The first one happened on Facebook. "If you are going to beg me for money at least have the decency to do it in ENGLISH!!! Me thinks it's time to go Arizona on these mofos!"
Oh hell no.
After I asked her to explain herself, I gave my ten cents on the immigration issue and how I felt about SB 1070, the controversial law in Arizona that is set to go into effect July 29. She claimed that illegal immigrants robbed citizens of jobs without paying taxes and that the majority of Latinos in Arizona supported the new law. So I did some research and hit her back with some facts debunking both statements: many illegal immigrants shell out money for social security benefits they might never collect and 81% of Arizona Latino voters oppose SB 1070. She never did tell me where she got her information from (or anything else for that matter), but the things I quoted could have easily been found through a search. Before I made my statements though, I made sure that what I said was factually correct (blame my experience as a researcher) and went so far as to look for anything that could support the opposing view. All too often, people blurt out inaccuracies and tout them as truths, which only perpetuates ignorant beliefs and further misinforms people too lazy to question what they read and hear. Get into the habit of fact-checking yourself and others.
Another ignorant comment appeared on Twitter. I won't repeat the tweet here as I feel it's unnecessary to spread such derogatory terms, but the racist remark was apparently said in jest and then taken quite seriously by several followers. At first I didn't want to get involved in the cyber-argument that ensued, but half-way through the day I had to interject and let this person know how demeaning her thoughts came across. Her reasoning for sharing? "Because that's what me, my husband and the two black dudes were talking about last night. They didn't think it was so horrible." Perhaps, but once you publish it in a public space, it's shared with people who might think it's very horrible and take it out of context because 140 characters only provides so much back story. The immediacy of Facebook, Twitter and blogs make some feel that their every thought needs to be shared with the world before actually thinking about what that message might convey.
Now that it's so easy to step up onto a soapbox and say whatever we want, it's even more crucial to think before we speak; with freedom of speech comes responsibility, I told her. Yes, we have a right to voice our opinions no matter how insensitive and outrageous they might be (provided that it doesn't pose a risk or a serious threat to safety), but does everything have to be shared? So you think [enter race here] people are [enter stereotype here] and should all [enter rash action here]. How does this contribute to the world's progress?
Perhaps it's much too naïve of me to think that our right to free speech doesn't have to lead to an Internet doused in ignorance; that the information it provides can result in the exact opposite provided you use the right sources. I'm not promoting censorship or a complete loyalty to political-correctness and do believe that we all profit from contributing to this marketplace of ideas. All I'm asking for is a little more thought before you go ahead and start trading.