Recently six white Arizona teen girls used extremely poor judgment when the posed in a photo wearing t-shirts that spelled “NI**ER”. I think everyone who analyzed the incident displayed all of the normal reactions to the photo. The media and social media outlets plastered the photo and sparked the outrage of many. Critics called for the expulsion of the girls from school. Even some supporters called it an innocent childhood prank based on poor judgment that occurs during those confused teenage years. While I can see both sides of the issue, my mind immediately jumped to a much different conclusion. It is the same place I go every time one of these “news” stories comes to light. Honestly, I am beyond outrage when these events occur. Instead, I think about what this “innocent prank” could lead to in the future.
I am NOT saying these girls are racist. I do not know them, nor do I know what is in their hearts and minds. Despite the “evidence” of the photo, I reuse to judge them for their poor choice to arrange themselves in a pose that spells out such a cruel word. However, to make my point, I need to use them as an example and use a hypothetical what if one of these girls is racist, and that thought-process stays with them throughout their life.
There is a possibility that at least one of the girls pictured in the controversial photo is a racist. What could the potential impact of this one girl possibly be? Let’s say she grew up in an environment where racism thrived, or at a minimum, was subtly a way of life. This girl could choose to think white people are superior. This could cause her to look down on people of other races due to prejudices built up and reinforced over time. In all honesty, she is entitled to feel this way. However, her thought-processes will eventually manifest themselves in actions, and this is where the problem “starts”.
Photo courtesy of: New York Daily News | CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN
Don’t get me wrong, I hope this girl gets a good education and becomes a contributor to our society. The question is; what will her contribution be? Suppose she eventually works her way into management and has the responsibility of hiring personnel. She screens resumes to find potential candidates and runs across resumes from qualified applicants Tawana Jones or Ricardo Lopez. What do you think she will do with those resumes? Suppose she eventually owns rental properties and has the responsibility to screen rental applicants. When she searches, she is visited by qualified potential renters named Sun-Li Bok or Jamario Johnson. What do you think she will do after she shows them the properties?
If you think these are just hypothetical situations that do not happen on a daily basis, feel free to stop reading now. Unfortunately, I do not have the horsepower to convince you of anything different. For those who are at least open to the possibility of these scenarios existing in 2016, I applaud you. Now suppose our t-shirt wearing teen becomes a teacher at a local school. By now, she is in her 50s, and her deep seated racist beliefs have been etched in stone. She encounters a young black male student, who has the ability to be successful, but does not respond well to her. Maybe he senses something about his teacher that makes him uncomfortable. He has disciplinary issue, and she sits on the school’s disciplinary review board. What do you think her recommendation will be?
So yes, six teenage girls who choose to spell out a distasteful slur take a picture that goes viral. It sparks outrage by those who are “offended”. So be it. It even sparks support from those who defend, or at least, “understand” their innocent prank. So be it. For me, this is not a question about a “temporary” lack of judgement. Instead, it is the fear that it shows the potential racism that lives in one of these girls. As this cancer of racism grows inside this young lady, how will it eventually manifest itself in the future? Who will it negatively affect somewhere down the line? When will it be used as a means to get ahead, or stay ahead of another person?
As a final thought, how many young people in our society think this was just an “innocent prank”, and how many of them will act in the future on racist feelings they possess in the present? The next time one of these issues come to light, these are the questions we should be asking ourselves.
*** At the time of this writing, one of the girls came forward with an apology for the incident. Hopefully she has learned a lesson that she will use in the future to create more positive outcomes, such as granting interviews on the basis of merit or renting to people regardless of their race.