i just want to say to such folks as george yancy (whose work, again, i have long admired and participated in) and jessica valenti: people have a right not to be threatened. but no one, not even a member of an oppressed group, has the right not to be insulted. there are no illegal words in contemporary english. also, once more: speech is not violence, under any circumstances. if you think it is, i will say once again, i don't think you have experienced actual violence.
the reasons people like that - and whole movements on college campuses, and the american philosophical association, and so on - want to lose that distinction is because they want state control of the media in order to impose an ideological agenda. that is much, much worse than the conditions it is designed to ameliorate. they just want to shut people people up so that they themselves are never exposed to anything not themselves; they want to live in an hallucination of unanimity, in a world where everyone is forced to pretend to agree.
if you think that would be a substantive blow against racism or sexism, you haven't been watching the last few decades, in which people learned to talk right, but the society continued right on with its structural inequalities. you are very, very confused about the relation of language to reality, and if you want to argue this out on that level, i am very ready. yapping does not construct reality. you know this very well, though people can all play 'let's pretend' together, using words. that's what you're demanding. a prison is not a paragraph nor a paragraph a prison; surely you don't actually need me to give arguments for that?
like hillary clinton raising wall street money, you advocate oppression and inequality (or as rogers says below, slavery) in order to mitigate oppression and inequality. that is the whole structure of this sort of leftism for a century and a half. i don't know how you thought your way to this, but you are the conditions you're supposedly attacking. people like valenti and yancy aspire to be oppressors, which admittedly is one of the traditional reactions to being oppressed. and within the institution from which i just emerged, they are achieving their purpose extremely effectively. ain't no liberation down this alley, though.
once more i'm giving you some actually american values, as expressed by nathaniel peabody rogers, who, let me say again, was an advocate of absolute equality of the races and sexes. jessica valenti would agree with all his positions, and try to shut him up anyway, i presume.
We speak of the "freedom" of it, and of "liberty of Speech," as though it were even to be claimed that the human voice should not be regulated at all times and under all circumstances, by the arbitrary caprice of tyrants. The human voice is free of course. It is as naturally and inalienably free of every power but the man's that utters it, as God is free, and language would hardly be marred more by the phrase freedom of God than by such expressions as Liberty of Speech. Who should think of regulating a man's speech but himself? What has he got it for, but to use at his discretion, and what has he discretion for, if not to govern himself with, in speech and thought? If a man has not discretion enough to govern his own utterance, how can he govern his neighbor's? How can any number of men, each and all incompetent to regulate themselves, regulate others? Those others meantime competent to regulate them, though incapable of bridling their own tongues - or rather of guiding them without bridle, as the Parthian manages his unreigned steed.
Human speech is sovereign. Nobody can govern it but the individual it belongs to. Nobody ought to think of it. Every body has his hands full with his own, which he can manage and ought to, and which he cannot innocently commit to the management of another. It can be done. Speech is good for nothing unless it be done. Men better be without tongues and organs and powers, than not use them sovereignly. If it be not safe to entrust self-government of speech to mankind, there had better not be any mankind. Slavery is worse than non-existence. A society involving it is worse than none. The earth had better go unpeopled than inhabited by vassals.