I want to begin this post by saying I firmly believe in the awesome power of social media to be a tool for good. I believe that this platform has done wonders for giving voice to many groups of disenfranchised and underrepresented individuals and that on the whole that is a great outcome.
That said, I would love to see all of us take a step back and a collective calming breath.
On holiday this weekend whilst people all around our country gathering to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s work and legacy I made a strategic retreat from several social media fights I saw break out across my timeline.
First, I saw people go into attack mode on Gladys Knight for choosing to accept the gig of singing the National Anthem during the Super Bowl.
Then I saw friends turning on friends over black folks who still choose to patronize the NFL despite the social protest linked to Colin Kaepernick’s action of taking a knee during the National Anthem.
In Minnesota, I read about a high school basketball team pulling out of an MLK day tournament over the conduct of high school fans who brought a political banner into a game that stirred up racial tensions.
Finally, I saw this picture of a perceived confrontation between several MAGA hat wearing, white high school students and a Native American elder and veteran.
Y’all, when did we collectively lose our damn minds? And why are we trading shots at one another through our computer screens like children with zero home training?
This last image is the one I found most disturbing. From the moment I saw it I had a sense that something was very wrong and we were catching one moment of something out of context that was waved in front of us to evoke a particular set of emotions.
The other aspect of this and the high school students at the basketball game is that children were thrown up on the national stage faces front and center with little to no thought about the long-standing implications of this type of exposure.
It concerns me that as a society we seem more intent on perpetuating these polarizing narratives than taking the time to work through our differences and disagreements as rational and reasonable human beings. Let me be clear, this is not a political critique that I am making here, it is a social and human crisis that we need to address NOW.
Is it newsworthy to report on a presidential campaign banner being brought into a high school basketball game? Perhaps. Was it necessary or even prudent to include a picture that clearly shows the identities of the minors who made the decision to bring that banner (which belonged to one of their parents) to the game and display it?
In the case of the high schoolers who had an exchange with the Native American veteran, (I am choosing to omit names on purpose btw to stay focused on my primary point), was it necessary or appropriate to broadcast those children’s faces in that video and imagery in this way.
In both of these instances there was an opportunity for educating these minors to the nature of the symbols and language they used in these situations and the power behind them. Instead, our young people are seeing us grown folks handle all of this very poorly and what lesson do you think they are taking from our actions?
We get a few precious years to facilitate the learning of these young people. Just a very short time to help them learn the value of diversity, equity, reason, critical thinking, empathy. I hate to see us surrender these opportunities to help our youth develop into the people we need to be the world’s future leaders.
If it’s not our jobs as the adults in the room to model good behavior, then whose is it?
Marta C. Youngblood is a writer, education and social entrepreneur based in Hot Springs, Arkansas. For more information on her current projects visit https://about.me/MCyoungblood.