Reclaiming racist stereotypes for yourself isn’t political or edgy when it harms the very people to whom you owe your basic political rights. When it comes to “freedom of speech,” white, cis, able-bodied Americans have a long history of valuing their right to say whatever they want over the bodily safety of everyone else – even and especially when their words openly inflict violence on Black, Indigenous, and people of color by upholding and reinforcing systemic racism.
Speech doesn’t operate in a vacuum. We have learned time and again that, like everything else in America, speech is a commodity that, while presumably freely available to all, is in fact always distributed unevenly based on race, class, and ability. In short, those with more capital, more privilege, and more power will always have more access to platforms that broadcast and circulate their speech, thus further consolidating their power. In particular, since the election of Donald Trump, freedom of speech has become the official rallying cry of the alt-right: white nationalists and Neo-Nazis have seized this historical opportunity to publicly insult and ridicule trans women, undocumented students, disabled people, and BIPOC, claiming that their right to freedom of speech must be protected at all costs, and that any attempt to criticize this fundamental constitutional right is a form of censorship.