Is the Internet Creating a New Generation of Racist?

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Sadly, this is the new face of racism in America.

Racism still exists. I hope this isn’t breaking news to anyone. If so, I apologize for the spoiler. This week in racism has to do with an article Jezebel ran exposing a number of Tweets from teenagers around the web on the eve of Obama’s re-election, Racist Teens Forced to Answer for Tweets About the ‘Nigger’ President. Unfortunately, teenagers embarrassing themselves on-line is as old as the Internet. For example, earlier this year two girls (pictured above) had to leave school and apologize after posting a racist filled video rant on YouTube. This video, placed on-line on purpose mind you, was meant to clear up how totally not racist they were after a previous post on Facebook came under fire. Some of you will remember our post on the racist rebuttals to the Hunger Games after the producers did something as outrageous as cast a black actor to play the part of a black character from the book of the same name. You may also remember a number of women yearning for the opportunity to have Chris Brown beat them. It seems the Internet has no shortage of idiots just longing for the opportunity to be exposed for their idiocy – even the King of Internet Trolls was exposed this year.

An excerpt from the Jezebel article:

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.

We contacted their school’s administrators with the hope that, if their educators were made aware of their students’ ignorance, perhaps they could teach them about racial sensitivity. Or they could let them know that while the First Amendment protects their freedom of speech, it doesn’t protect them from the consequences that might result from expressing their opinions…read full article.

What does all this mean?

Some would simply dismiss this as, “same sh*t, different day.” Such is the way of the internet. The only difference between these people and the millions of others on the Internet is they got caught, right? There is just something about anonymity that draws ignorance to it, like a moth to a flame.

I looked to the Jezebel comments section to get an idea of what people were thinking – interestingly enough, the most vocal opinions were often provided by anonymous pseudonyms and ambiguous profile pictures. There seemed to be three distinct camps.

Camp #1: The kids got what they deserved.

People in this group felt that these kids shouldn’t have said what they said and the exposé was perfectly justified. It didn’t matter that some of the kids were under 18, they opted to provide their real name through social media and deserved whatever punishment that entailed in real life as well. This camp seemed made up of people that would agree with the following quote, “if you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime.”

Camp #2: The kids got what they deserved but I feel sorry for them and perhaps this is too harsh a backlash.

People in this group felt that yes, what the kids did was wrong, but perhaps exposing the full names of the teenaged perpetrators and their associated schools was overkill. In their opinion, Jezebel had gone too far and might be pushing this story for selfish pursuits. In order to create a story that would receive a high number of page views (Jezebel published two stories on the matter, the original and the follow-up linked here today), they were potentially sacrificing these kids future. What if an employer, friend, or family member Google’d these kid’s name in the future? Was a 140 character mistake worthy of ruining their lives?

Camp #3: Who cares?

This final group of people didn’t seem to care one way or the other. By their estimate, these were just kids being kids and sometimes (most times?) kids are idiots. Who are we to judge these young kids/idiots when many of us were young kids/idiots once. They used examples from their own youth or rhetorically asked how many times had any of us made a less than intelligent remark on-line or off-line, but never received the type of backlash these teenagers were receiving? Is it fair that they should be punished for living in an environment where every dumb idea, thought, or remark has the potential to go viral simply because many of us – by luck they seem to believe – escaped the opinionated onslaught of our peers?

*****************

WIM’s thoughts: I don’t automatically assume everyone that uses the N-word is racist but I do think racist people are more likely to use the N-word – and yes, this includes black people. Whether or not every teenager captured in this story is racist is not really for me to judge nor is it of particular concern to me. The larger issue is, racist or not, should teenagers (or anyone) face off-line punishment for their on-line comments. Should every on-line comment, Tweet, Facebook status update or every action we perform on-line, public or anonymous, be subject to the same standard of scrutiny as those made off-line? Are we more genuine on-line than off-line? Most people would say, “No.”

However, even people who believe they’re the same person across all mediums are usually not going out of their way to share every move they make on-line with everyone they know and potentially a few million people they don’t know off-line. This is why many of us choose to exist on-line through some variation of anonymity, even if we have nothing to hide. Does this make us any different than those that get caught? Does existing on-line without ever making a racist, misogynist, sexist or any number of descriptions that end with “–ist” exempt us? I’m not saying it’s wrong to point fingers, but if our fingers are attached to anonymous hands, are we really in the best of positions to judge the perpetrators that happen to get caught, let alone cast stones at them?

As usual, I don’t have a straight answer, but if a presidential candidate for the United States of America can be afforded the opportunity to switch his positions like hands on a clock with little to no challenge from the powers that be, then surely I can be as equally ambiguous with my opinions as nothing more than a lowly citizen with an Internet connection and a platform.

I’m personally over the inequitable fake outrage we apply to the N-word. Either we’re going to get mad all of the time or none of the time or everyone can use it or no one can use it. I get confused what shade of the scale is allowed to use the N-word on any given day of the week, so I generally don’t bother getting upset when someone says it. I have better things to do with my day and other issues to get upset about that more or less influence my day-to-day life at a much higher relative rate than some idiot using the N-word, yet again, on-line or off-line.

To be clear, Caucasian readers, this is, of course, on a case-by-case basis. Please, don’t think we’re suddenly cool enough to call each other the N-word, even if that’s what you do in the comfort of your own home and/or social circle. It’s probably best that no one says it, but I don’t see that happening. Specific to the context of the Jezebel story, I will say it’s a bit troubling that the N-word was so effortlessly – by teenagers no less – used to describe the President of the United States. This tells me that it is likely they have a far lower bar for saying it to their peers or among their peers, which is the real issue of concern. It doesn’t surprise me that teenagers are idiots, but it does frighten me that idiot teenagers have the potential to grow up to become idiot parents who raise more idiot teenagers. That, my friends, is the viscous cycle of idiocy that keeps me up late at night. Knowing that right now, at this very instance, some idiot is breeding with another idiot and producing a family full of idiots. It’s quite vexing to the spirit when you think about it, which is why I try not to think about it. Ignorance is bliss, until it goes viral…

SBM family, what are your thoughts on this exposure or any other number of exposures that have happened due to people’s on-line activities? Do you think Jezebel did the right thing in exposing these teenagers? Which camp from above do you fall into? Do you hold people on-line to the same standards and expectations that you hold people to off-line? Why or why not?

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  • Starita34

    I’m #CampTheyGon’LearnToday. I’m stoked that someone did some follow up on it. The moonfaced chick got dragged on twitter, but so many got (seemingly) no repercussions at all and that’s what bugged me (along the same lines as WIM’s idiots making more idiots line of thinking). So I really appreciated Jezebel posting a follow up. Those saying that Jezebel shouldn’t have exposed these kids on the INTERNET when the offense happened on the INTERNET** should probably patch up that heart before they bleed out. Actions have consequences. Yup, even if no one “saw” you do it behind your keyboard.

    Are there things I’ve said online that I would prefer my mother not see, that I wish would disappear? Absolutely. But if she sees it and is saddened or disappointed, I’m not going to sue Firefox or SBM or Max/Nasty Fridays, I made the at times retarded choice to spill too much of my life online, and that’s a choice that I will have to live with as an adult. That’s life.

    **I will say I think it was in poor taste for people to post NotTheMama’s phone number and hometown. That gets a little creepy in the stalker/hate crime territory. Did I feel she deserved the hate speech on Twitter, yeah. I know it’s not the Christian thing to do, but I was glad she got a taste of her own ignant medicine. Do I feel she deserves an angry mob of strangers to beat her down physically? No. Then again, if that info is available online, the same place you choose to be a racist internet thug…all the welps.

    *just noticed I did the whole ask yourself a question and answer it several times…I feel a way about this, but not enough to edit it…*

    *sleeps*

    • BlueSteele

      I'm #CampTheyGon'LearnToday.

      #comedy

  • Streetz

    "Hatin n*ggas marry hata b*tches and have hata kids"

  • Slim Jackson

    "hose saying that Jezebel shouldn't have exposed these kids on the INTERNET when the offense happened on the INTERNET** should probably patch up that heart before they bleed out."

    *cracks up*

    My recent post slimjackson: @MrSpradley @DrJayJack @streetztalk @WisdomIsMisery he one image short of a seasonal calendar.

  • MissLia

    Oh well! We all have to learn some lessons the hard way, many of those come our way before we hit 18. One of the things that I can't stand about these lil phony ass punk ass teenagers is that they aren't held accountable for their words or actions. I highly doubt either of these girls would have said that to President Obama's face, they would have shook his hand, took a picture and been just like the rest of us. They can only say what they wanna say hiding behind their computer screens. I'm only in my 20s, but I remember when the only way to talk mess about someone was to do it with your friends. If it got back to that person (and there was a good chance of that happening), you had to be ready for a reaction, and possibly a fight. We eventually had the internet, but we weren't using it like they are now. I learned by watching stupid politicians act a fool, so I don't put anything on the internet that I know could possibly be thrown in my face somewhere in the future. Anonymous or not, there's always someone smart enough to figure out who you are, so there's no reason to even chance it. They put that video up because they wanted some attention. And as the saying goes, be careful what you wish for….

  • BlueSteele

    I generally notice a lot of hate and racism poke through via internet. Reading MSNBC comments on the prez leading up to election was heart-wrenching, for example. It's always easy to be your true self, or amplified version of yourself when some degree of anonymity is involved. It's crazy though to see how many people do things like this when they're identities are public. Definitely a necessary learning experience for the high schoolers.

  • http://twitter.com/CandaceyD @CandaceyD

    I'm over N word outrage. At this point I ignore people who use it. Period.

    Racists come out on the internet for the same reason all trolls come out on the internet, the perceived ability to say an do what you want without consequences. These teenagers were just too stupid to make themselves anonymous like most trolls. Racists are usually ignorant, short sighted, refuse to see other points of view and are just plain jerks. Just like all trolls. So ignore the troll.