Those who rant and rave online plant seeds that can come back with a vengeance.
Before digital communications changed the way we stay in touch, we’d express our frustrations in short-lived events that popped up randomly like blips on the radar. In today’s digital world, a naive rant can become virulent and cause an outcry unlike anything you’ve experienced; thoroughly decimating your character in one fell swoop (a swift, terrible blow). Why, you ask? Because ranting gives the world a clear snapshot of your character.
Recently, two teen girls from Gainesville, Georgia recorded offensive, stereotypical remarks in a nearly 14 minute YouTube video that went viral leading to national attention and an impassioned backlash. Both girls were expelled from school and one issued a formal apology in the Gainesville Sun followed by an apology from one of the girls parents. One of the girls also issued a video apology in an effort to further explain herself.
The act of apologizing may take away some of the strife associated with this brash video but it will not undo what has been done. At the end of the day, we are accountable for what we do and say. Excuses that try to minimize what has been said or the nature of the words used can cause others to fear what else could happen if they take no action – if they stand by silently.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., once remarked “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” It’s a bad idea and bad karma to let frustrations and generalizations loose online… unless you want to find yourself in the middle of a social media storm.
Intolerance must never be tolerated.
Needless to say, this unfortunate situation has a lot of people talking online and offline. Some are candidly discussing issues like race, prejudice, and diversity while others choose to discourage conversations altogether. No person, organization or community wants to be limited or shunned because of something someone else did or said and no one wants to be in the public eye or considered guilty by association based upon something someone else has done either.
Now is the perfect time to spend time discussing race, diversity, tolerance and respect in schools and at home with the hopes of turning this sad event into a teachable moment.
We can’t change what happened but we can learn from it and we can choose how we respond. We can live and learn to accept differences, teach our children to appreciate differences so they can find their place in the world without tarnishing their reputation along the way.