Is Racial Insensitivity a Crime?

Posted on April 13, 2010

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There’s no question that getting on a store’s PA system and asking all black people to leave the store is stupid and wrong. However, is it illegal? That’s the question I want to ask as we hear about another incident involving a PA system hijacking, this time at a Whole Foods in New Jersey.

For the second time in less than a month, a New Jersey teenager has been arrested for allegedly making a racist announcement over a store’s public address system.

A 14-year-old girl reportedly grabbed the microphone at the store’s courtesy desk and said, “All blacks leave the store.”

A store employee immediately called the police, according to the Record, and the girl and a 14-year-old boy who was with her were taken into custody moments later.

The girl is reportedly charged with bias intimidation and harassment.

The store has every right to ask them to leave. They have every right to threaten to arrest them for trespassing if they return. But should they be arrested for saying something stupid? Our 1st amendment freedom of  speech has been interpreted so broadly that it even protects pornography. It certainly protects unpopular political and religious ideas and other opinions. Why then would it not protect these morons?

Let me ask you this: isn’t it a dangerous path to go down when people can be arrested for saying “mean” things to a group of people? This is a double edged sword. Do we arrest left wing groups which say hateful things about the right? Do we arrest right wing groups which say hateful things about the left? Why aren’t the Black Panthers being arrested for mere speech about white people?

It remains unclear to me why these young people pulling stupid pranks are being singled out for what is clearly unconstitutional restriction of freedom of speech.

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