A legal analyst and author, Brenda Wardle is not the type of career woman you’d expect to be “Twitter famous.” However, her tweets combating racism have garnered a lot of attention. For some, she needs no introduction, but for those who do: Wardle lives in Gauteng, South Africa, and has used her law acumen to write about such high-profile cases as the Oscar Pistorius case. She even founded her own college, the Wardle College of Law.
However, as an African woman, Wardle has had to fight to be where she is today. From baseless fraud allegations to vitriolic racists on Twitter, she’s dealt with a lot of strife just by existing as a black woman on the Internet, asserting her own agency and voice. Recently, she has been heard among the chorus speaking out about the “Woke Twitter” controversy. Woke Twitter is a page (with “woke” meaning vigilant and socially “awake”) that seeks out hateful and violent racist comments, and works to make sure that there are consequences for this lack of humanity and empathy. Until now, Woke Twitter has limited itself to posting screenshots of this racist behavior, in hopes that employers and others will be able to see it.
There is collateral damage, however. The daughter of one of the culprits received threatening phone calls from Woke Twitter followers, even though she had nothing to do with her mother’s atrocious actions. Not only has this raised questions about whether or not posting screenshots is okay, if it can lead to “doxxing” (using the net to find someone’s personal information in order to harass them), but it also raises the question, should these racists be “allowed” to express their views consequence-free? Is hate speech, no matter how putrid and no matter how it may threaten or incite violence, protected by the First Amendment?
Brenda Wardle says no. While she did not say whether or not she supports Woke Twitter or what it has led to, Wardle says that statutes of our Constitution limit the First Amendment, and when it comes to situations that verbally endanger a minority group, or challenge the basic human dignity to which we are all entitled, the First Amendment is no defense.
And Wardle knows about defense: she passed her Bachelor of Laws Degree in only two years, and got a distinction in Advanced Constitutional Law and Fundamental Rights while obtaining her Masters. If there’s anything these Twitter racists know now, it’s not to use such ignorant, incendiary language when one of the world’s smartest lawyers is a South African woman who knows how to beat you at your own social media game.