Anyone remember that late 90s movie I Know What You Did Last Summer? It’s a “slasher film”, which had their heyday in the 1980s with franchises like Halloween and Friday the 13th, but this was during a time when slashers tried to make a comeback with the “it” celebs of the late 1990s. Like literally, the guy who made Dawson’s Creek decided to make horror movies all of sudden. Anyway, it was largely forgettable. Had a plot that centered around a group of teenagers partying one night and they accidentally kill a man. Instead of owning up to the mistake or calling the authorities, they decide to cover it up and forget it ever happened, but of course, as the movie unfolds, their lack of judgement comes back to bite them when they least expect it.
Well, flash-forward to today and let’s adapt such a tale in the age of social media we live in now. Last week, Atlanta Braves pitcher, Sean Newcomb was in the mist of one of the greatest games of his career. With just two outs to go in the ninth inning, after retiring every batter that has stepped up to the plate that game, he was on the verge of doing what every major league pitcher dreams of doing in their career and throwing a No-Hitter, clearly one of the best moments of his young career. Unfortunately, with one out to go, the No-Hitter was broken up and he came up short of his attempt, but was able to record the resounding win for his team. And unfortunately for him, his night was not over. Later that night, Twitter user @NatsSquid(“Nats” being the nickname of Atlanta Braves rival Washington Nationals) uncovered older tweets sent out by Newcomb when he was in high school. These tweets contained very inflammatory and derogatory language that is offensive to African-Americans and the LGBTQ community.
Within hours, and almost as a response to, the revelation of Newcomb’s high school Twitter activity, it was uncovered that Washington National’s shortstop, Trea Turner was also found to have sent out homophobic and racially insensitive tweets during his high school years as well. These were the latest incidents, which include another Major League ball player, Josh Hader, who tweeted a litany of racist, misogynistic and homophobic tweets, again while he was in high school, that was uncovered during his first MLB All-Star appearance. Also, not to mention, earlier this year, Villanova guard, Donte Di Vincenzo who also got into trouble after a sensational game and NCAA Basketball Final Four appearance with his high school twitter activity causing him to delete his account. And rounding out the list is Wyoming quaterback, Josh Allen, who also tweeted racially insensitive language that was revealed days before he was to be drafted in the 2018 NFL Draft.
If you haven’t noticed a bit of a trend in each of the cases: A athlete having a memorable moment of their career, which is being overshadowed by something they posted on Twitter when they were in high school, virtually coming back to haunt them and stealing the thunder and acclaim in what would otherwise be a defining moment of their lives. Now, as it would happen, there has been push-back from fans and commentators from the sports-world who, while they may be sympathetic to those who might be offended, are also bothered by what has to be targeted and purposeful attempts to knock someone down after a deserved victory. It’d be one thing if this stuff was uncovered before the season started or earlier or later in their career, or hell, perhaps even the night after the occasion of their personal achievement, but these revelations are often coming the day of their moment. So it almost seems it’s being done to purposely attack someone and not being done as a matter of social awareness in the betterment of our society.
Usually, for those of us who like living in a civil society, knowing who the racist are or the homophobes that still believe the most silliest and archaic shit about gay folks, pointing them out is like putting a thumb-tack on a map of where not to go. You see it, it’s there and you can deal with it accordingly. But defenders of these athletes insist that these athletes should not be judged as harshly because of something they said in high school, as a teenager, a time where everyone knows their decision-making minds are invariably at its worst. And to be honest, I have to agree. Teenagers are notorious for their bad decisions they tend to make. But here’s the problem: these teenagers, that get the excuse of not knowing any better, they didn’t put themselves on earth. They were all raised by parents who do or should know better. And because of that, they are the ones ultimately responsible. Of course, it is not their twitter accounts and they are not the ones sending out the tweets, but they are the ones responsible for teaching their children the social awareness of other cultures and being accountable for the things they say. They’ve been around long enough and lived in this society enough to know better and teach their kids how the world will view them based on the things they say. But they don’t do that. Ultimately, I’m not certain they feel that responsibility.
Let me close this out with an incident that’s been in the news lately. A few years ago, 19-year old Pravin Varughese was murdered by 19-year old Gaege Bethune. Bethune, who will be sentenced later this month defended himself in his trial by initially blaming Varughese for his own murder and made a claim of self-defense. Fortunately his claim, was dismissed by the revelation of, you guessed it, his twitter account, where used racially derogatory language while bragging about him attacking Varughese. Of course no one would believe him now. And while I’d like to say he has no one but himself to blame, his parents have tried to blame everyone else including the police, prosecutor and media for not giving their son a fair trial. They claimed that the media made their son out to be the kind of human being that they did not raise. Well, they did raise him. And they did not raise him to respect those that are not of his race.
The Bethunes, like the Newcombs, the Turners, the Haders, Di Vincenzos and Allens all are probably(possibly really, I don’t know them) not at all prejudice and assumed that their lack of prejudice would simply transfer to their children and be reflected in their social media habits. They probably taught their children good from bad, right from wrong and lessons of equality and justice. Possibly. Now, far be it from me to assume what they weren’t taught by their parents, I’m not white, nor do I have children. But I do know, that my upbringing, just like practically every other non-white kid growing up in America, included repeated and forceful lessons of what it means to grow up in a society where you are the minority. Unfortunately gay folks almost always have to learn the hard way about the society we live in. And given their incendiary social media proclivities, it exposes a level of comfort that I just can’t imagine any rational parent affording to their children. However, many parents do not fully realize the position they’re in, where they can get away with the benefit of not teaching their kid about the dynamics of social awareness. Some would call it a privilege.
So, if you’re raising a white kid in America anywhere from about 1787 to about now, let me be clear: it is not enough to assume your children have the wherewithal to not be racially or culturally insensitive. You have to realize, like my parents did, that we live in a nation that actively teaches us that black and brown people are rather bad or lesser than and those who identify as LGBTQ lack humanity. And with that, you have to continuously teach your children of what to do, what to say and what not to say. Just like my parents did. Please teach your kids what racism is and to not do it. Stop letting White Privilege raise your kids. Because it can come back and bit them when they least expected it. Now, I don’t want to come off preachy. Again, I don’t have any kids myself and couldn’t possibly know what you do or do not teach your kids.
But just think of this as your friendly neighborhood reminder.