Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Comments on Facebook Brawl in California Shows Just How Careful We Need to Be

Sometimes the comments are the only reason to read online news stories. And sometimes they’re just as depressing as the articles themselves.

That is definitely true of “FacebookComments Reportedly Trigger Large Female Fight,” which CBS Sacramento recently published. The covered details are disturbing enough alone, but the comments add a whole new layer of negative statements that can be made about our society.

According to the story, a catfight of ridiculous proportions broke out between more than 30 women in Del Paso Heights, California on Sunday. Some of them were armed with baseball bats and at least one stole a candle from a nearby makeshift memorial. Allegedly it all started with a few Facebook posts, which escalated into an advertised opportunity to duke it out.

Lovely, right? But readers’ responses were just as sad.

A large number of them automatically assumed the women involved were black, though there was no absolute proof of such included in the story. And some of the comments were glaringly racist, filled with race-related profanity and even calls for genocide against African Americans.

There is no excuse for that kind of response any more than there’s one for grown women to act like pointless delinquents. But there is something to be learned from both groups all the same…

For better or worse, people automatically represent everything that makes up who they are. That means that, if I behave badly, I risk painting more than just myself in a bad light. Depending on who saw or heard me and what prejudices and experiences they might have, I could easily feed into unwelcome stereotypes about Christians, conservatives, women or white people.

It’s unfortunate that other people might suffer from my actions, which they had no control over, but it’s an unavoidable fact of life all the same. Human nature tends to try to simplify whatever it can, and – let’s face it – it’s a lot more simplistic to treat people as categories than individuals.

And that was all just in the past month or so, giving fodder and the perception of justification to the racists posting on CBS Sacramento (who automatically make white people look bad).

 That’s sad and pathetic on multiple levels and for multiple people. But it’s something that we all need to keep in mind regardless. We don’t live in a vacuum, and it’s high time we start acting like what we say and do might possibly mean something.

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