Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Racist Rants Online Do Have Consequences

Last week, my Bff sent me a 14 minute video with two young women going on what can only be described as a horrible racist rant on youtube.  As I listened to the video, I was absolutely horrified.  I didn't post it at the time, because I didn't think it would serve much purpose in this space, but I have decided to share it with you today.



Since this video went viral, one of the girls has gone into hiding, and both of them are no longer enrolled in school.  They have both received death threats.  Apparently, the young women attempted to delete the video, but by the time they did so, it had already been copied and uploaded several times, proving that once something goes online, you can no longer control what happens to it.

In an apology letter sent to the Sun, the mother of the second girl involved in the video said she taught her daughter to be accepting of all races.

“Everyone, including all parents and teenagers, must put in their part to stop racism, no matter what color your skin may be,” the woman wrote. “We have to practice forgiveness. As the Bible says, ‘whoever among you is without sin, throw the first stone.' ”

The girl also wrote in a letter of apology that racism of any kind is inappropriate.

“Seeing the video later on, I realized how bad it was and how ignorant we looked,” she said. “I couldn't believe it was myself that I was seeing. It seemed like another person.”

The student said the video wasn't planned.

“I'm ashamed by it,” she said. “It never should have gotten posted. I never should have been part of it.”

“She just asked me to sit in on the video,” the student said. “She just started reading questions off.”

“I didn't think half the stuff she had said or I had said was that bad until I had watched the video on another day,” she said.

“We could say it a million times: there's no excuse for what's she's done,” the woman said. “We're sorry for any pain and harm and anger caused. I can understand that, but we're not racists.”

She wishes she could take it back, the girl said.

“I'm not a racist person. I still don't see someone and judge them because of skin color,” the girl said, but after the video, “no one is going to believe me anymore.” [source]
This video is going to follow these young women for the rest of their lives.  I don't believe for one moment that the girls in the video aren't racist, or that their families didn't support this White supremacist belief structure.  One need not use a slur to convey the message that the hegemony of Whiteness is acceptable, simply failing to have critical conversations with children about race, and failing to discuss the media they are consuming will do that.  It seems to me the real problem for these families is that this video has gone viral.

As a parent, I can tell you without question that one must actively teach children about isms and institute a zero tolerance policy in your home.  If someone says something, transphobic, racist, sexist, homophobic, disableist, and is a child, they should be warned once and shown the door the second time. I have personally thrown people out of my house, rather than have them make my space unsafe. This may not make you popular, but it sends the message that language which devalues historically marginalized people is simply unacceptable.  These lessons will form the basis of morals for children that will follow them all of the days of their lives.  If the parents had done this,  they would not have had deal with the fall out of this video.

How can you sit in the room with someone using the word nigger repeatedly, and not think that the video was "that bad?" She even then claimed to have had an out of body experience.  It is clear to me from watching the video that the young women in question believed what they were saying and were even having fun attacking Black people.  Their issue is not that they said something racist, but that there have been consequences for their racist language.

I don't believe that they should be subject to death threats, but I do believe that without the serious consequences which they have been forced to face, that there would not have been any realization that what they said was wrong.  Even after saying the most vile things possible, one of the women in question still cannot see that she is a racist.  This once again proves that for many, being called a racist is worse than living with racism.  Every single person of colour who viewed their video was absolutely assaulted. While the young women in this video are both still children, 14 is not too young to know the difference between right and wrong. Trying to smooth it over after the fact with a faux apology, and a claim that one is not racist, is not taking accountability for their actions. 

Part of growing is learning to take accountability for one's actions, and this is especially true when attempting to decolonize one's mind. There isn't a single person who at some point has not shown their ass to the world, albeit not necessarily as violent as the young women in the video.  What counts is how you walk away from your mistakes.  You can either fail to take responsibility,  or you can own your actions 100% of the way, apologize and try to make amends.  For all of the flak that these girls have taken, there has been zero accountability and so I fear that all that have really learned, is not that racism is wrong, but that being caught being a racist is wrong.

Even if they should ever reach the point when they experience legitimate embarrassment for their actions, this video will still follow them.  It will haunt them when they fill out their college applications, and it will haunt them when they apply for jobs. Future colleges and employers may hold the same White supremacist beliefs; however, associating with someone who has such an obvious history of racism is a law suite waiting to happen.  These young girls may well find that the true cost isn't the little inconveniences that they are facing today, but the roadblocks up ahead.

If people take away one thing from this incident, I hope that they learn the necessity of talking to their children about isms and challenging their privilege.  I hope that more will see the importance of social justice parenting and actively engage in it. The only way to ensure that your children don't end up as poster cards for an ism, is to ensure that they understand that privilege in any form that it manifests, is unearned and that it must be dismantled.