Scores of students and staff members are up in arms over the Berkeley College Republicans’ Diversity Bake Sale, which sells baked goods at different prices based on the customer’s demographic. Yes, its message is blatant and offensive, but it is also a legal expression of free speech. Speech, even hate speech, is protected as long as it falls outside the sphere of “fighting words” to incite violence. It’s safe to say a bake sale does not intend to do so.
Students have the freedom to make whatever kind of speech they want, offensive or inoffensive, as long as it does not invoke violence. The issue is whether or not BCR should continue to receive funding from ASUC, which is a legitimate discussion to be had. The BCR’s ability to receive financial support from ASUC is on trial, not students’ individual abilities to freedom of speech. If we wanted to wage an all-out war on hate speech, why don’t we pursue whoever draws all the swastikas and scribbles all the racist/sexist/homophobic speech all over our university?
If the university is going to pursue the route of eliminating hate speech altogether, it must do so comprehensively, not just make an example of the BCR and leave it at that. If, however, it follows legal precedent and allow such speech to continue, we must stop demonizing every utterance of speech that offends us. If we at UC Berkeley truly value our right to freedom of speech, we must embrace that in any manifestation thereof, including what former Supreme Court Justice Holmes coined as “Freedom for the thought we hate.”