Recognition, Authority Relations, and Rejecting Hate Speech

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A key focus in many debates surrounding the harm in hate speech centres on the subordinating impact hate speech has on its victims. Under such a view, and provided there exists a requisite level of speaker authority a particular speech situation, hate speech can be conceived as something which directly impact’s the victim’s status, and can be contrasted to the view that such speech merely expresses hateful ideas. Missing from these conceptions, however, are the ways in which intersubjective, recognition-sensitive relations influence the kind of harm likely to result from such an act. Understanding the central role of first-person experience is crucial, as, while a victim may have little influence in how their social status is impacted by such an act, the possibility for ‘speaking back’ requires that individuals are equipped with the conditions necessary to reject the authority claims of the speaker. On such a view, this paper aims to use this feature of intersubjectivity to explore the potential ways in which an act of hate speech can be ‘robbed’ of some of its harm by having its authority claims rejected by the victim. Utilizing this enhanced understanding, I reflect upon one particular real-world example of hate speech, in which the target rejects the status-undermining claims made upon her. In the last section, I propose a general institutional outlook aimed towards aiding would-be victims of hate speech to respond to such attempts at normative authority exertion.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)555–571
Number of pages17
JournalEthical Theory and Moral Practice
Publication statusPublished - 30 May 2019


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