Stop me if you’ve heard this one:
Question: What do you call a middle-aged, wealthy, black, business man?
Okay, so racism is bad–typically because of what people do with it (or in the name of it). It serves no productive purpose and I unequivocally denounce and reject it.
Still, it’s a pretty funny joke. Of course, I doubt many people enjoy a good racist rant more than I do.
So imagine my delight when I stumbled across this video of two Gainesville, Florida Gainesville High School students’ hateful, profanity-laden tirade about their fellow African American students.
I love this video. Sure there are all kinds of cultural issues you could delve into. These girls are obnoxiously flippant and completely ignorant of the world in which they live. And they make lots of grammatical and mathematical errors (which is funny, too).
Unsurprisingly, the video went viral. School administrators found out about it. It even made the evening news:
So the school and featured students come across looking completely reasonable and totally cool, making the two students that made the initial video look even more ridiculous. The two girls–both age 14–got expelled. The family got death threats–
Yeah, apparently the good citizens of Gainesville went Conan the Barbarian on these two girls. Everybody got death threats, the girls, their parents, their friends and families. The girls have to hide out while their parents are at work. They’re under police protection. One of the girls (the main one) has allegedly slipped into a depression.
Whoa. Not so funny any more. Not funny at all, in fact. The other student (the one with the glasses) posted an apology that is believably sincere (the quality sucks so I’m not going to post it but you can find a transcribed excerpt here).
I completely understand why people are offended by the video and never found it funny. But at the same time they’re just words. I don’t believe that any words, on their own, are anathema. Especially when they’re being spoken by 14 year-olds. They’re kids. Kids do stupid things. They record the stupid things they do and then they upload them to YouTube. They do this because their brains are still forming and they’re pretty bad at making decisions. I know they kind of look like adults but they’re not. And they shouldn’t be treated like adults…at least not in this instance. There’s a world of difference between these two students and say, Liz Trotta or Mel Gibson spewing nonsense (both of whom are still funny to me, but I have problems).
Ideally in a situation like this the community would come together…much like it did. You’d hope for an opportunity to address and improve tolerance and diversity. I suppose pariahdom for the perpetrators is a fair price to pay. Them fearing for their lives is not.
It’s got me pitying two girls I should have no sympathy for. And that’s cruel.