These are just some thoughts I've had over the past week or so. I wouldn't consider this an essay; I'm actually writing this with no clue how it'll end. But I'm hoping actually seeing my thoughts on paper helps these things make sense, and I hope the conclusion I come to is relatable to whoever reads this.
I remember the morning I'd heard about Terrance Crutcher's death. When's the last time you've heard his name? I wrote a Facebook status about it. Quite literally, while writing that status, I was receiving notifications on my phone from CNN ironically enough about Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie's divorce. I was actually legitimately outraged. In real time, folks are learning about another black man being murdered by another police officer, and of more importance to a major news organization is the dissolution of another Hollywood marriage. Okay.
I scrolled my timeline expecting to see just as much pain and sorrow and ... emotion, of some sort. There was little of that. A whole lot of people cared about what was happening with the Pitts, I think I saw a wedding announcement or two, but the level of direct empathy for the Terrance Crutcher situation seemed low. And that's not to say people can't feel two things at once, or use trivial things as a getaway from the seriousness of real life, or that people have to talk about matters like these. I don't know. I don't know how anybody can feel anything but disgust in the immediate aftermath of these murders. If it's not that important to you, fine, but I'm of the opinion that those people should defer to the people who care. I don't care that your dog's trip to the vet went fine right now. I don't. If that makes me a bad person, that's unfortunate. My empathy can't go to everybody in moments like those.
This is all to say, social media ... I don't know what social media is. I'm sitting here trying to articulate it perfectly, and nothing's coming. People can say pretty much whatever they want, and I'm forced to respect that because our country's constitution promises freedom of speech to us all. What I cannot and will not respect, however, are people whose political views are so dangerously incorrect. There is what looks to be a calculated and concerted effort to execute black people happening in front of me, and I'm supposed to care that two rich people don't want to live together any more? You cannot be serious.
The Terrance Crutcher shooting happened in the midst of President-elect Trump's campaign, when we thought this joke had an certain end date, confident a country that elected a Hawaiian Kenyan with Hussein for a middle name would never elect him. Election night, as it became apparent Mr. Trump would win, I wrote another status, talking about my hunch he'd win. It wasn't like it was a groundbreaking hypothesis. The hunt for the Boston Marathon killers got nonstop coverage on every news network, but CNN can't decide whether 'unarmed black man gets murdered by police' should get more coverage than 'rich white people divorce.' I mean, I guess.
Also in that status, I respectfully asked anyone reading that status who voted for Mr. Trump to end our friendship. It might sound dramatic, but seriously, you supported a guy who has emboldened a lot of people, people who still don't believe I'm their equal. Him getting this far was bad enough, but a Clinton administration would've surely kept it in check. Not only am I not sure a Trump administration will keep it in check, I'm not sure it'll want to. And knowing I could walk out of my apartment right now and look at the wrong white guy and get murdered for being a black man with him having a decent shot of getting away with it ... none of that affects you? And we're friends? How?
The next morning, I see a status imploring everyone to keep an open mind, arguing that now more than ever we need healthy dialogue and unfriending people on Facebook isn't the way to handle it. Not only did I fundamentally disagree with the entire status, I also took it as a direct shot at me, as if my disinterest in holding conversations with racists and sexists and xenophobes makes me the irresponsible one. I cannot accept ignorance or a lack of knowledge as an excuse. Your phone has Google. These are researchable things. Our next President is absolutely deplorable. You had mounds of credible evidence and plenty of time to sift through that evidence before November 8, and still chose him. His presidency is going to make life remarkably worse for people of color, and because that won't affect your way of life, you chose to completely ignore that. That's fine. God bless you. We're no longer friends though.
Twitter might be even worse. On Facebook, the ignorance you see is largely self-selected. Twitter makes sure you know there's a wide world of stupidity. Just today while scrolling, I saw some thread started from Weather Channel asking Breitbart, an ultra-conservative and very racist news organization, to stop using Weather Channel materials to mislead their audience about climate change. I clicked on the thread out of pure curiosity, unsure of how the Breitbart base would try to discredit THE WEATHER CHANNEL, but looking forward to what I'd find. And there they were, arguing that a scientific organization was taking a side in a political cause. These people refuse to believe facts! This is unprecedented. People are literally discrediting the things they don't want to hear. No longer is proof good enough.
Social media's the reason for it. We get a lot of our news from it, sure, but somehow we're getting it from way too many sources. Without Twitter, I might've never heard Trayvon's name, and a movement may never have coalesced around his death. But now that anybody can be a "journalist," the sources that have historically been doing this are lumped in with everyone else. Fox News hosts responsible for reporting political facts run away from the "journalist" title in fear of being taken seriously while using their social media platforms to support our President-elect. Mr. Trump argues that the New York Times - of all the newspapers to pick on - has a vendetta against him, and people believe it. Like, why would the New York Times ever have anything but good reasons to dislike you? Get over yourself.
Again, I don't know. We don't use these platforms responsibly, and while I don't know how we could absolutely regulate responsibility, I think it's not that hard to remove the worst-of-the-worst. If you're posting swastikas, you don't get to use Twitter. Sorry. No Twitter for you if you just have to aggressively argue all of your incorrect points. These are easy steps. If Twitter and Facebook need to bolster their complaints department, there are plenty of young people who'd love to do that job, I'm sure.
So yeah, I guess that's my argument. We just need to get these terrible people out the paint, man. I'm not encroaching on your freedom of speech if you're using that freedom to be an idiot. A little bit of empathy goes a long way. Think and proofread and edit before you press send. All those platitudes.
That's it. Thanks for reading if you made it this far.