Racism and public shaming: Is this the cure or the problem?

By Reade Brower | Jun 25, 2020

A couple of weeks ago, a woman from the Portland area (in fairness to the public shaming criticized below, the name of the person and her helper will not be disclosed) posted a list of over 40 businesses, labeling them all racist.

It was called “Racist Local Maine Businesses & Chains” and its disclaimer read: “This list is for informational purposes only. People should make their own choices regarding where they choose to spend their money. This is my own personal list and isn’t affiliated with BLM Portland or any political association. All information gathered has been firsthand accounts and screenshots. Content Warning: violence, racism, racial slurs, hate speech, blackface. Thank you to people all over the state who have shared information with me to help compile this list!”

While the list does contain screen shots and anecdotes from people, it is not vetted and publicly shames the businesses listed, without giving them a forum to dispute the claims.

Most of the posts and comments are damning. With some parts of the list it could be argued the list is rooted in public accountability. With other parts of the list, it could be argued that the accountability should be with the author, who didn’t identify herself in the screenshot of the post, but whose name was shared personally by one of the businesses on the list who felt defamed.

It was clear, from another business on the list spoken to, that the poster made no effort to contact them personally or through their business, instead posting a picture with a one-word racist caption that offered no context.

Newspapers get labeled “fake news” by many of the people who would put out something like this on social media, who do it without any fear of consequences, and with righteous indignation.

Yet, it is far from righteous when you don’t give the accused a chance to respond, instead putting out a truth that is not only unvetted, but also only a piece of the story.

The hypocrisy is that by not attributing that list to herself, the author gets to throw stones with no accountability for her own truth. The other hypocrisy is that exposure becomes the mission, not the truth, at least not the whole truth — this poster did not seem to care.

Public shaming is bullying. Without giving the other side any room to dispute it before it goes into publication as a post on social media, the unfairness is palpable.

There is then no way to correct it; if you argue “I’m not a racist, I’m not a racist,” you bring attention to yourself and some will say you protest too much.

That leaves avoidance and the hope it will go away and not hurt your business.

In the case of the business written about here, the incident happened in 2017 and was dealt with in a straightforward manner. Learning and awareness resulted, and the incident’s life span appropriate.

Now, three years later, the author of the “list” gets to drag this person through the mud for a second time, with the intent clearly to hurt their business.

People tend to dive into a hole when publicly shamed. They know with the fast pace of the media, their story will fade away in days, if not hours, and another victim will take their place in the bully’s eyes.

Does the end justify the means? My answer is no. Without fairness and honor, what we fight for has no backbone.

When our children are small, we teach them to never lie and cheat. Then, they turn 13 and we take them to the movies and pay the 12 and under rate because the gatekeepers will not question it. In that moment, all prior lessons about truth-telling are defeated because children mimic what we do, not what we say.

They say the truth will set you free, but first it will make you miserable.

The other thing when it comes to the truth is when in doubt, bet on the truth, when in more doubt, bet on more truth.

With the author of this list, her truth was subjective, but put out to readers as definitive. For the weight of her foot to be in truth, she should have done more diligence and less public shaming.

The truth is seldom simple. It is complex and must be treated with respect.

There are not necessarily “good people” on both sides; there are no “good racists,” but before you accuse someone of such a heinous crime, shouldn’t you reach out for comment?

The author of this post was reached out to; no response.

Kindness and tolerance, and giving people the benefit of the doubt, are all good things but, when good people sacrifice their character for the sake of the cause, the cause suffers.

Educate versus humiliate; what do you think?

*****

“All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered; the point it to discover them.” — Galileo Galilei, Italian astronomer, physicist, engineer (1564-1642)

 

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Comments (1)
Posted by: Marion Tucker-Honeycutt | Jun 28, 2020 11:07

Good on you, Reade.

 

Great article...



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