Freedom of Speech and Diversity

15 Jan

In the wake of the events in Paris, I’m thinking about freedom of speech.

I’m not a cartoonist or a journalist.
But what I do know is that it is a lot easier to make fun of, criticize, demean, or negatively highlight something or someone when they are “not like me”.

It’s easier to point fingers, to think of something as “odd”, “weird”, “unfair” or even “funny” when one doesn’t have the inside perspective, understanding or context.
That is why gay jokes are still heard in the workplace and at school, and the attempted suicide rates for transgender youth are even higher than their lesbian, gay and bisexual peers. As two examples.

With this in mind, who are we talking about, pointing fingers at, or ridiculing the most? It’s definitely not the “dominant” group in society. That is where the privilege and power lie, and those things afford some protection from public ridicule, scrutiny and attempts at humour at one’s expense. No one is telling straight white able bodied male jokes at the office. For example.

I think that freedom of speech brings with it a responsibility to examine (or at least be willing to) what we don’t know about a situation, belief, culture, or person and consider the impact that our often uninformed and always biased words and opinions have on others.

Maybe if we did that, the world would be a safer and kinder place.

See more.

copyright 2015 Annemarie Shrouder
Speaker and facilitator on issues of Diversity and Inclusion.


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