Last Updated 31 Jan 2023

On the Racist Speech of Charles R. Lawrence Iii and the Role of the First Amendment in Discrimination

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Charles R. Lawrence III, the writer of the essay that I am about to analyze, is a law teacher at Georgetown University, and also an author of so many articles in law journals. He has accordingly been active in his use of the First Amendment rights since high school. When he was confronted with the issue of racist speech, he felt that it needed to be diminished by society as a unit, because discrimination does not just affect one person, but it also affects society. As a law teacher, he’s got a lot of knowledge on First Amendment and law in general and he uses it well in his argumentation when he tries to explain the issue in university campuses today.

Some of the most important examples that he used were the Brown vs. Board of Education case and the ‘fighting words’ exception in the First Amendment. What I think was the most important topic that he talked about in his essay, On Racist Speech, were the disagreements between the First Amendment and the university officials who try to fight against discrimination of minority people in the society and how the rule of freedom of speech cannot apply in all cases for the whole society to be fully satisfied.

In fact, Charles tries to imply to his readers that First Amendment should be adjusted in order for it to make sense and not violate anybody’s right of free speech, as well as protect the speech no matter how assaultive it gets because otherwise it causes the minority group to suffer from adversity and harassing speech.

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As we know, the First Amendment prevents the government from making new laws which would reduce anybody’s freedom of speech. As we also know, university officials create policies that punish people who encourage assaultive speech or behavior on a racial base. The writer said “If the purpose of the First Amendment is to foster the greatest amount of speech, racial insults disserve that purpose”, and later in the paragraph he added, “Racial insults are particularly undeserving of First Amendment protection because the perpetrator’s intention is not to discover the truth or initiate dialogue but to injure the victim.”

In these few lines, the writer tells us what he believes is the issue between the two sides based on what he has learned over the years of using the First Amendment. The two lines connect perfectly, because together they imply that even though some people might assault somebody else who belongs to a minority group in the society, you just cannot make a law that will shorten their freedom of speech. By making policies on university campuses against the perpetrators you reduce their freedom of free speech, which isn’t the right thing to do, according to the writer.

On the other side, it seems to us that the First Amendment has not been established very successfully because it kind of crosses paths with all the laws that are trying to eliminate the harassing speech and behavior. Charles argued, “The problem has been framed as one in which the liberty of free speech is in conflict with the elimination of racism. I believe this has placed the bigot on the moral high ground and fanned the rising flames of racism.” In other words, Charles is trying to tell us that the process of elimination of racism is hard to deal with because you have to respect each and everybody’s opinion and free speech. Therefore, he implies that the First Amendment seems to be working against the elimination of racist speech because maybe that is how the government wants it to be.

Last, but not least important issue with the First Amendment is that, according to Charles R. Lawrence III, is the ‘little’ exception that actually indicates a massive hole in the First Amendment, which said that speech done face-to-face to a random individual walking down the street was not protected by the First Amendment. Namely, the writer said “The Supreme Court has held that words which ‘by their very utterance inflict injury or tend to incite an immediate breach of the peace’ are not protected by the First Amendment.”

The writer indicated that he was not happy at all about the exception in the law, and was trying to imply another inconsistency that he found in the law and persuading his readers to share his opinion by using emotional appeal. Namely, he said “Above all, I am troubled that we have not listened to the real victims, that we have shown so little understanding of their injury, and that we have abandoned those whose race, gender, or sexual preference continues to make them second-class citizens.” The writer, not only here but on few more places throughout the essay, emphasizes his emotions about the victims of harassing behavior in the past.

For example, “But I also have a deeply felt apprehension about the resurgence of racial violence and the corresponding rise in the incidence of verbal and symbolic assault and harassment to which blacks and other traditionally subjugated and excluded groups are subjected. I am troubled by the way the debate has been framed in the response to recent surge of racist incidents on college and university campuses and in response to some universities’ attempts to regulate harassing speech”. In the last few lines, the writer pretty much explicitly said what he felt like during times of violence, using the emotional appeals in order to try to increase the awareness of his readers about how the amount of racist speech is increasing each and every day.

In his essay On Racist Speech by Charles R. Lawrence III, the writer was describing the inconsistencies of the First Amendment, and what changes should be made in the First Amendment and the law about discrimination of minority people in university campuses. To do that, he used mainly real life examples and assumption to back up his arguments. He also used explicit points and implicit assumptions that he developed by both logically and emotionally observing the situation. His main points were, firstly, that by making different policies at universities about racist speech, college officials are violating the First Amendment because they are reducing their freedom of speech.

Secondly, the First Amendment has got to be adjusted because it seems like it’s working against the elimination of racist speech, which could be because the government wants them to do. Lastly, the writer indicated the inconsistency of face-to-face conflicts on the streets and what part of the law is it missing, while also using emotional appeals to persuade them to his point of view.

This essay was written by a fellow student. You can use it as an example when writing your own essay or use it as a source, but you need cite it.

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On the Racist Speech of Charles R. Lawrence Iii and the Role of the First Amendment in Discrimination. (2023, Jan 18). Retrieved from

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