Twitter can be a really weird place sometimes.
We’ve had another mass shooting here in America. As is the case for every other shooting that’s gained national attention since the advent of popular online venues like Facebook and Twitter, many Americans turned to their social media accounts after the Orlando Massacre to express grief, find consolation within their networks, and express their political opinions about what problems need to be addressed to ensure a better future for the country. As much as some people would love for the country to come together in the wake of tragedy and put politics aside, the easiness with which social media allows us to amplify our views to a large audience is too tempting for many users. I am sympathetic to the idea of scaling back the personal opinions during trying times such as these, but I’m realistic enough to know that national tragedies often become politicized before the blood is dry.
And so it was no surprise to me when I came across this dumb meme on Twitter the other day. Of course someone had to turn this tragedy into a statement about the true victims in this country. Yes, those folks who like waving Confederate flags and celebrating the ideals of the Confederacy who face cultural persecution and impending death by a lethal dose of political correctness.
The message seems clear enough. The perpetrator of last year’s Charleston Massacre, Dylan Roof, is a known white supremacist who proudly posed with Confederate flags in numerous pictures before the shooting. In response, there have been efforts throughout the country to reassess and in some cases take action to remove Confederate icons and symbols from public places of honor. We can see that whoever created this meme believes that as a supporter of Confederate heritage, he or she is being perceived as racist for waving the flag, and that the actions of one person are unfairly representing the views and values of an entire group of people. That’s actually a fair point to make. Self-identified interest groups, whether political, social, or cultural, often maintain a spectrum of views that are sometimes hard to generalize about. Certainly we can all agree that most Confederate heritage defenders are not bent on committing a mass shooting to incite a race war, as Roof hoped to do.
But then this person engages in the very same behavior he or she criticizes in others by complaining that they can’t make generalizations and demeaning comments about an entire religion and ethnic group without being called a racist! “You’re called racist if you speak out against Islam.” Well yes, that’s what happens when you make generalizations and stereotypes about an entire religion or ethnic group based on the actions of one person and deem them inferior to your own group. Apparently Dylan Roof’s actions do not speak for all Confederate Heritage advocates, but Omar Mateen’s actions speak for all Muslims around the world. Get the picture yet?
There are all different sorts of radical ideologies that worry me, not the least a group like ISIS. But I think there’s a lesson to be learned here. If you don’t like being stereotyped, then don’t stereotype others. If you take exception to being called a racist, then don’t engage in racist behavior. If you don’t like seeing a radical appropriate and define the message of your group, then take actions to change the perception and redefine the message. And please, for the love of God, check your spelling and grammar before sharing these silly memes.