Free speech is not consequence-free speech.
If you say hateful things and people respond to the hateful things you are saying, you are not being criticized for “speaking your mind.” You are being criticized for saying hateful things.
Racism, homophobia, transphobia, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, xenophobia, and other forms of bigotry are hateful.
If you say hateful things and people ostracize you socially, and/or you have professional consequences, it’s not censorship. People have a right to not like what you say.
If you feel that “wokeness” or “cancel culture” are actual problems on the same level as racism, you should probably learn more about racism.
It’s not unkind or unfair to point out that a person has said hateful things publicly. Hateful things cause strong reactions.
If you are called out for saying hateful things and your response is that you were “asking questions” or “starting a conversation”, please understand that your desire to ask questions can lead to participants in the conversation you are starting to call you out for giving voice to hateful things.
If you are called out for saying hateful things and your response is that you were “only joking”, please understand that your desire to “make jokes” can lead people to call you out for giving voice to hateful things.
If, when you are “speaking your mind”, you are saying things that members of your audience find hateful, it might be time to examine the contents of your mind.
If people call you out for saying hateful things and your response is that you were “following your conscience,” you should probably examine the contents of your conscience.
When people attempt to tone police how people respond, they are showing themselves to be bad faith actors. Respond accordingly, preferably by not wasting time with them. Counter lies directly; counter hate directly, and then move on.
Racists will attempt to portray themselves as the victim – when they float cliches like “cancel culture,” the “woke mob,” or the “real racist” this is what they are doing. Don’t waste time with these bad faith arguments. It gives them air, which is how they spread.