The current discussion on changing the name of Forrest Hall and the controversy surrounding the Confederate flag are both crucial ones to be had. However, the arguments are primarily centered around the question, “is it right or wrong,” when we need to be asking about the rights of the people and organizations donning these flags/titles.
To start this conversation, we first have to realize we cannot ban things because they offend us.
In 1969, the Supreme Court set the precedent for this sort of issue in the landmark case of Brandenburg V. Ohio. The gist was this man, Clarence Brandenburg, was a leader of the KKK and he wanted to host a public rally. He clucked on about the suppression of the Caucasian race and said really hurtful things about other races. Brandenburg was then arrested for inciting violence, although it wasn’t something he’d actually done. In response, the Supreme Court reversed his conviction and clarified that while you can’t say “let’s go kill this guy,” you can say “I wish this guy was dead.” One incites danger, one is just messed up.
Similarly, we can’t ask rednecks to remove the Confederate flags just because we don’t like them. There are a thousand arguments for whether it is a symbol of racism or a symbol of history, but regardless, we all have the right to fly whatever flags we want. Also, as much as we believe that the confederate flag desensitized Dylann Roof to the idea of racism, it is just silly to suggest that this symbolism somehow drove him to kill those nine innocent people in Charleston.
People, even the bigoted ones, have the right to wear Rhodesian flags, Confederate flags, swastikas or whatever fits their fancy as a part of free expression. We can hate it all we want, but we can’t say free speech only applies to people saying things we agree with.
While I firmly believe that the First Amendment protects the people who want to fly flags I don’t support, I also know for a fact that the same amendment grants us the right to petition.
Don’t be disheartened by someone else’s rights, but rather use your own to better your community. Now I’m talking about Nathan Bedford Forrest Hall.
We, the students of MTSU, can petition our brains out. We’ve started amazing movements on Facebook and Twitter to gain hundreds of followers in just two days. From what I’ve seen, the census seems to be that we are against the current name, and fairly aggressively against it. So much so that President McPhee had to speak out to clarify the history and try to get the students to level with the administration.
When an authority speaks back, we’ve stirred change. That is what makes this a movement, not just a Facebook trend.
We are effectively the school’s market or constituency. In other words, they can’t ignore us. Therefore, if we vigorously ban together and reach out to our Student Government Association and our faculty, there will be no way around having a serious discussion about the name of Nathan Bedford Forrest Hall, and ultimately making change.
While we can’t suppress other citizens’ rights, we can use ours to make the authorities understand and aid in our cause.
We cannot ask people not to share what we believe to be wrong, we can share what we believe to be right to drown out that with which we disagree. Understand your rights to free expression, but make sure to respect the rights of those opposed to you as well.
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