Punishing speech may be causing the problem 

Opinion section
Valley News - Opinion

Maybe prohibiting or otherwise punishing what is considered hate speech is causing the problem of prejudice rather than solving it. Restricting speech forces people to suppress their prejudice rather than to address it and adjust for it. 

Under California law I cannot be penalized for my sexual preference, so I can openly admit that I like many brunette individuals in a non-sexual capacity but I would prefer that they were something else. I’ve worked for a brunette for more than 25 years, my brunette childhood friends I’ve known since before I had hormones are exempt from my aesthetic standards, and I have other brunette friends, but if there’s a blonde I don’t know and a brunette I don’t know it’s obvious which one receives the majority of my attention. 

Several years ago, I was chastised for not being up to date on the latest Angelina Jolie news. My response was: “Even among brunettes I like Denise Richards better.” The rationale behind my words “even among brunettes” was that if I had compared Angelina Jolie to Gwyneth Paltrow or Charlize Theron, it would have been comparing a brunette to a blonde. However, I said this to a natural brunette who had recently forsaken the blonde hair dye, and after a short inquisition about whether I had the hots for Denise Richards she asked whether she should go back to dying her hair blonde. I knew what I had done; if my past actions hadn’t convinced her that I consider brunettes aesthetically inferior to redheads and blondes my comment did. 

In the ensuing weeks I pondered whether all brunettes were aesthetically inferior to redheads and blondes. I compared Angelina Jolie to my favorite television brunettes: specifically, Mary Ann from Gilligan’s Island and Daisy from the Dukes of Hazard. Mary Ann and Daisy can both hold their own aesthetically against redheads and blondes. The comparison also indicated a difference. Angelina Jolie is philanthropic. Mary Ann and Daisy are down to earth. This showed me a quality which could make brunettes as valued as redheads or blondes. 

Avoiding brunettes when sober can be attributed to cultural influences. My ability to keep my hands off brunettes when I’m drunk would indicate a negative experience which left an impact on my subconscious. The brunettes at the bar didn’t cause that, and they don’t deserve to be treated like second-class citizens. One night when there were no redheads or blondes at a no-food bar I figured I could pull my economic weight and go over my alcohol limit. I explained the situation to the brunettes, told them it wasn’t their fault they’re brunettes, apologized for keeping my hands off them and promised to hit on them when I was sober. One of the brunettes said I didn’t have to do that because she had a boyfriend. The other two brunettes accepted a kiss on the cheek the next time I saw them. 

Afterward I realized that the brunettes at the bar aren’t the problem; they only look like brunettes. The brunettes at a rodeo aren’t a problem. The brunettes at the auto races aren’t a problem. My ability to be open about this allows me to identify the problem and thus give full respect and non-sexual love to the brunettes who aren’t the source of the problem. 

The best way to address prejudice isn’t to suppress discussion. The best solution for prejudice is to create situations where the underlying source of the lack of preference as a group can be addressed openly so that those who are not responsible for the situation can be exempted. 

Joe Naiman can be reached by email at jnaiman@reedermedia.com.