphere gods could no longer tolerate his hateful and reckless tweets so they permanently revoked his Twitter license. Yet notorious Islamic hater, Pamela Geller, is allowed to espouse her unbridled anti-Islamic propaganda in the Twittersphere via her verified Twitter account.

 

So what is ‘hate speech’? It doesn’t just offend a person or group; it is deep-seeded antagonistic hostility consistently expressed and aimed at a persons’ race, gender, lifestyle, religion, and/or ideology. It is not just the targeted venom and weight of a verbal assault; it is a repetitiveness of a maliciously sharp-tongued attack –no matter whether explicit harm is intended or not. Words–like actions–have consequences. Cyberbullying is just as harmful as bullying. And psychological violence is as destructive as physical violence.

 

To say ‘hate speech’ is free speech’ is no different from claiming ‘cancer cells‘ are ‘normal cells’. Why? Because early signs of cancer, when left unchecked, become tumors–often malignant. And untreated cancer–especially aggressive forms–eventually kills the patient. Unfettered hate speech will proliferate and spread like cancer. However, illnesses and diseases do not always manifest into cancer; and combative dialogue does not always escalate into hate speech. The empowerment and self-regulation of social media, cloaked in anonymity, beckons a closer look at the diagnosis and accountability of hate speech. Part of the solution in curtailing hurtful speech is to be more civil, open-minded, and accepting of our differences. Is that so difficult?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Justin Trudeau: The good, the Bad and the Ugly

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Screenshot of PM Justin Trudeau confidently seated upon responding to Conservative Party interim leader Rona Ambrose’s accusation on Liberal’s “reckless spending” during Parliamentary debate on May 3, 2016.


Liberalism in Canadian politics is not the same as liberalism in U.S. politics.  The Liberal Party in Canada, founded in 1867, has historically taken a more centrist approach to governing. The New Democratic Party (NDP), formed in 1961, represents a more left-wing ideology similar to liberal-minded American politicians. The Right-wing of Canadian politics is represented by the Conservative Party (a.k.a. Tories), which has taken various names with common agendas since 1942.

At the conclusion of the federal elections last October, Canadian Conservative leader, Stephen Harper (who served as prime minister from 2006 to 2015) conceded to the victorious Liberal leader, Justin Trudeau. As a result the slightly left of center Liberal Party earned more seats in Parliament. Immediately following the election, U.S. media began a budding love affair with Trudeau as the newly elected Prime Minister of Canada.

Based on the outcome of the 2015 elections, the Liberal Party currently holds a majority of parliamentary seats in the House of Commons (182 out of 338). Liberals secured 21 out of 105 seats in the upper house of Canada’s parliamentary Senate. The Conservative Party now holds 97 seats in the House of Commons, and 41 Senate seats. The New Democratic Party has just 44 seats in the House of Commons and no seats in the Senate. This gives you an idea of where Canada, as a whole, stands in terms of political views and policies: while the centrist Liberals gain more footing in Parliament, the true left of center NDP appears to be losing the fervor and influence of its constituency.

Prior to Trudeau’s win, The Canadian Progressive had warned of his character and moral shortcomings. Trudeau’s truancy with respect to voting and his lack of support on progressive issues were outlined in this article. On the day of the inauguration, Trudeau introduced his Cabinet consisting of 15 men and 15 women–the first gender equal team appointed by a prime minister: “Because it’s 2015.” However, during the summer Olympics he referred to the Canadian women athletes enthusiastically as “girls“. It was not meant to belittle the female Olympians, but it was still a subtle perpetuation of sexism. His seemingly patronizing ‘get to know me’ fundraiser in 2013, intended for women to get to know the Liberty Party leader at “Justin Unplugged” for $250 per person. Many Tories and NDP members criticized the venue as a sexist ploy. Liberals who backed the event claimed it was a unique way of reaching out to female voters; something their opponent’s leaders could not or would not do… and they were probably right. In May, his careless elbow to the chest of Parliament member, Ruth Ellen Brosseau, during a heated exchange in the House of Commons, coupled with ‘ladies night’ invitation in 2013 did not help his image as a self-proclaimed “feminist“. Notwithstanding Trudeau’s gender-even Cabinet, other arguments have been made regarding his perception as a feminist versus what his broader recorder shows in this article.

Justin Trudeau has been outspoken about zero tolerance for violence against women. While the Liberal leader has spoken strongly about guarding women from abuse, he has subtly correlated domestic violence with racism. A month before Trudeau was elected, he made racist inferences in an interview on Up For Debate linking the ills of misogyny, pornography and the lack of father figures to “certain types of music” which Desmond Cole, Toronto journalist, questioned as “a very careless nod to anti-black stereotypes.” Canada, like the United States, is not immune to the discriminatory plagues of white male privilege, sexism and racism.

One can argue the ailments of the aforementioned elitism and prejudices are not as prevalent in Canada as they are in the United States. For example, with regards to gender equality: prior to the U.S. elections in November, there were 20 women serving in the U.S. Senate: out of 100, or 20.0%. And there were 84 female members in the House of Representatives: out of 435, or 19.3%. In comparison, there are 43 women serving in Canada’s Senate: out of 102, or 42.2% (minus three vacancies).  And there are 88 female members in the House of Commons: out of 335, or 26.3% (minus three vacancies). On the other hand, Canada is ranked 30th in the world based on the gender gap report in 2015 issued by the World Economic Forum. United States did not score much better, finishing 28th. Canada still has much fewer women than men represented in Parliamentary standing committees. It is also worth noting, during the 2015 elections, NDP had the highest percentage of women running in their party (43%). Liberals had fewer than one in three women (31%), and the Conservatives had less than one of five (19%). Bottom line: neither the U.S. or Canada are close to achieving gender equality.

Actions speak louder than words… On the concerns regarding land and water conservation, Trudeau had vowed to “protect the environment”. Yet his apparent assurance to environmentalists and Canadian’s First Nations people gave way to a steadfast determination to dig up Alberta tar sands and support major pipeline projects, which will further undermine Canada’s fragile ecosystem. And it validates the concerns raised by The Canadian Progressive in October 2015. Precious Canadian wildlife is in peril, and it is dwindling, in large part, due to a proportionally greater impact from climate change north of the Arctic Circle (66.5°N to 90.0°N). Canada’s previous Prime Ministers and Parliament have done their part in contributing to the acceleration of climate change. After one year in office, Trudeau has shown to be no different in neglecting the environment he had promised to preserve.


References

https://thinkprogress.org/canadas-climate-commitments-in-jeopardy-as-trudeau-approves-two-major-pipeline-projects-4000459ddd2f#.9zb6rugws (November 28, 2016)

http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_slatest/2015/11/04/canada_s_justin_trudeau_s_gender_equal_cabinet_because_it_s_2015.html (November 5, 2016)

http://www.macleans.ca/politics/ottawa/is-justin-trudeau-a-fake-feminist/ (September 8, 2016)

http://www.ctvnews.ca/sports/trudeau-calling-female-olympians-girls-highlights-broader-problem-in-sports-1.3032880 (August 17, 2016)

http://www.canadianbusiness.com/economy/how-the-trudeau-government-tore-up-the-rulebook-on-pipelines/ (July 21, 2016)

http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/trudeau-tracker-water-protection-promises-1.3656960 (June 28, 2016)

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/mar/17/justin-trudeau-feminist-twitter-explodes (March 16, 2016)

http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/trudeau-conservative-whip-1.3588407 (May 18, 2016)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m1A-XyHdRJ4 (May 7, 2016)

http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_slatest/2015/11/04/canada_s_justin_trudeau_s_gender_equal_cabinet_because_it_s_2015.html (November 4, 2015)

http://www.lop.parl.gc.ca/ParlInfo/lists/PartyStandings.aspx?Menu=HOC-Representation&Section=03d93c58-f843-49b3-9653-84275c23f3fb (as of October 24, 2015)

https://newrepublic.com/article/123186/why-canadas-liberal-party-so-dominant (October 22, 2015)

http://www.canadianprogressiveworld.com/2015/10/19/a-canadian-progressives-case-against-justin-trudeau-becoming-canadas-next-prime-minister/ (October 19, 2015)

http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/justin-trudeau-makes-careless-nod-to-anti-black-stereotypes-says-toronto-journalist-1.3238441 (September 22, 2015)

http://www.macleans.ca/authors/emma-teitel/the-problem-with-justin-trudeaus-ladies-night/ (November 8, 2013)

http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/justin-trudeau-s-ladies-night-denounced-by-tories-ndp-1.2418703 (November 7, 2013)

http://reports.weforum.org/global-gender-gap-report-2015/rankings/

http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/prime-minister/

http://www.cawp.rutgers.edu/women-us-congress-2015

Gender discrimination: Part of larger issue in U.S. politics

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On September 21, 2010, Fresh Air (a program on National Public Radio) aired the review of Rebecca Traister’s book Big Girls Don’t Cry: The Election That Changed Everything For American Women (refer to this link: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=129938556


The challenges women face are not exclusive to politics. The artistic talent and maternal roles of women, showcased by the media and networks, often overshadow women’s intellect and their strategic influence in a wide array of industries (not just in music and fashion). Advertisements and music videos (to a lesser extent TV programs and movies) tend to portray women as seductive, flirtatious, manipulative or emotional.  What does it say when a highly rated TV show on a major network is titled Desperate Housewives; and when popular so-called reality TV shows on the cable channels, geared towards women, have titles like The Real Housewives of… and Bridezillas?

It is troubling to have spoken with women, of my generation and my parent’s generation, who find little issue with the interchange of tank top and “wife beater”.  This denigrating term for an article of clothing, coupled with derogatory references to the female anatomy, project and reinforce the image of women as submissive, weak and wicked.  There are no comparable words as base and disparaging towards men: terms referring to the male appendage are analogous to a black person calling a white person a “honky”—there is no white equivalent for the “n” word. It is more appropriate to refer to someone’s “intestinal fortitude” or “guts” instead of a gender-specific body part to imply strength or frailty.

Upon reading the review and excerpt from Traister’s book, I submitted the following commentary to NPR.  My thoughts extend beyond the misogynistic stereotypes to the broader issue of societal intolerance and how it is used as a divisive and polarizing tool to win political campaigns (by discrediting political opponents and preying on people’s fears—in today’s politics it is one in the same).



Hillary Rodman Clinton was involved in several policies during the two-terms of her husband’s presidency, bringing more attention to the role of women in the governmental branch. She was thfirst woman to live on 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue with a post-graduate education, a professional career as a lawyer, and to have an office in the West Wing of the White Office. Mrs. Clinton was well-traveled having visited more than 80 countries as the First Lady, and as an advocate of peace, equality and democracy.

Many people remember Hillary Clinton as the chairperson on the Task Force for the controversial Clinton Health Care Plan in 1993, which died in Congress. It was dubbed by detractors as ‘HillaryCare’. (The inchoate signs of Hillary haters were expressed during Bill Clinton’s administration because of her involvement on policies.) She played an important role in passing the State Children’s Health Insurance Program in 1997 with Senate bi-partisan support. First Lady Clinton worked with Attorney General Janet Reno to establish the Office on Violence Against Women, and she helped to pioneer the Adoptions and Safe Family Act in 1997. Her role in the implementation of these policies and programs is often overlooked.

Hillary Clinton leveraged her experience in the White House to launch a political career, first by winning the United States Senate seat of NY in 2001. (The Clintons moved to New York in 1999 after Patrick Moynihan retired from the U.S. Senate [D – NY] in 1998, a maneuver referred disreputably as ‘carpet-bagging’.) She was an active Senator, having served on five Senate committees.

Senator Clinton was vilified by the politically charged white male privilege campaign during the Democratic presidential primary in 2008. There were a slew of misogynistic slogans, images and commentaries from the right as well as from the left such as Chris Matthews of MSNBC likening her to a “she-devil” and comparing her to a “strip-teaser”—sexism has no political affiliations among men. One of the more popular online items during the primaries was the Hillary nutcracker.

Although Senator Clinton was unfairly characterized by the media, she shared in the sabotage of her own credibility. The former First Lady’s recollection of the “dangerous mission” to Bosnia in 1996 was justifiably questioned, given that her daughter, Chelsea (age 16 at the time), Sinbad, and Sheryl Crow, were on the same flight. The Tuzla U.S. Air Base, where the plane landed, was the safest location in the area. Footage of the First Lady being greeted by a Bosnian girl with flowers (not “under sniper fire”) undermined her integrity as a presidential candidate. Then there was her regrettable reference, in May 2008, to Robert F. Kennedy’s assassination when questioned why she was still in the Democratic race (her chances of winning the nomination were quickly dwindling).

Early on Senator Clinton was the front runner for the Democratic nomination. She became a ‘primary’ target for Hillary haters during the debates; it intensified when she paired off with the U.S. freshman Senator from Illinois.

Initially, I thought Barack Obama was too green to enter the 2008 Democratic race: he had less than one term in office as United States Senator of IL. Obama needed more time to mature in Congress—to become a recognizable figure. Wait until 2012! Although I was riveted by his speech at the Democratic National Convention in 2004, I did not think Barack Obama had the prestige, stamina or the fire power to tussle with Senator Clinton. But Obama’s successful book in 2006 Audacity of Hope raised his popularity and transformed his image from an upcoming political star to a rock star, virtually overnight.

Barack Obama had to overcome obstacles as a black man with an African name rooted in Arabic. He elevated his political credentials as a resilient and articulate presidential candidate during a tumultuous time in his campaign when he gave “A More Perfect Union” speech in Philadelphia, addressing Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s inflammatory remarks and the role of race.  Senator Obama confronted racial and bigoted attacks from the right, including claims of being a Muslim sympathizer in an attempt to link him to terrorism. Obama was also undercut by moderate white Democrats (uncomfortable with the prospect of a Black president), and by tactics from Senator Clinton and her husband (intended to subvert his character and minify his credibility). More criticism, latent with racial tenor, (mainly from Conservatives) has been directed at President Obama in comparison to when he was running for the Oval Office.

All Democratic candidates running for President of the United States—regardless of race, gender, creed or service—risk going through the Republican gauntlet. From the onset of the 2004 presidential contest, members of George Walker Bush’s administration and cabinet attacked and characterized Democratic nominee and U.S. Senator from Massachusetts, John Kerry, as an indecisive politician unfit to serve as the country’s commander and chief and to defend our nation against terrorism. During the election campaign, a group of former Vietnam Veterans formed an alliance called Swift Boat Veterans of Truth and ran deceptive ads claiming Kerry was a liar who turned his back on the troops, yet most of the SBVT members had never served with him in Vietnam.

The Republicans capitalized on every opportunity to discredit Senator Kerry. He was ridiculed for an innocent mispronunciation of Lambeau Field (referring to it as “Lambert Field”) and mocked for being shifty when Bush’s campaign aired footage of him windsurfing off of Nantucket in September 2004. John Kerry was also portrayed as a wealthy elitist even though George Bush Jr. and his family lived on a 1600-acre ranch in Prairie Chapel, TX, which included a main house, a guest house, separate garages, a helicopter hanger, a swimming pool (for his daughters), an 11-acre man-made pond stocked for fishing, two rivers, seven canyons and much more landscape within the property.

It is extraordinary that a white man from an upper class family, who volunteered for Vietnam War, and was injured multiple times in combat, would have his reputation as well as his intrepid service in Vietnam and his medals of bravery diminished and satirized. Ironically, Bush Jr. signed up for National Guard to avoid going to Vietnam. If a decorated war veteran and seasoned senator of a majority race and gender can be denigrated, surely a white female candidate and a black male candidate would expect to endure their share of unfair caricatures, mistruths, bigotry and vitriol.

Sexism, racism and non-white phobias are more visceral and far reaching than the dirty tactics of mudslinging. Perhaps there is a relationship in the evolution of American politics and discrimination that is deeply rooted in U.S. history. The philosophy of this nation was born of a collective elitist intellect. However, the founding fathers incorporated their own prejudgments, stereotypes and self-interest in developing the doctrine of our constitution. The Three-Fifth Compromise in 1787 was an arrangement to appease Northerners and Southerners by representing slaves as a fraction of a person for state taxation and to count slaves as 3/5 of a person in the state’s House of Representatives; not as citizens or potential voters. The treatment of slaves as a statistic to satisfy the electorate is no less racist than the rationale of using slaves as involuntary servants. The provision was not removed until after the Civil War when slavery was abolished. Blacks were eventually allowed to vote with the ratification of the 15th Amendment in 1870. Women were not allowed to vote until 50 years later with the ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920 (nearly 130 years after the Bill of Rights, the first ten Amendments, was passed in 1791).

In light of homophobic rhetoric, controversy regarding gay marriage, and the filibuster of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy by Republican Senators, what are the chances of an openly gay presidential candidate becoming commander and chief of our armed forces? The fundamental problem with DADT policy is that it promotes deception which, in turn, undermines one of the military core values: integrity. Troop morale should not be contingent on one’s sexuality; honor, trust, selflessness, and loyalty unify soldiers and solidify the chain of command.

The social attitudes and fears invoking gender discrimination, racism and homophobia are as insidious today as it was during momentous times in U.S. history when minorities were the center of a heated debate, whether it was the Civil Rights movement, the Supreme Court ruling of Roe v. Wade, giving women the legal right to abortion, or the height of the AIDS epidemic. The debate on immigration coupled with a post 9/11 climate has amplified the nation’s xenophobic tendencies, and it has provoked several politicians at all levels of the government to initiate policies aimed at alienating and discriminating non-U.S. citizens or U.S. citizens who do not look like they belong in America.

It was just over 50 years ago when Democratic presidential candidate John F. Kennedy gave a speech on religion and politics to address the concerns on whether a Catholic can run the country. Eventually, this nation will tolerate—not necessarily accept—minorities in power, but it will take a larger proportion of the population and strong individuals with persuasive ideals to penetrate our preconceptions and to raze the wall of fear, terror and ignorance.