On November 9th, three days after our nation reelected President Obama, Jezebel author Tracie Egan Morrissey reported on various “racist teens” who had tweeted about the President’s win. In her article, Morrissey states (with the inclusion of written examples) that “[they] 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.” Most of the tweets included in the article were spoken (and yes, this is 2012, so we can confidently call Facebook posts and tweets “spoken,” it is your voice) by sports players and seemingly well-known members of their high school communities.
A football playing student in Jackson, Tennessee publicly tweeted: “Lol Obama may be the president but even he still needs welfare. #n*****”
A student in Beaver Falls, Pennysylvania publicly tweeted: “Lets face is… Romney aint the best choice..But hes a hell of alot better than that sand monkey we call a president. #MITT” as well as, “like 90 percent of latinos and blacks voted for obama.. But were the racist ones…?”
The Beaver Falls student later defended himself saying something along the lines of “there are worse tweets out there,” and “I’m only eighteen.”
Morrissey, confidently and admirably (in my not-so-humble opinion) called the schools of the students to inform the administrators that their schools are being represented by such people, and to nudge them into educating their students further in the realm of racial sensitivity.
Racial responsibility. This is what I am here to discuss, a little thing called responsibility.
Did you play sports in high school? I did not play sports in high school (what a joke that would have been), though I was a member of the International Studies Club, an honor student and I held a part-time job that I felt I represented while I was both at school and in my community. Even if I had none of those extracurriculars on my plate, I had a mother and three brothers, I had best friends and their siblings and their parents who knew me (still know me) well. When I was a teenager, I knew what I represented, because we all represent something. When I speak my mind, then and now, I am not necessarily representing the views of all people in my life, but I am most definitely representing the credibility of the people around me, who have chosen to hire me or proudly be my friend, my brother, my boyfriend or any kind of relevant person in my life. I, as well as these high school students, have an innate responsibility to not only themselves, but to their communities. Sixteen or seventeen years old is not too young to understand that.
I have a Facebook, and I have a Twitter and I have a blog and a Tumblr and everything but an Instagram because I don’t know what that is. When I say something on Twitter, sometimes it gets “favorite”d or “retweeted” by people I have never met, or people that I know very well. If I were to wake up tomorrow morning and decide to tweet something extremely racially offensive about anybody, not even the President of the United States of America, I would be representing everyone I interact with. I work for Starbucks–how do you think my company would feel if I were to represent myself with a blatantly ignorant and inappropriate comment about a man I do not even know, not to mention a man who deserves basic human decency and the utmost respect by the people he oversees on a daily basis? How would anyone who has ever “like”d one of my Facebook statuses feel? If you had previously retweeted me, would you not feel humiliated knowing that maybe we agree on loving the same Justin Bieber song, but not on my racist thoughts regarding our Commander-in-Chief‘s race, not even his actions?
But I am 25 years old, so I know better, right?
I will admit that before my editors asked me to write on this subject – “racist teens” with seemingly no regard for mankind – I had already read this article. (I am a huge fan of Jezebel.) Not only had I read this article, I had in fact made the rookie mistake of reading the comments on this article. (Reading comments can be a soul sucking activity.) I was stunned–admittedly naively–at the defense of these teenagers. Yes, in the article, Morrissey names the teenagers, and the schools they attend, but I personally did not feel this was even remotely overstepping her boundaries. Many readers felt that using the kids’ real names was out of line, many readers felt that “people change eventually” and that the article was distasteful for “picking on” “children.” Many readers felt that the parents were to blame and these kids should take basically zero responsibility for mouthing off about the President. If this is how they feel, it must be based on parental influence.