The use of language as an assault to abuse and discriminate people of a minority group because of their race, ethnicity, or any other issue of identity is a criminal act against them aimed to provoke them to violence. It is targeted to intimidate them to fight back and rebel against the verbal attack in order to protect their minority and the issue of discrimination. A hate speech comprising of particular words and phrases connote insult and cause psychological harm. Such a hate speech can lead to physical acts of violence culminating into domestic arson and riots in society. Intercultural society of today demands tolerance of all humans as discrimination of any kind is detrimental to its growth.
Is Hate Speech a Criminal Action Intended For Verbal Harm Against a Minority?
The 21 century world is a multitude of international and intercultural collage of people in society. Every individual and group faces a challenge to protect its identity on the basis of race, color, caste, class, religion, ethnicity, gender, sexuality or any other social issue. Language is a strong medium of sexuality. It is capable of inspiring peace but can also be used in the form of ‘hate speech’ as a criminal action intended for verbal harm to intimidate violence in society against a few who are different than the rest in a face to face situation of a plural society.
A hate speech is best described as “assault speech, about words that are used as weapons to ambush, terrorize, wound, humiliate, and degrade…”(Matsuda, 1993). Words that wound psychologically and abuse identity of individuals provoke physical harm can lead to arson and social violence disrupting peace and harmony of a global society. Negative emotions inflict irreparable damage and words can be especially used to target sensitive issues of a minority.
“There has been a tendency for research of language and sexual identity to concentrate on minority identities” (Cameron, Kulick, 2003). Most often it is a few that are targeted in verbal attacks and the aim is to pinpoint issues of negative traits in such people that provoke violence. It is a criticism of the minority for a bias like color of the skin or physical appearance called race or even the beliefs and practice of his religion that is targeted in such unleashed speech. Words like ‘black, yellow, brown and white’ connote demarcation of boundaries namely African, Oriental, Asian, American and European people. Needless to mention that whites indicate superiority over the other colors. These words are aimed to perpetuate racism. They degrade feelings of nationality and debase origins of these individuals.
‘Nigger, Brownie, Slant eyes, Flat nosed, big nose’ are words that discriminate against different races of the world. “You …..India Man” is aimed at Nationality of a group belonging to the Continent of India and “You Black Bitch” is aimed to divide race, color and gender too. They are but bias against a particular society which is a minority in the given social scenario. They divide people and inflate distinctions based on superficial looks of that particular group of individuals in society. Such words are derogatory as they abuse natural features and genetic traits of that origin. These words are targeted to establish supremacy over some others. Universal law offers equality to all humans but a few proclaim self superiority over the others. Hate words trigger off social divide and construct minorities who are not accepted by the majority. Their cultural backgrounds are denied to them and their beliefs, customs, traditions and native language is the butt of social injustice. Some phrases provoking racism Written by Amoja Three Rivers: from the book Cultural Etiquette are,
Racism doesn’t exist is RACISM. Go back to where you came from is RACISM.
You people are taking over is RACISM, You people are so exotic is RACISM.
Where are you from is RACISM, I don’t think of you as “of color” is RACISM.
You’re being oversensitive is RACISM, You people are just looking for it is RACISM, You people are dirty is RACISM, You should be more grateful is RACISM, You’re such a quaint little people is RACISM, You’re taking our jobs away is RACISM, Do you swing from trees is RACISM, You people are good at Math is RACISM, You people have natural rhythm is RACISM, If I get a tan I’ll be “of color” is RACISM. These verbal attacks are aimed to differentiate traits of some from the others only for a negative purpose so as to threaten them or to damage their self esteem or even to force them out of the country. The defamatory language is none the less an outbreak of frustrations and insecurity of the attacker but it is effective to destroy human camaraderie needed for a modern day society. Such words of hatred destroy all means of co existence essential for a global world.
The individuals who are victims of hate words and phrases are challenged to fight back against their will. Hate speech is a manipulated psychological warfare with the use of language and word as tools. The gestures that accompany these words are aimed to intimidate reactions of destruction and violence. “Everything we do is a form of communication” (Stanton, 2004). Even eye contact with a particular gesture can instigate hatred. In Words that wound: Critical Race Theory….Lawrence, Matsude assert that words are used as” weapons to ambush, terrorize, wound, humiliate and degrade and that there has been an alarming rise in the incidence of assault speech” (1993). “The National Institute against prejudice and violence in its 1990 report on campus ethno violence found 65-70% of the Nations minority students reported some form of ethno violence, harassment and victimization” ( Lawrence, Matsude, 1993). The effect of hate speeches is detrimental to the growth of a multicultural and pluralistic society.
Anthropologist emphasizes an individual’s need for an identity as one of the root causes of verbal attacks. “This identity talk in the public sphere is culturally constructed through inter actional routines and can exacerbate or mitigate tensions between identity claims (Lichterman, 1999).
In A thorn by any other name: sexist discourse as hate speech, Donna asserts “Scholarship on hate speech usually addresses racist and ethnicist discourses, and less often homophobic discourses” (2007). However The forum for modern language studies remarks “The field of language and sexuality has gained importance within socioculturally oriented linguistic scholarship” stating “current work in this area emphasizes identity as one key aspect of sexuality” (2003). Asserting the challenges facing researchers in this field, sensitivity of research and the need to change attitudes, their practical consequence on the issues of social divide in the present social scenario “Sociolinguistic (and some applied linguistic) research dealing with questions of gender and sexuality has undergone significant change in the past 10–15 years, as a paradigm concerned with the diversity of gendered and sexual identities and practices” (Cameron, Kulick, 2003).
Dissolving boundaries, global networking, international travel, trade, tourism, technology and immigration has challenged the basic identity of every individual in the current society. Language and sexuality have a strong connection. Words and phrases are keys of communication. Hate speech is an explicit act of criminal offense intended to verbally harm or intimidate people because of their race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, or belonging to another minority. It divides and discriminates between social issues and minorities. It is a definite detriment to the prosperity of an individual and also to the existence of all citizens in the global world.
Access and Diversity: Race and Ethnicity. Source: Strategic Framework for Action, British Columbia Multicultural Advisory Council (PDF file). Retrieved June 17, 2009 from http://www.students.ubc.ca/access/race.cfm?page=glossary
Cameron, D., Kulick, D. (2003). Language and Sexuality. Cambridge University Press: UK.
Donna, L. (2007). A Thorn by any other Name: Sexist Discourse As Hate Speech. Discourse & Society, Vol. 18, No. 6, 719-740, DOI: 10.1177/0957926507082193. East Caroline University. Retrieved June 17, 2009 from firstname.lastname@example.org
Lichterman. (1999). Identity Talk.
Matsuda, M. (1993). Words That Wound: Critical Race Theory, Assaultive Speech, And The First Amendment (New Perspectives on Law, Culture, and Society). Westview Press.
Stanton, N. (2004). Mastering Communication: Non Verbal Communication. London Palmgrove: Mac Millan.