If Americans believe in free speech we need to stop judging people by what they allow other people to say.
The mayor is concerned for his town’s reputation and I can understand why. But this is a learning opportunity for Americans. Just because someone with a bad and false belief can afford to buy a billboard somewhere, that doesn’t necessarily reflect the character of the area’s residents.
Fox 2 reports, “KKK sponsored billboard has mayor worried about town’s image.”
A KKK-sponsored billboard is turning heads in northern Arkansas city. The ad features a young white girl and includes the words, “It’s not racist to love your people.”
Thomas Robb is the director of the Knights Club of the KKK, which is sponsoring the billboard. He tells KOLR-TV that the message is clear. That Harrison is a nice loving community, love lives here in Harrison.”
“It’s just discomforting.” said Harrison, AR resident James Hernandez.
“We thought, ‘Oh, no. Here we go again.’” said Mayor Jeff Crockett.
The new ad comes after a controversial billboard that stirred nationwide controversy was removed. Mayor Jeff Crockett says this time around, the message is more direct. “The reflection comes back on Harrison and if we just keep quiet and let him do the speaking, it looks like we’re all like that and we’re not like that. Harrison is not like that at all.”
The fact that the mayor is repudiating the sign is evidence that his claim that the majority of the town does not agree or approve of the message is an accurate claim. After all, if the majority of voters agreed with the billboard’s intent, they would probably have voted for a different mayor.
But instead of a message of worry, I wish the mayor would put out a message of challenge. If Americans really believe in free speech then they should not be surprised that people with whom they vehemently disagree express opinions. Anyone who can afford the rental fee can put up a billboard. In fact, it is possible for someone to put up a billboard in a place that is not their home. So there is no reason to assume that an offensive billboard reflects on the entire community in the area.
To judge an area by a billboard is to assume that others in the area have the right to censor or prohibit certain words. They don’t.
If the message is really offensive to people the proper response is for them to demonstrate how they feel by producing truthful messages that are persuasive.
What else can a culture that has a First Amendment expect?