One of the most cherished rights guaranteed by the Constitution is freedom of speech. Like most rights, however, freedom of speech implies a great deal of responsibility for the speaker.
The question often becomes not whether one can speak, but whether one should speak.
Jokes that mock a person’s race or ethnic group, disability, religion, gender, or sexual orientation are hurtful and in poor taste. Such discriminatory speech is especially offensive when it comes from members of political organizations who wish their party’s candidates to become our leaders.
Posting discriminatory speech online or on social media is not only cruel, it is foolish. The public can readily access social media and learn what an individual has posted. Such postings have in the past cost some candidates the elections; other postings have caused embarrassment to the political party.
A recent racist email from a husband and wife actively involved in a local political party’s leadership may not reflect the views of all members of that party, but the email has irreparably damaged the party’s reputation. It behooves people in public positions to consider the effect of what they post, lest they harm the very cause they are trying to support.
Rhonda Chalfant, Ph.D.
President, Sedalia/Pettis County Branch, NAACP