Thursday, July 15, 2010

Think Before You Believe and Speak

I rarely take to debates and confrontations and try to follow the motto "If you don't have anything nice to say then don't say anything at all," but lately I've been coming across way too much ignorance online to keep turning away. Ignoring such comments felt just as bad as saying them myself. Maybe this person doesn't even realize that they're being offensive, I reasoned, and so something should be said.

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.


  1. oh, i'm with you. if there's anything that i intensely dislike in this era of tweets and status updates, its those people who say something and claim them as truth when it is anything but. i even had to "un-friend" someone because her status updates and generalizations about a certain race were just too offensive.

  2. Well said Dorkys, i often want o challenge people like this, and you're right, it must be done with the right research and facts if it to have impact and resonance..

  3. Very well said, and thank you for saying it. I said this both aloud to my Twitter stream, and directly to the person you're referring to, but the terms she and her husband were using really aren't ever funny, and honestly, why should they be?

    I just can't buy that every joke comes down to "a matter of opinion." Some jokes are just tasteless, racist, and they suck.

    And exactly as you've stated, just because a person CAN say something doesn't mean they SHOULD. And it certainly doesn't mean I have to read it or listen to it.

  4. There is a fine line, I think, between being TOO politically correct and being ignorant. People just fail to realize that what's funny in the presence of some people isn't funny in the presence of others. Jokes should be left between the people present to hear them, and leave it be. I don't want to hear or read about the jokes some people tell, I know that for a fact, and it's partially why I don't blog hop too much and why I don't twitter or follow/friend random people on all the other social networking sites. Too much ignorance and drama to be found.

    Lastly, I certainly hope that some of our personal discussions/conversations have never offended you, or that Hubs' jesting hasn't crossed any lines. He's a comedian in his mind, and probably feels comfy in the short virtual conversations he's experienced, with the three of us. :) You just let me should know I would appreciate any honesty from you!

  5. No, I'm actually not easily offended! I have my fair share of guy (and some girl) friends who've crossed the line MANY times and have made non-PC jokes too, but I don't go putting myself on blast and sharing it with others because we all know some things simply don't read as well online, via e-mail or text. Even with the people who know us well, you just never know how something will come across.

    It's just these things that really did NOT sit well with me. I know these things get said. I'd be stupid to think otherwise, but I just don't think it needed to be said to the rest of us.

    So tell hubs, he's aight by me! Not like I haven't dished it right back at him.

  6. Great post. People need to think more before posting stuff to the world. I've seen many a Facebook update written in anger/drunkenness that could have greatly benefited from being slept on.

  7. I've been reading the "comments" on a lot of Yahoo news stories and the amount of hate and virtolic nonsense is mindnumbing.

    If these comments accurately reflect the mentality and state of our country, it's even worse than even a pessimist like I ever dreamed...

  8. I've been wondering to myself for a while now if, instead of strengthening long distance relationships, things like twitter and facebook are actually damaging them. Case in point, my brother has become a tea party supporter, anti-immigration, Glen Beck loving ideologue. And he shares it all with me via facebook. I feel like I should call him out, but he'll just say I'm a liberal as if that's reason enough for my arguments to be invalid. The one time I did call him out it turned nasty and I felt very hurt. I wonder if saying nothing implies agreement, I worry that it does, but I don't have the energy for daily fights, and I'm already feeling my positive regard for him slipping away. I am seriously considering blocking my own brother, before he joined facebook our relationship wasn't perfect, but it definitely didn't feel so fraught. I just don't make facebook or my blog political (at least I try not to, though I'm not always successful), but what can I do. I don't think he'd ever say things like this to a group of people, perhaps sitting behind a keyboard makes him feel anonymous and safe to "exercise freedom of speech." Whatever it is, I hope it stops soon.

  9. Great post Dorkys! I will never understand why people think that insensitive and racially inspired rants are funny. It is ignorant on so many levels.

  10. This was good. I'm glad you took the time to say it. Some people I feel it's not worth saying anything to but this does serve as a good reminder for us that everything does not have to be shared...

    I am in 100% agreement with the sentence "The immediacy..." people feel like they just HAVE to say something not realizing how hard it is to take it back...

  11. I agree, and would add that some thought, tact, and restraint should be exercised when forwarding emails and commenting on blogs.

    Stopping by from the SITS Friday Potluck.

    Have a wonderful weekend!


  12. Ugh, I have no tolerance for people who speak out in hateful ignorance. It spreads lie, fans prejudices, and does absolutely nothing positive for anyone.

    The worst are people who will stubbornly stick to their guns even after being proven wrong.

    Its incredible that sometimes trying to have a conversation with certain adults is more frustrating than arguing with a three-year-old stomping his foot about nap time.

  13. Thank you soo much...I've seen that too many times, too, and for a long time just conformed to the "sit down, shut up, and don't rock the boat because you're a girl and you won't get them to listen to you anyway." But recently, because my boyfriend/fiancee is Mexican and is still not fluent in English, I've noticed that we get treated differently when we're together, and have started standing up and saying "this isn't right". Sometimes it's hard and feels like no one thinks like I do...but it's so nice to know that others do. :)


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