I read Amara McCune’s piece “A Modern Censorship” and feel the need to remind folks that there is a difference between censorship and the practice of civility and social conscience.
Ms. McCune feels “the label of anti-Semitism puts an automatic stopper on all debate” and that Gabriel Knight’s blunders should be discussed, rather than condemned, in the interest of learning historical lessons. Would she feel similarly if racist comments, albeit made inadvertently and out of ignorance rather than malice, were made about African-Americans or Muslims? For example, there was a time in the not too distant past when racist theories about the intellectual inferiority of blacks were taken seriously. Imagine the outcry — the very understandable outcry — if anyone were to suggest that such theories should be open for discussion.
Ms. McCune is right to suggest that discussion, rather than condemnation, opens the door to learning why the perpetuation of particular stereotypes is so offensive. But some of those stereotypes cut so deep, open so many wounds, and have caused so much destruction and pain that they cross a line that should never be crossed — and no reasonable person can be expected to tolerate hearing them.
Ms. McCune laudably asks herself, “Would I have a different take on this issue if I weren’t white?” as a way of expanding her thinking. She might also ask herself, “How would I feel about this issue if I were Jewish?” How would I feel if I came from a people who, for thousands of years, have been the targets of hatred because of the myth that they control the banks, the media, and the world? If the myth that has been used to justify repeatedly oppressing, terrorizing, stigmatizing, slaughtering, imprisoning, and scapegoating my ancestors were to surface once again?
We are all free to engage in hateful speech but we run the risk of destroying each other in the process.
— Malka Weitman