When do I get to speak?

In case you were waiting, consider this blog post your permission slip to speak up against whatever you deem to be an injustice. Without going into a deep legal analysis, know that if you live in the United States, you are allowed to express your dissent with the government and its practices, as long as you do so in a manner that does not lead to others being harmed or would tend to incite others to being harmed.

An acceptable way to speak up is to protest by action: the kind where you don’t really say anything, but gesture in a way that says it without really saying it. So if you feel the need to protest the American justice system for its failure to provide justice for those facing racial discrimination or police brutality, for example, there is nothing stopping you. As some football players did on September 11, 2016, you can link arms with a bunch of people during a sporting event, raise your hand in the air, or even get on your knee while the National Anthem plays.

Also, it really does not matter what day you choose to speak or act in protest. We do not live in a country where there are days that are off limits for protest. Unfortunately, there are some people, some quite notable in the public eye, who believe that your right to speak out should be curtailed on our national day of mourning, September 11.

(One of the notables. Her boyfriend is on a team with some who protested).

And others might find it unacceptable too. They all have the right to say that these football players, and you, are not acting acceptably in protest American injustice on a day meant to honor those who perished due to a terrible injustice. I would say, however, that her line of thinking is the kind of thinking that leads to all kinds of speech being curtailed, and goes against the reason why the freedom to speak up is protected. Think about it: if we were only allowed to speak out when it was popular to do so, would we need any legal protections for our speech? No.  I do not recommend following her line of thinking when determining the appropriate time to speak up. She, and others like her, miss the complexity of issues involved in the issues being protested, and are unwittingly supporting your censorship.

Instead, consider that your American right to express yourself is (almost) unique in the world. As I stated earlier, it’s legally protected (in the US Constitution, likely in your state’s constitution, and in lots of court decisions on these issues). The United States is a leader in freedom of expression in the world, and thus the right to express your dissent is very American. And if you exercise a right afforded to you by the American legal system, your protest celebrates this freedom. You should be proud the you live in a country where you get to express your dissent.

Also, consider that during a time of mourning like every September 11, you are not obligated to blindly accept things as they are in the United States. You may (and I recommend) take the time to remember those we lost, those who bravely responded in a time of great danger, and those who are still suffering the impact of September 11, 2001. But you do not have to put aside your issues with the way citizens and residents of this great country are treated by the government.

Mourning and dissent are mutually exclusive emotions, after all. And you are allowed to feel as you’d like; no one can take this away from you. Consider that in this context, national mourning and expressing dissent with the American justice system are not the same, but have some things in common. Both are issues of great national concern. Both concern immense tragedy. Both concern lives lost senselessly and callously.  The tragedies visited upon us by the injustices of American policing continues; protesting these conditions does not have to stop because of the date. You do not have to put aside your feelings for one tragedy because of the anniversary of another tragedy.

If you love something, and want to honor something, you do yourself and it a disservice by ignoring the issues. If you want to support those in need, you should do something to support. Speaking up against injustices support those experiencing the injustice. Speaking up about American injustice honors the true experience of being an American, instead of sanitizing it.

And to answer the question in the blog title, you get to speak WHENEVER THE F*CK YOU WANT as long as your speech (or action expressing your feelings) does not harm another. The Kate Uptons of the world may not understand, but they do not need to understand your speech for it to be legitimate, and warranted.

Get up, stand up.

Watch (for inspiration, and understanding): San Francisco 49ers backup quarterback Colin Kaepernick on why he protests during the National Anthem.

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