Hostile letters undermine social contract

A recent book explains why printing Vi McCoy’s letters about her fascination with homosexuality isn’t just about freedom of speech. To paraphrase Jeremy Waldron, every citizen in this country has the implicit assurance that while her beliefs and allegiance may be criticized and rejected by some of her fellow citizens, she will nonetheless be viewed as someone who has an equal right to membership in society.

By repeatedly publishing letters that are hostile to a specific group, the Herald is undermining the social contract that Durango has with all of its residents: that members of vulnerable groups are accepted along with everyone else. McCoy’s letters don’t just hurt people’s feelings. They take away the dignity that we all have a right to expect. They exclude and marginalize fellow citizens. They say that some people are not worthy of our respect. They undermine the assurance that we all have an equal right to be here.

McCoy can say whatever she wants, but free speech doesn’t guarantee her space in the Herald. I trust that the Herald would not print similar letters about Native Americans, African Americans, immigrants or Jews, and that’s because they already know. Hate speech is legal, but providing a platform for it allows a private citizen to degrade a public good.

Alice Outwater