Editorial: Standing Against Hate Speech


Banner signed by students.

Amidst the recent hate speech incidents in Chicago’s West Suburban Schools such as Oak Park/River Forest and Trinity, we must reflect on our school’s environment. Racist, Anti-semitic, and Islamophobic ideas have been displayed in these schools, but they are not alone. We are not invulnerable to hatred and bigotry.

On Friday, November 16, Fenwick will host a prayer service to show solidarity with our neighboring schools. A banner signed by students will be displayed on Washington Boulevard as  a symbol of support during these times.

What students of nearby high schools are doing is committing crimes; when hate speech incites violence, it is no longer protected under free speech.

The history of hate crimes extends hundreds of years. Whenever religious, racial, and social groups are targeted with physical violence and prejudice, a hate crime has been committed.

When incendiary, hateful things are written off as “freedom of speech,” the essence of the First Amendment becomes distorted. The Amendment acknowledges the fact that people have the right to their opinions, but when those beliefs oppose human dignity, they are not valid. The truth is that when groups of people have been targeted with hate for hundreds of years, it is vastly inappropriate and demeaning to have “opinions” based upon racist and ethnocentric ideas.

If these so-called opinions continue to be written off as free speech, who knows if history won’t repeat itself?

In the wake of innumerable school shootings and a rise in hateful messages being spread by both social media and major news outlets, school safety has become a matter of the utmost importance in the past few years. The instances in question at OPRF and Trinity High School are portrayals of the intense system of widespread hate within the country overall.

The effects of this hate speak on the feeling of safety and security within the school communities and the Oak Park community as a whole are worsening.

Students who are already feeling the sentiment of fear growing due to the rise in school shooting are now feeling the increased sentiment of racial and religious discrimination and hate. Students should not be afraid to attend school for either their physical or emotional safety. Writing on bathroom stalls or airdropping pictures may not directly cause physical harm to any students, but the emotional stability of the community and the students at whom these hateful messages are directed have been shaken.

These messages reveal to any student of any minority that there are those in their community that want them gone. If there are other students in their school who are disturbed enough, and bold enough, to draw swastikas on fences for all to see, then no student can be certain that those unhinged individuals will not turn to more violent actions.

These instances of hate speech within our community have, despite everything, brought the students from all three schools together, and they are all standing together against hate speech and the environment of discrimination that has consumed our community.