Saturday, November 10, 2012

Putting racist tweets in context

Hundreds of young people (and some not so young) are learning hard lessons after their ugly cathartic releases following the re-election of President Obama. While some express shock at these comments (many are eye-popping ugly), I am pleased that ugly comments seem to number only in the thousands, and that the truly ugly ones (the ones that get you on federal watch lists or merit Secret Service visits) only number in the hundreds. I am an "N of 1" and yet have received my share of threats and racist taunts over the years. Some have been real doozies. Thus, when I see that nationwide the open racist remarks were in the hundreds, I am relieved. ... Many of those who were spewing venom on election night appear to be intellectually challenged, rather young (or perhaps both). For instance, a 22 year-old expressed surprise following her tweet calling President Obama the N* word and expressing her thought that maybe he'd be assassinated this time. In follow up social media posts she exclaimed that she didn't understand the big deal. Others who were outed were high school students tweeting or posting from accounts that featured family pictures, their sports teams and church affiliations. Their punishments began coming quickly as several in organizations with codes of conduct were kicked off of teams, fired from jobs or otherwise reprimanded. I view all this and see it as part of our ongoing development. I am not the slightest bit surprised at ugly sentiments and I feel that with kids in relationship with one other across lines of difference, things are still getting better and better (although there are millions who choose to live in cocoons and millions who harbor racial [or gendered or xenophobic or homophobic] resentments). So I note all of this, and while I do fear the possibility of an uptick in violence by racists against minorities, I see this as the dying gasps of an ideology that is being forced further and further to the margins.

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