Justin Hansford talks to BC about race and the first amendment

Raul Padilla, Features Editor

The Bakersfield College Student Government Association invited guest speaker Justin Hansford to their series of Distinguished Speaker events on Feb. 24. Hansford spoke of his experiences regarding the first amendment, free speech, hate speech, and protests.

Justin Hansford is a Howard University School of Law Professor of Law and Executive Director of the Thurgood Marshall Civil Rights Center, a leading scholar and activist in the areas of critical race theory, human rights, and law and social movements.

He began his movement when he had participated as an observer in a protest at a Wal-Mart in Ferguson, Missouri. He had been arrested on that day as a trespasser when the store had suddenly closed and subsequently arrested by the police.

“I asked “what did I do?”  The officer replied, “shut up’ and put me in the squad car and pinching my wrist and five legal observers in total.  Four were white and one was Asian and me.  I was the only black one and I was the only one that was arrested” Hansford recalled.

It was from here that Hansford became much more interested in the first amendment, and how it corresponds to protestors and race.

He explained the disparity in how protestors are treated throughout the country as a result of race has never been so evident as how Black Lives Matter protestors had been treated as opposed to the people who had entered the capitol building on Jan. 6.

“This event has demonstrated that to the contrary extreme speech experienced is already here” he explained.

Hate crime convictions were also brought up by Hansford, stating that only around a fourth of hate crimes are prosecuted by courts and judges, meanwhile the actual number of hate crimes has been found to be much higher than reported.

He explained that when these hate crimes are performed, it allows for discussion to take place and potentially solve the issues, however another issue then arrives in which some states do not allow the discussion of the topic. Education is mentioned as one of the primary ways to combat these issues and suppressing the people’s education on critical race theory only serves to harm free speech.

“If I was to end my talk today with a call to action, I call on you to continue to defend your right to teach the truth and continue to defend your right to demonstrate in support of justice.” Hansford said, finishing his presentation.