Early yesterday, Patch posted a story about John Kelly, president of Westside Baseball, being suspended for making racist comments after the death of Whitney Houston. All-too-predictably, the reader comments turned far uglier and even more deeply racist than what Kelly put on Facebook in the first place. Mixed in with the hate speech (and lousy spelling) was the message that what Kelly put on Facebook is his business and has nothing to do with his job.
Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. It has everything to do with it.
No matter how you set your Facebook privacy settings or try to limit your friend list to “like-minded” people, there is a 100 percent chance that someone outside your own private circle is going to see what you post. A friend comments on your post and it now shows up on the right side of all your friend’s friends’ pages. Another person you think shares your views takes what you post and sends it to all his or her friends with a comment like “Can you believe this guy??” Or, as appears to be the case with Kelly, the comment you posted in the heat of the moment hurts someone so deeply that they respond by making sure everyone knows what’s really in your heart. The reality is that once you attach a comment to your name, it is no different from standing in the Jewel parking lot and shouting it for everyone to hear.
Just to be clear, my point is not that Facebook needs better privacy controls or you need to pick your Facebook friends more carefully. My point is to shut your mouth. Stop with the hate speech. Stop indicting an entire race of people just because you don’t happen to like a few people of that color. Stop saying things on Facebook that you wouldn’t be willing to say to all the parents of the kids on your baseball team. If you think it makes you sound better or smarter than the people you’re throwing slurs at, you’re wrong. Just take a look at the comments on yesterday’s story, if you can stomach them. Who sounds like the real “dumass?”
It is no secret we live in the most segregated and racially tense city in the world, and that the South Side has historically been the epicenter of those issues. Just like when I was a kid, people throw around ugly, nasty words like they are talking about the weather. I don’t expect years of this deep-seated bigotry to go away anytime soon. But I hope eventually people figure out that while Facebook can be a great tool for staying in touch with friends and family, it also can reveal a lot of ugly things about you to those same people – and hundreds more.