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K-Sue Park, "Imagining Free Speech for All"


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K-Sue Park, "Imagining Free Speech and Freedom of Expression for All"

What would it look like if racial and sexual minorities could express themselves freely in America? If everyone could speak freely about their views without fear of the consequences?

The historical and present reality is that free speech and expression all too often carry serious, even fatal consequences for members of many communities in this country. These “rights,” which Justice Cardozo called “the matrix, the indispensable condition, of nearly every other form of freedom,” are suppressed for many people in ways that implicate almost every aspect of life, and every kind of institution that a person encounters in the course of everyday living. In their own neighborhoods, minority individuals must curb their own expression and speech in order to avoid violence, both by private individuals and institutional actors like the police. People must work to escape the material negative consequences of being who they are by censoring their speech and expression at school, at work, as they encounter healthcare providers or receive other services, and even in their intimate relationships. These forms of silencing and censorship are exaggerated arenas more traditionally understood as political—in contexts of political protest and elections, for example—and may be most exacerbated in carceral institutional settings.

What does it look like to fight for free speech and expression for all? What can lawyers do? First, it is impossible to realize this ideal without taking stock of the full spectrum of challenges to it. This endeavor includes recognizing the gap between the substantive right and the legal protections that the First Amendment can and does afford. This talk attempts to initiate an honest and full appraisal of the broader patterns of regulation and enforcement, as well as lack thereof, that distribute freedom and speech and expression to different groups of people. Finally, it asks what becomes of our notion of free speech and freedom of expression if we refuse to recognize the ways it is not, and has never been an entitlement of all.

K-Sue Park is a Critical Race Studies Fellow at UCLA School of Law for 2017-2019. She was previously a Fellow at Equal Justice Works from 2015-2017.

Park earned her B.A. summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa honors from Cornell University, her M.Phil with Distinction from University of Cambridge, her J.D. cum laude from Harvard Law School., and her Ph.D. from UC Berkeley. Her publications have appeared or is forthcoming in The History of the Present, Law and Social Inquiry, and Law & Society Review.

Part of the free speech series.