Freedom of Speech? Or Freedom of Some Speech?

January 30, 2009 at 1:29 pm | Posted in Ford Fellow, hate crimes | Leave a comment

Does your campus have a hate crimes policy? Are hate crimes even recognized in your state? If so, do you know what the policy actually entails?

If you’ve been paying attention to the news, you’d know that the University of North Carolina System has formed a commission to study and review student codes of conduct as they relate to hate crimes. This commission, consisting of students, faculty, and staff from the 10 UNC campuses, formed after four North Carolina State University (NCSU) students spray-painted racist graffiti on campus the night now-President Barack Obama won the presidential election. The bottom line in the debate is whether or not the school, by law, can punish the students; that is, are the remarks protected as free speech by the First Amendment?

The panel held a public forum in mid-January and heard from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. On January 26, the NAACP said that the UNC system should adopt a policy for hate speech. This policy would define how the UNC system would investigate these incidences, as well as the penalties that would ensue. The commission returns in February and has until March to decide whether or not to adopt a hate speech policy.

It should be simple, right? Not really.

This definitely isn’t the first time that officials, in any profession, have debated about how much speech the First Amendment really protects.

Logically speaking, individuals who make hateful remarks often refer to the First Amendment when they are questioned. Remember the column written by a student at the University of Colorado-Boulder last spring? Or how about that one piece that AsianWeek published over a year ago? While these are clearly press-related, what kinds of standards are in place that governs this type of speech? Should speech always be protected under the First Amendment regardless of content? Or should the First Amendment be amended to protect freedom of certain speech?

At NCSU, the graffiti threatened the life of the then President-elect. This type of language is not just offensive but hostile and frightening. Should this be protected under the First Amendment? What about when someone walks by you and screams “Chinaman/Jap/Gook, go back to your own country?” This isn’t particularly life-threatening, but it still embodies similar ignorance and intolerance.

Take a moment and ponder this debate. What are your thoughts? How would you respond? What are alternatives to attacking this problem? I would like to hear your thoughts.

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DC Direct: The 111th Congress Begins with a Bang

January 23, 2009 at 2:08 am | Posted in fmori | Leave a comment

By Floyd Mori, JACL National Director

January 8, 2009

The atmosphere in Washington, DC is electric with excitement and anticipation for change to occur. The JACL is a very integral part of much of the preliminaries and the main event. I thought you might be interested in some of the things we are doing during this first week of the new Congressional session.

Congress opened for business yesterday, and a lot of the ceremony of swearing in and getting settled for the long run was evident in the Halls of Congress. New and old furniture lined the office buildings, and welcoming parties were going on throughout congressional office buildings. I attended a party that welcomed in the first Vietnamese Congressman, Republican Joseph Cao from New Orleans. Many AAPI leaders were there to greet the new Congressman. It brought back memories of the time when I upset some heavy party supported candidates some 33 years ago in California.

Supporting Asian Hollywood

January 13, 2009 at 7:51 am | Posted in Masaoka Fellow | Leave a comment

Hollywood’s award season has begun and there are a lot of movies that I feel I need to see. Honestly, the holiday season has left me a bit warm-and-fuzzy, and I’m not in the mood for depressing, sobering, thought-provoking films. I don’t want to pop the bubble just yet.

Still, the nominees from last night’s 65th annual Golden Globe Awards have got me feeling a bit cowardly and ignorant for not supporting them.

The buzz surrounding new, non-mainstream movies like Slumdog Millionaire and Gran Torino has me on a guilt trip for not seeing these films featuring Asian actors and Asian stories.

Hopefully I’ll get over the holiday high from Marley & Me and make room for these other films before the Oscar nods go out.

Planning ahead

January 6, 2009 at 7:57 am | Posted in Masaoka Fellow | Leave a comment

Ok, ok, so as 2009 gets started, I’m making one of my many personal resolutions to be a little more active—or at least timely—in my blog posts.

Although I’ve said farewell to a city where I like to think I was becoming one of the many transplanted locals, DC has not paused for my departure—and why would it?
The global economy continues to struggle and according to President-elect Barack Obama, the national economy is “bad and getting worse.” As Congress gets back to work with a new session, The New York Times had some recommended financial resolutions for Washington.

Despite the economic gloom, it’s encouraging to know that Asian Americans are part of soon-to-be President Obama’s vision for the future. Congressman Mike Honda (D-CA) noted the diversity in the president-elect’s new administration in an article for AsianWeek. (I should note that AsianWeek, once the oldest and largest English-language newspaper for the APIA community, is now exclusively an online publication, leaving a significant hole in the coverage of Asian Americans and APIA issues.)

For me, personally…as the new year begins, I guess I’ll be corny and vague. I’ll reflect on the good and bad of 2008, and look forward to new days and new, promising experiences.

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