the candler blog

Racist Teens Forced to Answer for Tweets

News, Technology

Tracie Egan Morrissey for Jezebel:

There was an abundance of hate speech on Twitter after Obama’s reelection, with people hurling violent and racial epithets. Many of those tweeters were teenagers whose public Twitter accounts feature their real names and advertise their participation in the sports programs at their respective high schools. Calls were placed to the principals and superintendents of those schools to find out how calling the president—or any person of color, for that matter—a “nigger” and a “monkey” jibes with their student conduct code of ethics.

I am conflicted about Morrissey’s piece. It’s one thing to publicly shame dumb tweeters, as BuzzFeed, Reddit and the like do on nearly a daily basis. Hell, I’ve even done it. It’s another thing entirely to go after each one personally and make sure their educators know about their transgression. As if adults in general weren’t already an angst-inducing force, now the media comes a-knockin’ to tattle?

I’m not trying to excuse these pissants, but two lessons come to mind.

First off, I am part of the last generation to have grown up with a modicum of Internet privacy. My first experiences with the Web involved obscuring my identity while living large publicly by way of various usernames. Of course, that’s all changed, with online identities basically being opt-out privacy-wise.

As our lives move online, the whole world becomes fair game, even idiotic (and disgusting) teenage ramblings. Nearly all of the kids described in the article have since deleted their accounts. Perhaps Eric Schmidt’s creepy 2010 prophecy, that young people dicking around on social media will eventually have to change their names, will come to fruition sooner rather than later.

The other lesson is that, now that the ugliness of the election has passed, we need to come together as a nation whether we like it or not. The numbers and the tweets exposed by Jezebel don’t lie: a great deal of the United States is virulently, unapologetically racist. Morrissey’s solution, a public drubbing, won’t make a dent in the ideologies of the millions of Americans who still cannot accept a black man as President; in fact it will likely push them further out to sea.

If nothing else the article could serve as a means for discussion, and if people are confronting racism head on we just might have a shot of licking it. Or at least of helping a few kids change their ways.

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