Racist memes must teach lessons in hate, love
Look, if we want a more just and civil society, we’ve got to work for it. Sometimes, that means we should give people — institutions even — the benefit of the doubt before leaping to conclusions and hurling insults.
Case in point: As a parent of two kids who attend Richardson grade schools, I was taken aback by the racist memes that, according to RISD officials, were crafted and circulated on social media by two students from J.J. Pearce High School.
The graphic and offensive images targeted students at Richardson High, which boasts about three times as many black students as Pearce and stands about 2 miles away.
The memes, which surfaced in the days leading up to a Thursday night football game between the rivals, depicted images of a burning cross with Richardson High’s emblem in flames and hooded KKK terrorists parading Pearce’s Mustang logo.
Oh, it gets worse. There’s another picture of a whip-wielding overlord (with the Pearce logo) whipping a slave (his face covered with a Richardson High banner).
And another one — good grief — dredges up photos of Ferguson, Mo., teen Michael Brown and Darren Wilson, the officer who fatally shot him in 2014, an incident that led to rioting there and unrest across the country.
Brown sports an RHS headdress, while Wilson’s forehead is stamped with a Pearce pennant.
Talk about tacky and tasteless.
Even if you don’t have a kid
in either school, it’s enough to make your blood boil.
Fine, go ahead and get it out of your system.
But here’s the deal: All of us must be careful in how we respond publicly to this incident.
Yes, it is a crude reminder that hatred and intolerance still exist at every level of our society.
I say this not because I am unable to consider that this may have been no more than a couple of naïve or warped teenagers taking a rivalry too far.
I say it because black and Hispanic students who’ve attended Pearce say they’ve encountered bigotry before.
And you have to ask: What would make anyone think for one second that any of those memes are the least bit funny or appropriate?
This was not the work of geniuses.
It also wasn’t the work of the entire student body, or the folks in charge — which is why we shouldn’t be too quick to paint Pearce or the district with a broad brush.
In fact, the district, thus far, has said and done all the right things since the memes came to light.
“No doubt it’s appalling,” Richardson ISD spokesman Chris Moore said Thursday night.
“It’s hateful, it’s repulsive.” Pearce’s principal, Mike Evans, sent a letter home to parents denouncing the memes and promising accountability.
Plenty of Pearce parents also took to social media to distance themselves from the offensive images.
The people I’m most interested in hearing from now are the parents of the students who district officials say caused this ruckus, not to mention the two culprits themselves.
What they say could go a long way toward mending fences — or, make clear just how deeply rooted the problem is at Pearce and beyond.
Honestly, as foolish and offensive as it was, what they did is hardly shocking given where we are as a country: divided by race, divided by politics, divided by religion.
Not a soul in America should be surprised to hear that the hate and intolerance that have come to mark public discourse is trickling down to the schools — and to our children, who can’t escape it if they tried.
Trolling and cyberbullying are common these days.
A quick morning stroll through the internet jungle — Twitter or Facebook, pick your poison — is enough to make you want to get back in bed.
While the instant connectivity may give many of us a sense of community, the platform also provides a stage for bozos and bigots.
Let’s be clear, though: What happened in Richardson isn’t social media’s fault, either.
This was gross human error. The internet was just a convenient means to a cruel end. We’ve seen similar things done by kids posting racist fliers on campuses or holding up offensive placards at high school games.
What happened in Richardson is merely an unpleasant reminder that hatred, intolerance and stupidity know no boundaries.
But how we choose to look at what happened — and respond — are just as important as the offense.
We shouldn’t overreact or lose perspective: A couple of students do not a whole school or school system make.
I see a district and many parents eager to nip this in the bud. Which suggests to me this is as good a chance as any for all of us to start trying to see the good in other people, no matter our differences, and to give those who had no hand in hurting us the benefit of the doubt.
We might also keep in mind that the culprits are still wet behind the ears and, hopefully, worthy of our grace and forgiveness. It’s up to us to show them a better example, to show them how to love one another.
That is what I hope to teach my children — who, one day soon, may find themselves walking the halls of J.J. Pearce.
“No doubt it’s appalling. It’s hateful, it’s repulsive.” Chris Moore Richardson ISD spokesman
One of the memes circulated in the days before this week’s J.J. Pearce-Richardson High game depicted a slave being whipped.