For those of you who are unfamiliar….
The 1st amendment to the constitution states “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances (Legal Information Institute,2018).
Most people summarize this entire clause spewing “Freedom of Speech”. Is there a true freedom of speech? I think not! Nothing in this clause says that you can say whatever you want, where ever you want, whenever you want. It just reassures that no laws will be passed through congress that hinders religion, freedom of speech or press, peaceful assembly, or to petition the government for injustices.
Now that we are all acquainted with the ambiguous words used in Amendment 1 of the U.S. constitution…….lets get real. As a young, black, outspoken, educated woman……..I know I am seen as a serious threat to misrepresentations of justice. Rightfully so….. I am the biggest skeptic when it comes to words. I put my stock in the actions behind the expressions.
There have been so many times throughout my life that I have been coached about what not to say around a certain audience. Infuriated by reprimands of speaking truth, I would reluctantly sit and listen to slurs of information embedded with deception. I often wondered why I had to silence my passion when there was no suggestion of disrespect or deceit. Of course, I rebelled against the “sit and nod” notion and quickly found myself in a world that I was now perceived a threat to the ignorance.
I would hear people say, “Freedom of Speech” and repeated it as knowledge and not as hear say. This is a decision I despise, but I can appreciate that it made me gain the knowledge necessary to speak truth. After being schooled by one of my mentors, I read the Constitution in its entirety. All those rights, I thought were protected quickly became undefended as I focused on each word of this document.
I just wanted to be heard without the label of “menace to society”. I remember my mentor teacher telling me not to speak out against anything if I wanted longevity in education. This almost made me want to reconsider my career choice. I chose education to become an advocate for the apparent educational injustices. I was temporarily disarmed, but I found my way.
Blackballed, banned, blacklisted, ostracized, snubbed…. whichever term you chose, your words can easily land you in a position where you are wearing one of them on your shoulders. It is unfortunate, but this is our reality. Many of us work for corporations, businesses, or for the state/federal government. There is a very real chance that what you say could cause self-sabotage that will follow you your entire career.
ADVOCACY!!!!!!!! I have the right to speak out against injustice….Nope
I am an advocate. I will speak out and take action against any injustice that I face……I just have developed a type of system that keeps me accountable, but safe. I am always aware of my audience and what is at stake. I must consider the personalities and the hierarchy that is present or will later hear of my statements. Why should this matter if you are only giving justified opinions or stating facts? It shouldn’t, but it unquestionably does.
In brief, freedom of speech depends on your social status, race, sex, and audience. I will never accept this and will continue to advocate for myself and others that do not have a voice. Since the 1st amendment or any other part of the constitution will not protect me, I will protect myself with wise decisions. Even though listening to ignorance quietly, doesn’t seem productive…it is. You get the chance to hear the inaccuracies that will help you in your plight to right the wrong. Remember to always stay humble and speak your truth.
The Melanin Educator