Why I wrote to the racist teen’s school principal… and posted it on Facebook

Email to School Faculty

Over the long weekend, I’ve had quite a bit of free time and I, like many social media fanatics (a.k.a lazy losers), spent much of that time reconnecting with friends on Facebook and reading about people’s recent adventures, job changes, and political activities (to me this is like reading People). A friend of mine shared a tumblr post about people’s racist reaction to the movie Red Dawn, a movie about the North Korean invasion of the U.S. and the heroic revolution led by a courageous, patriotic white family that saved the country from the evil forces. Honestly, I thought Red Dawn was a Twilight movie, a sequel to Breaking Dawn (I’ve never watched any of the Twilight movies and I’m damn proud of it so shut it teenagers).

The collage of people’s racist tweets on tumblr was really, really, sad. One tweet in particular stood out to me, which said, “Kinda wanna kill some Asians right now and defend the homeland, thank you Red Dawn for sparking some patriotism in me.” I couldn’t resist but find the actual person who tweeted this and confront him. Well, here’s the part I’m not so proud of… I called him an ignorant piece of shit. Ouch, oops. I shouldn’t have reacted that way, because it wasn’t constructive and I didn’t get anything out of it besides letting my frustration and anger out on him, even though he was not the root of my anger. He replied, “it was just a joke” to my tweet, which validated my action wasn’t productive nor educational. He’s only a sophomore in high school after all, and while I respect so many of today’s youth and their intelligence, maturity, and political acumen, there is still a lot of room for more growth and learning, and a dire need for good educators who teach beyond just the scope of the textbook. I used to say ignorant things all the time (no, I’m not going to tell you what I used to say) and it was through education, compassion, community, and forgiveness that I was able to learn to be more thoughtful and aware.

The true cause of my anger wasn’t him. It was, and is, our racist media, our racist society, our racist culture, and our racist institutions that fail to acknowledge any non-white person and culture as “American” and otherize people like me and lead people like Kiel to want to kill people like me. From his other tweets, I also found him using words like “faggot,” “rape,” which again, is the product of our racist, sexist, homophobic, etc. society and culture. And then I thought… what if? What if this white football player dude is bullying or harassing Asian, and/or women, and/or queer students at his school? What if no one is calling him out? What if he convinces others to do the same? Then what?

So I decided to do something about it.

Inspired by Jezebel’s recent post that held teens accountable for their racist tweets about President Obama, I decided to hold Kiel and adults around him accountable. Really, it’s not Kiel’s fault that he’s using hateful language — it’s people, adults, around him who failed to educate him that is to blame. A quick Google search and three easy clicks led me to the teen’s high school football team profile, his school’s website, and directory of faculty and staff’s email addresses. It required hardly any research at all. I wrote to the school’s principal, athletics director, football coach, and guidance counselor. I figured one of these people would care about the student’s behavior and growth. So I wrote the email and sent it (you can read it in the image above)… and took a screenshot and posted it on Facebook. Here’s why:

  1. I wanted my friends to know they, too, can do this — some people may think I’m crazy, but hey, if SOMEONE doesn’t speak up about stuff like this, no one will. And I’m certainly not going to wait and bet on the possibility of someone else who’s in closer proximity to the teen will one day teach him. If he didn’t want the whole world involved, he shouldn’t have posted a public tweet. To me, it was almost like a “cry for help” (please excuse my savior complex).
  2. I wanted to share my approach — I’ve had friends in the past who told me they just don’t know how to approach situations like this. What am I supposed to do when someone says something offensive? How do I call them out without causing a bigger scene? I’m hoping some of my wordings in the email can help figure out the approach for different people. This will always be a tricky thing to do, and everyone has different communication styles that work best for them.
  3. I wanted to point to the actual cause — I wanted folks to realize my anger wasn’t directed at the teen (sure, I may be a wee bit vindictive, but that’s beside the point) and that it was really the teen’s educators’ job to fix this. Sure, I could’ve continued the back-and-forth tweet war with the teen, but I’m pretty sure he would’ve either shut me down by saying “it was a joke, get a life” sort of a response, or simply block me. It also gave the school a clear opportunity to educate its students. I wanted my friends to know that this type of approach will (hopefully) bring more constructive and productive results.
  4. I wanted to brag — come on, now.

My partner still thinks I’m a nut job for doing what I did, especially since he thinks I make an easy target for retaliation despite my recent completion of a self-defense course. But I’m glad I did what I did, because I tried (a little too hard, my partner would say). I can also say this with a bit of reassurance because this morning, I received an email from the teen’s school principal:

Email reply from the school principal

My only hope is the school’s “consequences” will entail proper education rather than just punishment. If only the school, and other schools and organizations, can take opportunities like this to start changing the culture of the institution and instill values that embrace diversity, our world – online or offline – would be so much less violent and isolating.

Happy conscious tweeting,

Michelle