There was a time when I couldn’t even picture writing about a story like this because it was frankly unthinkable that it could even happen. But we’re in the 21st century now so it seems that all bets are off. Back in October at the University of Connecticut, two white students were caught on video slinging racial epithets while walking across a student parking lot. When the clip was posted to social media, understandable outrage ensued. But that’s where the story took a decidedly troubling turn. The students were arrested and charged with a crime. If you can’t see why this would be disturbing, refill your coffee, sit back and get ready for a wild ride. (NBC News)
Free speech concerns that were raised following the arrests of two University of Connecticut students accused of saying a racial slur have led state legislators to consider repealing a century-old law that bans ridicule based on race, religion or nationality.
The episode on campus involving two white students in October was recorded on video and sparked protests against racism. Many people applauded their arrests, but civil liberties groups condemned them as an affront to First Amendment rights.
Police said the students, Jarred Karal and Ryan Mucaj, uttered the racial slur several times while walking through the parking lot of a campus apartment complex and were recorded by a black student.
It seems that Connecticut has a law on the books that’s been in place since 1917 making it illegal for anyone who “ridicules or holds up to contempt any person or class of persons, on account of the creed, religion, color, denomination, nationality or race of such person or class of persons.” And even though it’s a misdemeanor, the penalty can include a fine and up to thirty days in jail.
Here’s the kicker. Unlike some other dusty old laws that most people have forgotten about, the Connecticut law has actually been used in modern times. According to NBC News, 40 people have been charged under this law just since 2012. Ten were convicted and one of them was actually sent to jail.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. This law is flatly unconstitutional so the men who did this should be able to challenge it and have their convictions tossed, along with getting the law off the books, right? I mean, even the ACLU is arguing against this law on free speech grounds. And the state legislature is already conducting a review to see if it should be repealed.
But will it be? And would the law really fail a constitutional challenge? Up until the past couple of years, I’d have said that was definitely the case. But now stop and consider the case of the Worst Girlfriend Ever. (There are actually two of those cases now.) As you may recall, she was charged with manslaughter for endlessly texting and calling her boyfriend, urging him to take his own life, which he eventually did. But her entire involvement in his suicide consisted of calls and texts. She was sent to prison for nearly a year for saying things. And the Supreme Court refused to hear her appeal.
So we live in an era where Americans can be locked up for talking. And if that precedent is set in stone, why can’t the states claim that people are “causing harm” by saying hateful things? Don’t get me wrong. The students in question are idiots at a minimum and fully deserving of the scorn they’ve received. They claim they were just “playing a game” that involved saying offensive things, but if your idea of a game involves hurling the N-word around, you’ll be lucky if scorn is all you receive. And yet it’s still just speech, hateful though it may be.
This is the era of wokeness where college students constantly say they feel “unsafe” if people say things that make them uncomfortable. If the courts can be convinced that such speech constitutes an actual “harm” to them, the floodgates will be wide open. Free speech is gutted and that’s the game, set and match.