By: Amaranthia Gittens-Jones, Guest Blogger
“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”
—Nelson Mandela (1918-2013) Former President of South Africa
Freedom is not so free. The right of freedom of speech doesn't imply you should always say what you wish to say, no matter the cost. First, you should examine the circumstances: Is it hurtful to those receiving your words? Is it significant or only diminishing? Are people going to truly listen and hear your perspective? If there is a repercussion, will it be worth it?
Racial discrimination is a pitiable excuse for freedom of speech. I've witnessed instances of prejudice since I turned 8. When I moved to my house 6 years ago, my Mom and I were walking to the local post office when suddenly people from a truck yelled the n-word at us. A Caucasian girl at school called me a monster because of my dread-locked hair. When I went to public school, I heard the n-word and other deprecating language used habitually against minorities on the bus. To me, these are examples of irresponsibility with words or reckless speech.
Here in the U.S, we have freedom of speech, but how often are our words raising uplifting points? Do they consistently bring positivity into the world? The justification I often hear whenever mortifying words are used are along the lines of, "I have freedom of speech and I can say whatever I want." Hearing this and even seeing it online constantly is similar to a heaving, mass pulling you down. Unfortunately, people who use the above excuse will probably never listen to you or listen to themselves, to realize how nauseating or degrading their words are.
"Freedom" original art by Amaranthia Gittens-Jones
My Dad was called a "jungle bunny" and n-word from the other kids on his first day of kindergarten. No parent intervened. His mom complained to the school and accompanied my Dad on the bus for an extensive period of time. It is a story my Dad has told me for as long as I can remember. He still recalls it like it was yesterday. Those kids were free to say vile words, but it left a calcified scar in my dad's life. They will never know the significance of their words and I do not think they would care if they knew. Their freedom of speech became another person's burden to carry. My parents have taught me, from as long as I can remember, about the value and importance of holding myself accountable for my thoughts, words and deeds. Therefore, I strive to live a conscientious life while weighing the effect of my words and actions.
When you have the opportunity to utilize freedom of speech, use it wisely. Raise your voice to speak out against injustices. Promote awareness about the unfortunate while trying not to misuse your freedom to speak. Most importantly, use your words wisely and treat others the way you want them to treat you.
Let's Chat!: How can we be more conscientious and responsible about our power of speech?
Amaranthia Sepia Gittens-Jones is 15 years old. She aspires to be a Mangaka (manga artist) and graphic artist. In the future, her goal is to finish her graphic novel/fantasy novel ‘Whimsy’ by the end of high school and become a successful writer and artist. Follow me on Twitter @foxesandthings
To learn more about me visit my website 'Optimism Rocks':