This this this 1000x THIS:
At a basic level that’s not fair – something that quickly catches fire not only with white parents with pre-existing feelings of racial grievance but others just freaked out by the randomness of the blow up. I spoke to one Covington parent this week who is a diehard anti-Trump, Democrat who is nonetheless upset that his son is getting tarred for the actions of Sandmann and the kids surrounding him that afternoon. But fairness is too thin a standard. One of the essentials of social and racial inequality is that some classes of people consistently get more fairness than others. If we’re so concerned about fairness for Nick Sandmann, who now has high priced media advisors coaching him for sympathetic interviews on national news, what about Tamir Rice who did nothing wrong at all and ended up dead in a playground in Cleveland? Everybody deserves second chances. Some people get third and fourth chances and some get none. But this kind of either/or thinking doesn’t make sense. Taken too far this quickly degenerates into a sort of intersectional whataboutism.
The issue is less that it’s unfair as that it makes no sense, something that quickly becomes clear when you dig into the particulars. Sandmann is too random, callow and specific to possibly hold up for long as the focus for the issues he now represents. You dig in and there’s just not remotely enough there.
So we have the recurrent pattern of flash food social media blow ups in which the specifics of the people involved can’t bear the weight of the social realities and injustices they come to symbolize. In a sensible world Sandmann gets school level discipline for acting like a jerk and some consequence and education about racism, history and empathy. But since we’re in a world of social media he quickly ricochets between national bogeyman and white grievance hero until a few days go by and we forget about it. The story of privilege and inequality he is part of is quickly recapitulated in the production of media handlers, praise from the President and the fact that many in the majority culture can empathize with the firestorm he’s caught up in even as many recognize he acted terribly in the incident itself. We all empathize most with people who seem like us. The nature of empathy is second chances and seeing the full person rather than their worst moment. Like so much in our society it is unevenly distributed.
We shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that for all their jaggedness and insubstantiality these incidents do have some public educative effect.