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Civil courage as a communicative act : Countering the harms of hate violence

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Hate violence which denigrates a person’s social identity whether it involves physical or verbal aggression off or online – is a communicative act. It transmits a message to the victim that they are devalued and unwelcome. It is a marginalising and exclusionary message. Answering back to hate violence by challenging hateful expression is one way of responding. It is a form of ‘civil courage’. Yet why should anybody want to take a stand and speak out – given the risks involved that perpetrators might turn on those who intervene or respond in some other way? This paper proposes that the importance of civil courage goes beyond being the right thing to do, or the humane thing, when a bystander witnesses hate violence off- or online. Instead, if we comprehend hate violence as a communicative act, and if we understand the particular impact of the exclusionary message it sends (and understand how bystander inaction can magnify the felt sense of social exclusion), then we might appreciate the potential value of an act of civil courage in response. There is a moral imperative for civil courage as it answers back to hate violence by sending an inclusionary message to the victim – as reasoned in this paper.

Keywords: civil courage; communicative acts; exclusion; hate crime; hate speech; inclusion

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: July 13, 2020

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