Date of this Version
Paulson, L. F. (2021). Free to Hate: Hate Crimes' Intertwinement with the Evolution of Free Speech in the United States. Undergraduate Honors Thesis. University of Nebraska - Lincoln.
In response to the growing tension between civil liberties and civil rights, this research investigates the relationship between the relative expansiveness of free speech and a the nationwide propensity for hate crimes. I argue that government’s legal limitations of speech influence the development of linguistic and hierarchical norms in a national culture. Given structural inequality’s association to violence and crimes of intimidation, I hypothesize that as the government expands the legal bounds of free speech, the national propensity for hate crimes decreases. Text analyses of 50 influential freedom of expression rulings in the United States (U.S.) Supreme Court from 1919-2019 demonstrate the United States’ increased tendency over the past century to rule with an increasingly expansive interpretation of freedom of expression. A conglomeration of secondary source data of prejudice-motivated victimizations in the U.S. over the same century creates an image of a rising annual hate crime victimization. This data and other findings within the research suggest that the national attention to hate crimes and tendency to record these incidents was deeply intertwined with cultural development in the U.S., specifically as it relates to social movements and attitudes towards diversity.