The other day, my friend Kenyatta, who I’ve known since we were about six years old, posted to Facebook a link to ABC 7’s coverage of the #blacklivesmatter protests happening in our little corner of the world. Channel 7 is ABC’s Bay Area affiliate, and with its top-rated, sister radio station, KGO, it reaches more Bay Areans than any other network. Kenyatta wasn’t focused on ABC’s coverage per se; along with the link his only comment was, “I got caught up in this trying to return home from Berkeley. I feel for the local residents.”
I don’t know why, but I decided to click on ABC’s Facebook link, just to see how they were covering the story. After I finished their, ah, journalism, I went down to the comments. Now, I know what you’re going to say: Never Read the Comments. I think if Fight Club came out this year, Brad Pitt would explain that the second rule is Never Discuss Fight Club, first rule is Never Read the Comments. Right. I get it. I erred. But anyway, certain memes/gifs bubbled up to the top of the comment section – because they were upvoted more than any others. Here are some of them:
I realize these may be a little hard to read. Here are two of them that got the most likes:
I couldn’t help but comment to my friend Kenyatta (but not to ABC’s post): “Have you read the comments? Damn there are a lot of racist MFers out there.” Kenyatta replied with utter equanimity, and with a term I hadn’t heard: “It’s keyboard courage.” He laughed them off.
I’m not so sure. This is ABC and Facebook, not KKK and reddit. (I love following sports and celebrity AMAs on reddit; not the point.) ABC is the network whose two biggest hits are the ceiling-shattering Scandal and Modern Family; Facebook, unlike the redoubtable reddit, is where you publish comments that are theoretically under your own name. Yes, there are people who use aliases; yes, there are people who are professional trolls and sit at home and eat Cheetos and try to provoke some sort of liberal over-reaction. But it’s still striking that in 2014, post-Paula Deen and post-Donald Sterling, people are still posting blatantly prejudiced, hostile crap on a social network that has so many well-publicized transparency issues. Even if you’re using an alias, at this point, how can you possibly think that Facebook will really protect your identity in future job interviews or online dating or whatever? In other words, how could you possibly post anything to Facebook – under any name – that you wouldn’t want coming up in a Google search about you ten years from now?
Certainly, college-age women have gotten the message. One of the producers of Girls Gone Wild recently said, “It’s not exactly 2003 anymore.” What he meant was that it has become a lot more difficult for him to do his job – getting young women to reveal themselves above the waist. That’s because in the last decade, the permanent, Google-sticky nature of the internet has dawned on most people. If you want your kids’ respect, your spouse’s defense of you, a professional upgrade, you can’t leave stuff online for others to be embarrassed about. Am I supposed to believe that these trolls aren’t worried if they don’t say the “n word,” or are so rich that they don’t care? Paula Deen, Donald Sterling, and Clive Bundy proved that you can be a non-“n-word” saying one-percenter, and the world can still take away large chunks of your empire. The “keyboard courageous” have an internet connection, yet they missed that? They’re gonna later say they were just kidding? Ask Deen and Sterling and Bundy how well that worked for them.
I don’t think these trolls missed the memo; I just think they don’t care, or don’t feel they should have to change. And the fact that their comments are garnering the most “likes” – however ironic people may be – is also not a great indicator. These are things that make me worried, as the parent of a child who will likely always be “special needs.” If these little raindrops of prejudice are coming out publicly, what kind of ocean of prejudice is privately lingering in the dark? Yes, I understand that racism and so-called “ableism” are different, in a thousand ways. I also know that the strengthening of one fortifies the other, because of certain commonalities: tropes like “victims are just feeling sorry for themselves,” and “everyone has problems but everyone has equal access to the American Dream,” do not help people to feel empathy with my 5-year-old disabled child. I also know that someone who can joke about dispersing a crowd with job applications is also predisposed to call my child a “retard,” wonder why my child isn’t doing more for himself, and wonder why my child is sucking away public resources.
I even worry about this blog, which I feel makes sense when you’re reading it, but as a larger thing…hey, I realize how it comes off. Why do you think I call these waaaaambulance Wednesdays? #fautigue
I realize the bottom line here: don’t worry about what you can’t control. Okay, bottom line knowers. Tell that to any parent whose kid is going to suffer from the uncontrollable.