Lariat Letter: ‘Civil discourse’ cannot encompass hate speech

By Timothy S. Morizot | Parent of alumni

I am the parent of two Baylor alums. I do not speak for them, but I have supported Baylor, and after more than a decade involved through two of my children in various programs, I feel a degree of investment in the university. I read with dismay the article on the public, transphobic comments by a guest lecturer and the affirmation by the chair of the English department in writing that she will be invited back in the future.

And those comments were not “controversial;” they were transphobic. They were public hate speech. Had I seen them on twitter, I would have reported them as such. From the United Nations strategy and plan of action on hate speech:

“There is no international legal definition of hate speech, and the characterization of what is ‘hateful’ is controversial and disputed. In the context of this document, the term hate speech is understood as any kind of communication in speech, writing or behaviour, that attacks or uses pejorative or discriminatory language with reference to a person or a group on the basis of who they are, in other words, based on their religion, ethnicity, nationality, race, colour, descent, gender or other identity factor. This is often rooted in, and generates intolerance and hatred and, in certain contexts, can be demeaning and divisive.”

Gender identity, of course, goes well beyond trans women, though somehow they are often the only ones targeted by this sort of hate speech. Referencing trans women as “biological boys” is publicly demeaning and divisive, rooted in and generating intolerance and hatred. It also misrepresents science and biology. Trans women are already the target of enormous violence. Public comments like those made by the guest lecturer promote and sustain that culture of intolerance, hatred and ultimately violence.

I filed my own report with the Office of the President and the Title IX office. I am deeply disappointed by the comments of the Provost. If Baylor plans to be an institution that supports hate speech under the false flag of “free speech,” I will be certain to note that in every future public discussion of the institution I have. I hope other students, alumni and parents join in public agreement, though I’m certain many will not.

As Karl Popper wrote in 1945:

“Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance. If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them.”

An educator is granted a position of trust. Hate speech violates that trust and cannot be tolerated, or it will be normalized. A supposedly Christian institution acting to tolerate and support public hate speech demonstrates the truth in Popper’s words. Love, of course, should be the Christian standard, but where love is apparently impossible, tolerance is its weaker cousin.