This status contains my thoughts today on the ACLU, as well as a form letter you can use to send to the ACLU to explain their loss of your monthly donation, if you wish to use it. The status is a long one, and is highly subjective.
So. The ACLU is the American Civil Liberties Union. They protect the civil liberties of all people, whether they agree with those people or not. They work to set legal precedent to protect the weak, and have said repeatedly that they will continue to protect people equally in order to be the most effective organization that they can be. In terms of free speech, specifically, they have historically defended Klansmen, accused Al Qaeda terrorists, and other religious hate groups and extremists. They want to make sure that the letter of the law is applied equally to all people, to make sure that it is therefore able to be applied appropriately to those most in need of defending. Their website discusses violations of the First Amendment during the Civil Rights movement, when Black protestors were arrested for peaceful protest – the ACLU believes that by EQUALLY defending the laws regarding free speech today, they can best prevent suppression of speech by oppressed groups now and in the future.
Honestly, I agree with some of that. By proving how wide their net of protection falls, they provide some political legitimacy to their work to defend people looking to secure civil rights for minority groups. Their work to equally protect all people under the law is important, and I’m glad that the ACLU is playing some kind of long game.
However, it feels like an amoral long game, to me. SCOTUS has repeatedly and unanimously ruled that hate speech IS free speech, so legally, the ACLU is spot on, when they defend the free speech of hate groups. But while defending hate speech may be technically defending the overarching concept of free speech, but it’s certainly not defending the spirit of “protecting the weak” that we look towards justice organizations to uphold. Hate speech is damaging. Do you remember when we were told in childhood that “sticks and stones may break my bones, but names can never hurt me” ? That’s bullshit. We have scientific evidence that hate speech is psychologically damaging, that it causes trauma, that it reduces coping mechanism in people dealing with existing trauma, depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses. We know that it foments hateful actions. Hate speech is violence, pure and simple.
So here is where I am most uncomfortable – I donate money to the ACLU.
It’s really my own fault, that this is the week that I realized what that money is doing. I try to do research into organizations before I send them my money, but I got overwhelmed and freaked out after the election, and threw my money at an organization that I saw doing good. They looked like they were committed to fighting hate. What I’m realizing now is that the ACLU is committed to equal treatment under the law. And laws are not always right.
Laws are written by the people in power. Laws are upheld by judges who are elected by a majority, or appointed by someone else in power. Laws are NOT neutral – they display the moral code of the people who create them. And law makers/precedence setters do not always have the moral code that we do. Our nation is in a time of crisis. I am no longer looking for people to uphold the laws that have permitted this crisis. I do not want laws upheld that foment violence, hate, the neglect of human beings, and the destruction of communities in need.
The ACLU is upholding laws, not protecting the weak.
The ACLU is strictly, painfully, excruciatingly neutral – in how they defend the laws.
I have found at this stage in my life, and at this stage of living in a nation in crisis, that I do not value neutrality.
I value much of the work that the ACLU does, but I cannot the support their policy of neutrality under the law – the unfair, majority supporting law. Hate speech may be legal, but that doesn’t make it right – it’s violence. When the ACLU works to defend hate speech, they are telling us that they value legal neutrality over defending people being attacked. There is a place for that, and there is a value in that, but it is not something that I want to support.
For those like myself who are uncomfortable giving money to a neutral organization in a time of crisis, but who are struggling to verbalize that, I invite you to use the following form letter:
I’m writing this letter to accompany the termination of my monthly donation of $___ towards your organization. I have been a donor for _____ [months/years], but I have realized this week that I can no longer support 100% of the work that you do. Your work towards upholding the laws of the United States is admirable, and I appreciate the work that you do to support minority groups, but your conviction to uphold laws that cause violence is unacceptable. Although the Supreme Court maintains that hate speech is free speech, and you clearly agree, I am uncomfortable with the violence that perpetuates. I urge your organization to be more critical with the work that it does and to consider if the result is setting a precedence of neutrality, or the result is justice for people who are suffering.
[your name here]
As a note: The ACLU of VA released a statement on Saturday explaining that they decry violence and White supremacy, and in that statement mainstain that their priority is free speech. “Bigotry, racism, and hated in any form are indefensible” – wellllllllllllllll y’all literally *legally* defended it, sooooooooo.
Like, they are clearly morally on our team, but their neutrality of action makes me extremely uncomfortable.