Tag Archives: freedom of speech

Infringing on my First Amendment rights or are you? It’s complicated

While it is true that most employees in this country are at will and thus can be dismissed by an employer for any reason and without warning. It is a slippery slope when an employer begins to control an employee’s right to free speech on said employees free time. Case in point ESPN suspending Jemele Hill for her recent tweet pertaining to the anthem “protest” which she did on her own time and own twitter account. Is ESPN infringing on Ms. Hill’s first amendment rights? Do they have the right to control her speech if she is not doing it on their airwaves? And if we were to say they have no right to suspend her then are we also ready to defend the racist who gets fired after tweeting the N word on their own time and account. See not so simple but it still is a slippery slope as it pertains to the first amendment or is it.  The part of the First Amendment that pertains to freedom of speech came about due to the past practices of the King of England, who would imprison or otherwise punish political dissenters. Our founders realized a cornerstone of freedom was the ability to speak freely and without fear of the government penalizing them.  The key word in that explanation is government.  The amendment guarantees the government would not prohibit or penalize any individual for speaking freely. it does not say a business can not make its own rules as it pertains to its employees and their speech’s impact on that business.  So in theory ESPN and for that matter NFL owners have the right to expect their employees will adhere to rules about what they can and can not say in public if they believe it reflects badly on the business’ bottom line   Whoa! That sounds like if you choose to work for a company you basically forfeit your right to speak freely if the company doesn’t agree with your viewpoint.  Yep that exactly what I believe it means.  Complicated?  Yes like most issues in America  it’s complicated.  All we can really do is ensure that employers don’t abuse this by hitting those who do in the pocketbook through boycotts and other type of peaceful actions that have negative financial impacts to their companies and brands.   Because no matter how you interprete the First Amendment if you allow employers to go unchecked in their attempt to thwart progress by looking to silence rather than engage in meaningful conversation the voices of dissent change will never happen. Because only when the masses rise up and in one voice demand change will change take place.

Silence does not equal Patriotism

Love it or leave it. So has gone the refrain from many in response to San Francisco Quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s silent protest of sitting for the National Anthem. Kaepernick has stated that “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.” Kapernick isn’t the first and he won’t be the last high profile athlete of color to speak out against the treatment of people of color in America and while you can choose to agree or disagree with the matter in which he chooses to protest you cannot voice displeasure with his right to protest and simultaneously say you stand for the principles on which this country was built.

“If men are to be precluded from offering their sentiments on a matter, which may involve the most serious and alarming consequences that can invite the consideration of mankind, reason is of no use to us; the freedom of speech may be taken away, and dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep, to the slaughter.”— George Washington, first U.S. president

The crux of the public outcry over Kaepernick’s protest centers around his patriotism and as an extension the patriotism of those who support him, especially those in the African-American community. Lost in the uproar of Kaepernick’s decision to sit for the National Anthem are the very real concerns that triggered his decision in the first place, central among them police brutality. Anyone that has read my blog knows that I have the upmost respect for law enforcement and the job they perform every day. You also know that I recognize that the police department is an institution like any other and is therefore susceptible to have with-in its ranks a few bad apples. Regrettably we have seen that the abuses of those bad apples disproportionately impact communities of color. To remain silent or to condemn those who speak out on these issues neither shows bravery nor can be seen as a sign of support to the police departments across the country as silence only emboldens the few evildoers and devalues the good accomplished by the many. In the case of police brutality those among us who do speak up do not do so to see police departments across America dismantled or police officers targeted. Rather it is because we believe that the institution of policing is one that is better than to allow itself to be sullied by those who do not deserve to wear the uniform and when those who abuse their power are allowed to continue that abuse because of the silence of the masses we become despondent at the system in general.

“The notion that a radical is one who hates his country is naïve and usually idiotic. He is, more likely, one who likes his country more than the rest of us, and is thus more disturbed than the rest of us when he sees it debauched. He is not a bad citizen turning to crime; he is a good citizen driven to despair.”
― H.L. Mencken

Now there are those of you who will say – Ok I hear you but sitting for the Anthem? Dishonoring the flag? There has to be a better way to get your point across? To me no matter how you slice it Kaepernick’s actions and those who support those actions are unpatriotic? Maybe one could see it that way until you recognize that the African-American experience in this country is a unique one and patriotism is part of that unique experience. We did not leave our homeland seeking a better life for ourselves and our families rather we were taken forcibly from our home and brought to this “new world” in chains landing on the shores of Jamestown in 1619 as slaves and remaining as such for 246 years until 1865. During that period our history, our language, our culture, our very identity were all stripped from us. Today we cannot look to a specific country and call it home rather we can only look to the African continent as a whole and wonder who and what we once were. With our culture robbed from us we forged a new culture, a new identity here in America. Everything the African American is today is born of this country. One could say more than any other group, save the American Indian, America is OUR country and time and time again we have shown that by putting our lives on the line to defend her. In fact we are the only people to fight for the right to put our lives on the line in defense of this country.

When we were slaves, when our men were beaten, our women raped, and our families ripped apart and sold off as property we fought for this country’s independence.

When we were freed from the bonds of slavery but still denied basic fundamental rights supposedly guaranteed to all men in this country such as education and the right to vote we fought for this country.

When were held down by the institution of Jim Crow and terrorized by groups like the Ku Klux Klan we fought for this country.

We fought and we did so with one simple belief, that despite all we have endured this country, OUR country, would one day live up to its promise, live up to the words on which it was based – that all men are created equal.

“I love America more than any other country in the world and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.” – James Baldwin

The subjects of racism, discrimination, police brutality, etc. may make some uncomfortable. Some may want to quietly turn a blind eye to them. But there will always be the brave who rather than standing for the status quo will use the freedom of speech afforded to them in this country to push America to live up to her promise to treat all men and women as equals. It is after all the patriotic thing to do.