I’m all for holding people accountable for their racist behavior.
But I also love children. I love allowing children to behave like children — nasty, violent children. Adults can be expected to behave with appropriate decorum, but you have to cut kids a little slack.
So what happens when an alleged racist I’m prone to hate happens to also be an alleged bully that I usually defend (from criminal prosecution)?
I’m not sure, but I’m not at all surprised that the state of New Jersey is where we find today’s moral quandary….
A Glassboro, New Jersey high school student has been charged with harassment for a mean tweet she allegedly put up on Twitter.
A tweet. We are now charging high school students with crimes because of stuff they say on Twitter. How will these sensitive flowers deal when they face real harassment — you know, like “I’m going to search your car while I rest my foot on your neck” harassment instead of ouchy words on Twitter?
Of course, the “ouchy” words were allegedly outrageous. From NBC Philadelphia:
The sophomore girl is accused of taking a picture of two African American students, writing a racist remark, and posting it on twitter.
The tweet was posted for just over a month before being noticed last week.
The tweet allegedly said, “Stupid ni**as in my algebra class,” accompanied with a Twitpic of the two African-American students (but without my tasteful redaction).
That was it. It wasn’t, “A squared plus B squared = ni**as I’m gonna kill with a triangle.” It was just a passing insult.
But in New Jersey apparently that’s enough. From the (idiotically named) New Jersey Anti-Bullying Bill Of Rights Act:
“Harassment, intimidation or bullying” means any gesture, any written, verbal or physical act, or any electronic communication, whether it be a single incident or a series of incidents, that is reasonably perceived as being motivated either by any actual or perceived characteristic, such as race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, or a mental, physical or sensory disability, or by any other distinguishing characteristic, that takes place on school property, at any school- sponsored function, on a school bus, or off school grounds… that substantially disrupts or interferes with the orderly operation of the
school or the rights of other students
First of all, what a stupid freaking law. Basically, anything that bothers anybody in New Jersey could potentially come under this law. Twitter doesn’t exist without communications motivated by distinguishing characteristics of whomever or whatever you are making fun of.
Luckily, the law also says that harassment has to “substantially disrupt” the operation of school. In the instant case, how disruptive was this freaking tweet when it was up for a month without anybody noticing? If a tree spews racist insults in a forest, does it make a sound unless we chop it down, fashion it into a cross, and set it ablaze in your front yard?
I don’t want to defend the allegedly racist girl, but not all insults are crimes. Society can’t work that way. Childhood can’t work that way. There used to be a guy in my neighborhood who was darker than the rest of us and we (I) used to joke about how this kid was so dark he “could leave fingerprints on charcoal.” It wasn’t nice. It wasn’t appropriate. And eventually we stopped.
We stopped because we got older, because parents explained to us the term “self-loathing,”… and because the kid eventually moved away (which, you know, probably wasn’t the best outcome).
The point is, making people criminals isn’t a way to teach them about racial sensitivity. We’re talking about a school, educate the alleged racists instead of sentencing them.
NJ Girl Charged Over Racist Tweet [NBC 10: Philadelphia]