Freedom of Speech in Today’s America


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Protest over freedom of speech at UC Berkeley

Freedom of speech. What is it? Freedom of speech can be defined in many ways, but the web definition is “the right to express any opinions without censorship or restraint.” Is that true? Are people really allowed to say whatever they want whenever they want without fear of persecution? To many people, this definition might only be partially correct.

I did some interviews to get a clue of what people think freedom of speech is and if they think there is really freedom of speech here in the United States. My first interviewee was a 9th grade freshman boy here at Obama named Jehlani Alston. I first asked him the question, “What is freedom of speech to you?” His response was, “being able to say what you want.” Jehlani’s response to my second question of “Do you believe there is really freedom of speech here in the United States?” was, “I do not believe freedom of speech is real here in America because of all the injustices the cops do to black people.”

My second interviewee was Talia, a 9th grade freshman girl here at Obama. I asked the same question, “What is freedom of speech to you?” to her and her response was, “having the right to speak your mind.” The second question was also the same: “Do you believe there is really freedom of speech here in the United States?” Her response was, “No, because when people try to voice their opinion they get shut down.” I asked four more people and their responses were all basically that freedom of speech is about expressing yourself in a non-threatening way and that yes, there is freedom here in America compared to other places around the world, but there’s still some restrictions when it comes to freedom of speech here in America.

The First Amendment says “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of any 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.” In words we can understand that means that as Americans we have the right to speak our minds, protest our opinions of injustices and praise our respectable beliefs freely. If that is so, then why does President Trump attack the NFL leagues for exercising their first amendment right? Why does he get to fire people for their opinions and beliefs? In the article “Do Trump’s NFL Attacks Violate the First Amendment?” written by the journalist Robert Post from the Politico newspaper on September 29, 2017, I found an example of Trump firing someone for their opinion: “A recent example is his call for the firing of ESPN anchor Jemele Hill, who had the temerity to call Trump out as a ‘white supremacist’ and a ‘bigot’.” The article said that technically Trump hasn’t violated the first amendment, but that is simply not true. You can’t just attack people because you look at life through a different lens – at least to many people.

Freedom of speech, the right to expression through protest, music, art and so much more. Freedom of speech, the thing we need to express throughout the world.