#jesuischarlie: Nobody Cares About Free Speech, Only White Privilege
In the aftermath of the shooting on January 7th 2015 at the offices of “satirical” newspaper Charlie Hebdo in Paris (if you haven’t heard about this yet, read about it here), people from around the world have been proclaiming their support for Charlie Hebdo staff’s right to free speech, flooding twitter, tumblr, and instagram with the hashtag “#jesuischarlie.”
While murder is awful under any circumstance, the blind support Charlie Hebdo has received is disturbing because it is given without nuance or reflection. In the usual fashion of anything involving Muslim crime, people have instantly turned this tragedy into a black-and-white issue, pitting supporters of free speech on one side and Muslims and "social justice warriors" on the other, without realizing that this adversarial view stems directly from their islamophobia and xenophobia.
This situation is far too complicated for binaristic interpretation; the issue is that although “free speech” is in theory an immutable ideal that supports everybody’s right to be heard, in reality, appellations to “free speech!” are almost always used to defend the voices of white men (and all white people) from rightful accusations of racism and other oppressive behaviours.
The point this attack has highlighted is not that freedom of speech should be conditional, but that free speech is only an issue when white voices are threatened. There is no escaping the fact that free speech in Europe and its colonies was created by white men in order to defend white men, and that this legacy lingers.
A small taste of Charlie Hebdo's "satirical" islamophobia, racism, and misogyny
Where was #jesuischarlie up until now?
Where were #jesuischarlie supporters when France became the first country to ban pro-Palestine demonstrations two days ago?
Where was #jesuischarlie when a white man detonated a bomb at NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) headquarters in Colorado the day before Charlie Hebdo? Where was the news coverage of this event?
Where was #jesuischarlie when Black Lives Matter protests went on worldwide for months last year to show solidarity with the families of black people murdered by police such as Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and others?
Where was #jesuischarlie when cops assaulted Ferguson protesters with rubber bullets and tear gas, when the media called them thugs and rioters, when people told them to shut up?
Where was #jesuischarlie defending their right to free speech?
A "demonstration" vs. a "riot," according to the media
Yet when an islamophobic French publication is attacked, everybody from the average Facebook user to celebrities such as Rose McGowan, Ricky Gervais, and J.K. R
These same celebrities were mute during all the aforementioned events. Isn’t it more than suspicious that hardly anybody came to the defence of Palestinian or black people’s right to free speech even half so fast as the #jesuischarlie supporters have come to Charlie Hebdo’s?
The fact is that nobody cares about free speech until a white man’s right to be ignorant and hateful is questioned. Evidently free speech is not worth defending when people of colour, women, or queer people speak, but call out white people publishing weekly islamophobic and xenophobic cartoons? SHUT UP, IT’S FREE SPEECH! #JESUISCHARLIE!!