This letter originally ran in the Sunday edition of the Asheboro, NC Courier-Tribune. It was a response to an open call to local residents to answer the question, "What is free speech?"
The concept of free speech is inherently about the Government's relationship to its citizens. It is a mandate that the Government not interfere or prevent speech by individuals, no matter how hurtful or violent. In theory, the state allows freedom of speech to distance itself from tyranny and dictatorial authoritarianism, and to supposedly allow the free flow of ideas and political perspectives to battle it out in a democratic political realm.
However, the reality is that the state has picked winners and losers in that debate throughout all of American history. Easily verifiable examples include the COINTELPRO operation in the 60s, the assassinations of Black Panthers leaders and Malcolm X, and the Greensboro Massacre, wherein federal agents aware of planned violence by the Klan allowed anti-Klan protesters to be killed. With its long history of protecting hate groups like the Klan, free speech in America has been applied very subjectively. That said, "free speech" makes no argument or claims about discourse between citizens, or even non-state actors preventing other citizens from speaking in a certain manner. The 1st Amendment only determines the Government's obligation not to interfere with its citizens' right to speak out politically.
In the democratic realm of political discourse, ie the real world, all actions have equal reactions, and hate speech is often met with severe consequences and backlash from the community at large, including the disruption or cancellation of speakers and hate groups. This is not only completely legal for citizens to engage in, it is the most direct form of democracy- no person should make public statements that they haven't prepared for a response and consequences to. We are all accountable to each other, and part of maturity is understanding that if we don't think before we speak, we lose jobs, get punched, lose friends and dates, etc. That is not a violation of free speech, it's engaging in the real world as an adult.
With that in mind, we at Redneck Revolt don't much care to debate with folks about the merits of free speech because ultimately, we question the authority and legitimacy of any politician or government to represent us. We don't believe in the legitimacy of any decisions to allow or disallow speech that comes from the Government, because any state begins to limit free speech the second it starts to define what that means.
Rather, we believe that those matters have always been in the hands of the community itself. Folks should be working together to figure out how they will individually and collectively respond to the rhetoric and activities of hate groups, without concern for how the Government views the activity. Redneck Revolt never advocates for people to outsource their voice to any third party. Whether the Government allows their speech or not, Redneck Revolt is resolved that it will attempt to crush white nationalist organizing in our communities, in any form it takes. We refuse to outsource our convictions, and understand that we are engaged in a real power struggle with hateful ideologies.
Directly confronting the Klan, white nationalists, and fascists is something you do in defense of your own family and community, not something you ask someone else to do for you. We put the responsibility on the community to be accountable for what it allows. No more liberal guilt or ally political actors that wring their hands on the sidelines. That behavior only allows for vulnerable communities to be continuously victimized while waiting for policy reforms, the "good police," or a candidate that will set things right.
The reality is that people who want to fight for their neighbors, their family, and alongside targeted folks in their neighborhood actually need to learn to defend themselves and each other, and come together to meet one another's needs. There are many ways to do that: learning how to grow food and teaching others, sharing extra resources, looking after each other's children, networking to help families through hard times, and training each other on firearms for community defense- that is how you transform counterproductive liberal white guilt into actual solidarity. That is how you lay the ground work to stop white nationalists from having space to recruit in our neighborhoods. Forget the freedom of speech debate- take responsibility for how you personally will respond and don't wait for a mayor, or police chief, or city council member make that decision for you.