Bad Lessons at Albany High; The Difference Between Free Speech and Being a Jackhole

White, privileged and oblivious, a group of families whose children were punished for association with racist Instagram posts are suing the district for violating their First Amendment rights.

It sounds like something out of the Onion: “Racists sue, claiming intolerance of their intolerance.” You can’t make this crap up. But it’s not funny really.

From the East Bay Times:

Three students were alleged to have posted to the account and several others had “liked” the images, which targeted 11 mostly female students (all but one a person of color) and the school’s African-American girls basketball coach.

The images included nooses drawn around necks of those photographed and side-by-side photos of the girls and apes.

If you are one of those few children of color—compared to monkeys, noose around your neck—or their parents, how do you feel? Is that school a safe place? Or even if you aren’t a person of color, is your Jewish or disabled or “just different” kid next? Or just as an empathetic human with an understanding of history, how can this be excused?

Shame on the parents for suing, you are some privileged pieces of work. And what is the lesson you are teaching your kids? Yeah, be a total asshole, be a racist, hurt other people, and sue your way out of it.

I think most parents—Black, Brown, White, whatever—would teach their child a lesson in this. Maybe through a belt, or endless verbal processing, or extended grounding, or whatever form of punishment your family uses. Even if you have some constitutional right, that doesn’t make it “right.”

And our job as parents isn’t to teach our kids how to weasel out of responsibility, but how to accept it, and learn and grow.

Most of us did or said stupid things when we were young, sometimes we really may not have understood why those things are wrong or the impact they can have. We learn that, or we should. We learn how to be part of community.  And I don’t know the individual cases, where the guilty can be caught with bystanders or even upstanders.

And let’s be clear, it is not everybody.  I was heartened by the response from the broader school community—which was resolute—I saw student protests and support for creating an inclusive community, and here is a firsthand report of the response from ABC7 News:

“Well today, when we met with them, I really thought they would own up to what they did, and you know, kind of apologize, and a lot it was them defending themselves,” said Amber Jones, a student whose picture appeared on the page. “And constantly saying, ‘Well I didn’t really add to it by liking and commenting, I didn’t really think I was a part of it.’ And none of them were like, ‘I’m so sorry, I’m taking full responsibility. I hate what I did. I don’t agree with it.’ I didn’t hear that.”

“Their parents have not come to the board meeting which was four hours of public comment of people in Albany sharing their experiences about racism that are very similar to this,” said parent Alexandra Campbell Jones. “And the pattern of the district and the Albany Police Department sweeping these incidents under the rug—do we need to find one of our children hanging from these trees for people to take this seriously, this is not a joke.”

“We will not tolerate racism. We will not tolerate anti-Semitism, we will not tolerate homophobia,” said Albany School District Superintendent Valerie Williams. “We will not tolerate hate speech, or hurtful behavior in any way shape or form.”

But to the parents and their lawyers, it’s a free speech argument:

In the suit, the students’ original images, as posted and commented on, are described as “expressive/political speech.”

“They engaged in conduct protected by the First Amendment, and shouldn’t suffer due to engaging in not-pleasant speech but constitutionally protected speech,” Beck said. “That’s why we’re seeking injunctive relief.”

Well I got some free speech for you crackers. Your privileged bullshit is not only making this world a worse place, but you are raising your kids to be bigger assholes than you are, which is a monumental task in itself. And hiding behind lawyers rather than facing the community and being a part of it shows how cowardly you are.

There was a point where fault could have been admitted, responsibility taken, and a healing process to occur. You denied that to your children, and unfortunately, I think that if and when they do return to school, they will be the pariahs—not the children they tried to destroy. That is on you.

What do you think?

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