I was sitting in my kitchen this morning, eating my breakfast when my kids started talking about an issue that occurred at their high school this past week. A situation I was quite shocked to hear about. I won't go into specifics but a student posted a photo on social media that was incredibly derogatory and racist. I believe she thought she was being funny, but no one else saw it that way. My first reaction, however, wasn't to be angry at this child. My first reaction was to feel sorry for her. I can't imagine what things she may have been exposed to that brought out this kind of insensitivity. Racism, in my opinion, is learned. You know what else is learned though? Hate.
The backlash from this, according to my children, has been ridiculous. They could be hearing only rumors, so I take it all with a grain of salt, but that doesn't change my message. According to my kids, the student that posted the photo has since endured bullying. So much hate directed her way. My children also said that they heard that she had been jumped and that she also tried to commit suicide. THAT makes me angrier than the actual racist photo in itself.
How is responding to racism and ignorance with hate going to help anything? Why is it so lost on people that using these situations as teachable moments is completely possible? This is why we are failing as a society. Everyone is too busy being a right fighter and a bully to take a second to simply teach. It's almost condoned to hop on a computer, hide behind our keyboards, and trash people. Bring each other down. What message is that really sending? I'll tell you a secret... it doesn't send any message. Not a useful one. If anything, it tells the recipient of the hate that they don't deserve to be a member or society. Which results in people secluding themselves. People becoming more angry. Suicide attempts.
WHY ARE WE NOT TEACHING OUR CHILDREN BETTER? Yes, this student screwed up. Big time. But that does not invoke some kind of human right to turn into bullies. It just doesn't. Quite honestly, if I were the principal of the school, the first thing I would have done would have been to hold a school-wide assembly to talk about the situation. Let students know that they can be angry or disappointed that something like this occurred but that the answer isn't to get online and become the same kind of ignorance they are so angry about. That instead they need to try and be empathetic and have compassion, no matter how hard it is. When my kids come to me with this kind of thing, that's exactly the message I try to send them.
The sad thing is that I see this all too much even in my own social media world. Someone comments on a photo or says something unkind and the entire internet "comes to save the day". Harassing that person with negative comments, calling names and basically trying to make them feel like scum. Maybe they are scum but does that really make you feel better? Why not use that as a teachable moment? Why do we give other people so much power? Why not explain to that person that what they did or said was wrong and explain why? They will get it or they won't. But we get no where when we return bullying with more bullying. It doesn't make you a better person.
We need to do better. We need to teach our children better. There's already too much hate in this world. If people just started taking that hate and tried to teach instead of spew more hate... just think of the impact it could have. That's the world I want to live in. It's the world our children deserve to live in.