“Put the White Back in the White House”
At a political rally in Ohio in 2012, this highly offensive message was seen on the back of a t-shirt.* Some may ask how this guy can get away with this? Isn’t this racist? Doesn’t it exemplify discrimination at its worst? Can anything be done about this expression against a person of color as President of the United States?
As vile as this is, under the First Amendment, it is protected speech. The First Amendment reads:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
There are five freedoms included in the First Amendment which was passed in 1791. Over the past two centuries it has been the subject of numerous challenges in courts across the country. Each case is decided on its own merits, but the bottom line regarding free speech remains a distinction between protected and unprotected speech. Speech that harms another person or violates someone’s rights is unprotected speech. All other speech is protected even if offensive to many. The First Amendment was written with the purpose of providing protection for minority opinions and expression not the will of the majority.
So, Americans may express views held only by a few including parades by the Ku Klux Klan or Neo-Nazis, public burning of the American flag, or protests against homosexuality at funerals of American soldiers. These have all been tested in the courts and, under First Amendment principles, been upheld as protected speech.
*The Romney/Ryan campaign denounced the slogan as “reprehensible and has no place in this election”