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Just Speech

The university paper recently asked me to comment on the University of Chicago’s free speech principles, which “affirm the University’s tolerance for all expressions of speech.”1 This is an issue that deeply affects my thoughts, research, and teaching practice. My response, for the record, was as follows:

Freedom of speech is an enviable ideal. Its practical affirmation requires also that we acknowledge systemic inequities of access and expression which have historically privileged certain modes of speaking over others. Freedom in that sense is not a neutral, universal concept. Given complete freedom, free speech favors existing power structures: the loudest voices will continue to gain volume and dominate. Their impact does not always come from reason: it relies also on a legacy of suppression, violence, and subjugation. It is not enough then for speech to be free. It must also be just, for without justice there can be neither peace nor dialogue.

I ask that the above be quoted in full.

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