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The Freedom to Be Racist?: How the United States and Europe Struggle to Preserve Freedom and Combat Racism

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We love freedom. We hate racism. But what do we do when these values collide? In this wide-ranging book, Erik Bleich explores policies that the United States, Britain, France, Germany, and other liberal democracies have implemented when forced to choose between preserving freedom and combating racism. Bleich's comparative historical approach reveals that while most countri We love freedom. We hate racism. But what do we do when these values collide? In this wide-ranging book, Erik Bleich explores policies that the United States, Britain, France, Germany, and other liberal democracies have implemented when forced to choose between preserving freedom and combating racism. Bleich's comparative historical approach reveals that while most countries have increased restrictions on racist speech, groups and actions since the end of World War II, this trend has resembled a slow creep more than a slippery slope. Each country has struggled to achieve a balance between protecting freedom and reducing racism, and the outcomes have been starkly different across time and place. Building on these observations, Bleich argues that we should pay close attention to the specific context and to the likely effects of any policy we implement, and that any response should be proportionate to the level of harm the racism inflicts. Ultimately, the best way for societies to preserve freedom while fighting racism is through processes of public deliberation that involve citizens in decisions that impact the core values of liberal democracies.


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We love freedom. We hate racism. But what do we do when these values collide? In this wide-ranging book, Erik Bleich explores policies that the United States, Britain, France, Germany, and other liberal democracies have implemented when forced to choose between preserving freedom and combating racism. Bleich's comparative historical approach reveals that while most countri We love freedom. We hate racism. But what do we do when these values collide? In this wide-ranging book, Erik Bleich explores policies that the United States, Britain, France, Germany, and other liberal democracies have implemented when forced to choose between preserving freedom and combating racism. Bleich's comparative historical approach reveals that while most countries have increased restrictions on racist speech, groups and actions since the end of World War II, this trend has resembled a slow creep more than a slippery slope. Each country has struggled to achieve a balance between protecting freedom and reducing racism, and the outcomes have been starkly different across time and place. Building on these observations, Bleich argues that we should pay close attention to the specific context and to the likely effects of any policy we implement, and that any response should be proportionate to the level of harm the racism inflicts. Ultimately, the best way for societies to preserve freedom while fighting racism is through processes of public deliberation that involve citizens in decisions that impact the core values of liberal democracies.

33 review for The Freedom to Be Racist?: How the United States and Europe Struggle to Preserve Freedom and Combat Racism

  1. 5 out of 5

    Tom

    An engaging and insightful (and brief) history of a fraught and difficult topic: if (as we have generally accepted in modern society) it is a proper goal of the government both to oppose racism and support freedom of expression and association, what is the proper approach when those values come into conflict? Bleich is up-front that he has not attempted a systematic survey of the United States and Europe in reviewing these questions, but his anecdotal evidence is nonetheless presented with insig An engaging and insightful (and brief) history of a fraught and difficult topic: if (as we have generally accepted in modern society) it is a proper goal of the government both to oppose racism and support freedom of expression and association, what is the proper approach when those values come into conflict? Bleich is up-front that he has not attempted a systematic survey of the United States and Europe in reviewing these questions, but his anecdotal evidence is nonetheless presented with insight, particularly in explaining some of the historical reasons why the U.S. is--at least on its face--more tolerant of racist attitudes than many European countries. In surveying the history of laws against racist speech, Holocaust denial, and hate crimes, Bleich provides a useful and readable survey. The book is not without its flaws. Most significantly, Bleich seems to set up something of a false dichotomy between those who are "pro-freedom" and "antiracists"; while his distinction is useful at points, it weakens his underlying argument about the tension between these values by suggesting that the majority of actors are firmly planted on one side or the other. And, like many social science books, the "Conclusions" chapter is unsatisfying in that it doesn't really take the stand promised in the introduction. But these flaws are minor. This is a useful and well-written survey, and worth reading if you are interested in the law behind civil liberties in European and American society.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Kate

  3. 4 out of 5

    Kanako Katayama

  4. 5 out of 5

    Eric Thrond

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    Steven Borba

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  21. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca

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    Karin Kuum

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  30. 4 out of 5

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  31. 5 out of 5

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  32. 5 out of 5

    Krzysiek (Chris)

  33. 4 out of 5

    Katy

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