Analyzing Lawrence Essay

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Analyzing Lawrence’s “On Racist Speech” Morgan Marais Charles R. Lawrence’s “On Racist Speech” captures his reader’s attention by first making a connection between racist speech and a resurgence of racial violence. His thesis, found in the second paragraph of his argument, is his concern for the way universities are attempting to “regulate harassing speech” (81). Background knowledge for what fuels his argument is important to understand Lawrence’s purpose. Just a short time before Lawrence published “On Racist Speech”, universities throughout the U.S. were battling with the idea that campus’s needed to enforce speech codes. Speech codes sought to end hate speech by saying that violent speech against minorities should not be protected under the First Amendment because that kind of racial speech prevents minorities from exercising their First Amendment rights. Most of the codes could never be enforced because they were either too broad or too vague and overall they never held up in court. Lawrence’s essay came shortly after incidents of racial speech were occurring on campuses and he is intent on letting the reader know how much it “troubles” him. It seems along with conveying his opinions about the subject, Lawrence also wants to find ways to push his audience to be proactive to regulate and eliminate racial speech. Although Lawrence does make his point that racial speech can be hurtful and can even provoke violence, he lacks in convincing the reader that there is any legitimate way to regulate it. With the way Lawrence presents himself, it is difficult to see passed his obvious personal feelings on the matter. He speaks often of his concern for the victims and not enough about how racial speech could successfully regulated. I think Lawrence is also more emotionally focused on getting the reader to “acknowledge that there is real harm inflicted by

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