We can’t ever truly look into the conscience of a person and know what they’re honestly feeling. We can only surmise those feelings through their words and their deeds. Someone may be genuinely concerned about homelessness, but if they do nothing and say nothing about it, and instead all we hear from them are complaints about panhandlers, then we are correct in assuming that someone is apathetic at best toward the plight of the homeless, and hostile at worst. It is not up to us to ignore their words and deeds and assume they feel something other than what they demonstrate; it is up to the doer to demonstrate how they truly feel if they wish others to believe them.
When the president says he cares about the victims of Hurricane Maria, we have two choices: take him at his word, or watch what he does. If the two match up, then we can conclude that his words are truthful. If the two do not match up, we have to question his words or his deeds. Words are cheap, which is why we hold as a truism the proverb “Actions speak louder than words.” So when the president says that he cares about the victims of Hurricane Maria, but his only action is to show up for a couple of hours and toss paper towels to a pre-selected crowd of admitted supporters, we can rightfully conclude that his words don’t mean shit.
Likewise, any person can say, “I’m not a racist”—a phrase that I believe should become a de facto confession to racism. In fact, it’s so easy to say that the phrase is meaningless. It doesn’t mean anything any longer, except that the person who just uttered it is most likely a racist. When someone tells us they are not a racist, the very first thing we should do is dig into their history of behavior and look for evidence that they are a racist, because I can guarantee you that the only reason that phrase was used was that the person using that phrase just got through engaging in racist behavior.
Let’s take a field trip to Utah.
I thought people were better than this especially my so called “friends” pic.twitter.com/8yD9h7YZE2
— 7 (@WarriorTy7) October 16, 2017
Here’s the story as it’s currently known. 5 high school cheerleaders from Ogden, Utah filmed themselves saying “Serggin cuff” and then used an app that will play whatever you record backwards. They then uploaded the video to Instagram and the girl who posted the video commented, “serggin cuff” when she posted it, as you can see in the grab in the above tweet.
Now, here’s where the story gets sadly, and predictably, and stupidly, confusing. The video went viral, and school officials at Weber High School in Ogden said they take this sort of thing very seriously, very seriously, indeed (because what else are they going to say? The truth? That they feel the same way? Fuck no. They’re going to do their “Thoughts-and-prayers” routine and blurt out the standard line about how shocked they are, and about how they take this sort of thing very seriously, and how they are going to look into this and blah blah blah blah blah).
The district of course made matters worse when they tried to explain away what we all can see by issuing a statement that read, in part:
School officials have started an investigation and the matter is being taken very seriously. We are trying to determine when the video was made, where it was filmed, why the students would engage in such conduct, and how the clip ended up on social media.
We also wish to remind everyone that these are kids, and sometimes kids do really stupid things without thinking.
Certainly, there are no excuses for this type of behavior, but they are still children in a sense and hopefully this will be a learning experience for them and others.
It is believed the group was playing around saying gibberish words into an app, and when the recorded phrase is played backwards, it sounds like racial slur.
The school would have been better off claiming that the phrase was the result of the girls playing around with the district’s Infinite Improbability Drive.
There are now plenty of stories about how the girls are remorseful and how sorry they are and how apologetic they are and how they Just-Didn’t-Realize-The-Severity-Of-Their-Actions-And-How-Hurtful-Racism-Is, which is totally understandable considering how unfamiliar with the subject our nation is and just how new the whole phenomena is.
Except for one thing, or maybe two things. The school is claiming the video was made a year ago, and the teens sat on it for a year. Also, after the video went viral and public outcry demanded that the girls be punished for this, this is what appeared on the Instagram feed from the girl who initially uploaded the video:
Why does all this matter?
Whenever high school teenagers do something stupid like this, we all like to remind ourselves and others that just about every last one of us did something incredibly stupid when we were teenagers (like trying to cash a paycheck at the bank while tripping on LSD), and that we eventually grow out of it. And while that is mostly true, there are two very important things to keep in mind before we dismiss this antic as just another one of those overprivileged, upper-middle-class prank kids grow to regret as they get older and wiser:
- The Internet is forever. There was no Internet when I stood in the lobby of that bank in 1987 and twirled my hands around my head, fascinated by the tracers while the teller watched in trepidatious amusement, and so there is no permanent record of me ever doing that, and I can easily decline to ever tell a potential employer about it because he or she will never find footage of it anywhere.
- People who grow out of these sorts of things do so because the remainder of adult society is there to act as a role model for acceptable behavior. We learn that the stupid shit we thought was funny as hell as teenagers doesn’t play over all that well with people who have had to live through the subjects of our irreverence. When I was in high school, a kid one day decided to wear a sardonic T-shirt to school that was designed to imitate concert tour T-Shirts, only this one read “Hitler World Tour: 1939-1945” and listed all the nations he invaded and the dates he invaded them. I won’t present the image here. You can google that shit if you want to, because neo nazis are still selling it. Anyway, our principal, who was Jewish, was appalled and I distinctly remember the kid getting yanked by the collar into the office. The very next month, our high school hosted a talk by 3 Holocaust survivors. I’ll never forget those two moments, and while no one ever said that the invitation was extended to the Holocaust survivors as a direct result of that kid’s T-shirt, we all knew that was the impetus for it. But what role models to these girls have in today’s society? What leaders are demonstrating to them the unfeasibility of casual racism? These are the role models demonstrating to these girls what a civilized society behaves like:
So what model for society are we providing for those girls in Utah? If this is what they see the adult world to be, then when do they “grow up” and grow out of their behavior?
Let’s be perfectly honest. We are facing this because we tolerate it. Watch the videos and watch how many people stand by casually and say or do nothing. A few meager supporters toss in their support here and there, but for the most part, the detractors stand back and whisper how kooky the racists sound.
When the anti-racists are reduced to whispering their dissent to each other out of fear of being overheard, and the racists are proudly shouting their slurs and happily posting them to social media, then where have we landed as a society?