Early this month Jane Wood Allen, a teacher’s aide at an elementary school located in Forsyth County, GA, was fired after posting derogatory comments on her social media page directed at Michelle Obama.
After comparing the First Lady to a gorilla, Allen was fired on the basis of the untolerated acts of racism and discrimination in the school district. Spokeswoman for the district, Jennifer Caracciolo released a statement: “We are committed to ongoing staff training on the acceptance of all individuals,” after revealing the reason behind the firing of the teacher’s aide.
According to the American Bar Association, hate speech is defined as speech that offends, threatens, or insults groups based on race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, disability or other traits.
This violent form of communication has been a global conflict for centuries and has influenced interpersonal and societal relationships among humankind.
One form of hate speech practiced on a broad level is political racism. During the election of 2008, the supportive push behind Barack Obama, comprised of white, black, and latino voters, appeared to be the first significant step into a post-racial era. However, four years later the President and First Lady continued to face attacks from various communities in the form of racial slurs.
The current unconventional presidential campaign season has shown that racial bias continues to be a prevalent issue in America and may be on the rise.
Hate speech and political racism are normalized by opinion leaders. Misogyny, racism, homophobia, and rhetoric against Americans with disabilities are only a few of the acts exemplified by political candidates.
Moreover, the birther claims which challenge Obama’s birth certificate and suggest doubts about his birth place is a challenge that traces back to the 1806s with the questioning of black suffrage. Despite the civil rights movement, African-Americans are seldom elected for a leading role.
With immigration on the rise, this discrimination has expanded to target various immigrant races.
There is no doubt that hate speech acts performed by opinion leaders have negative implications on the overall society.
Beliefs are instilled within us at a young age and are developed from numerous sources. With the prevalence of media throughout our society, young children are vulnerable to every speech act presented by the media agenda.
Furthermore, the “birther” challenge expresses a deep unease with black citizen inclusion and leadership within the political sector, reinforcing racial bias throughout.
Increased violence and increased fear from society are further damaging effects of fighting words spoken by leaders. Thus, concerning our political leaders and other authoritative individuals, such as our teachers, the negative implications on our society of the hateful speech acts performed by leaders must be used to address the core problem – the communicative act itself.