When Tweeting It “Real” Goes Wrong

One of the consequences of tragedies that happen in a world of talking heads on social media is people making asinine comments in the public square. Such comments may not be malicious; however, they miss the mark. Comments around the unfortunate tragedy at Robb Elementary School are no different. Here are some examples.

In a tweet, a researcher with a doctorate said that (and I am paraphrasing) that what it will take is sons having “joyful relationships” with their fathers to prevent school shootings; that “good fathers are the most effective way of ending young male criminal deviance.” The tweet wasn’t followed by a peer reviewed study, only a link to his book on Amazon to purchase.

There are a few problems with this statement.

First, who defines what a “good” father is? Is a father who doesn’t spend as much time with their sons because he’s working two to three jobs to make ends meet and provide them with opportunities bad? The term good may have a general connotation to some extent, but when you use that term as an adjective to describe a father, it takes a subjective tone. That is to say that people define what a “good father” is differently.

Also, how about the many teen boys with joyful relationships with their fathers that are crime statistics due to school shootings like the ones at Uvalde, Parkland, Columbine, or Newtown? From what I gathered, Trayvon Martin, a teen boy, had a joyful relationship with his father and still ended up a crime statistic – he was murdered because he was Black.

I don’t dispute the impact a father can have when involved in the life of his son. But this tweet was tone deaf, naïve, and it missed the mark.

Another example is that of Jeh Johnson, former DHS Secretary for the Obama Administration. On Stephanie Rhule’s MSNBC show, Johnson shared that America needs an Emmett Till moment; that Americans needed to see the photos/images of the murdered children to wake America up in to enacting gun legislation.

With all due respect to Mr. Johnson… his suggestion isn’t helpful. It is actually harmful as well as lacks awareness.

Call me crazy, but I think America had an Emmett Till moment… when Emmett Till was murdered and his mother left the casket open for the world to see at his funeral. Sadly, young men like Emmett Till continue to be killed in the United States as a result of racist anti-Black sentiment/beliefs/policies. I mentioned Trayvon Martin, but there’s also Jordan Davis, Tamir Rice, Cameron Tillman, LaQuan McDonald, and sadly there are more.

The truth is that Black children are more likely to be shot to death by police than white children.

As for the actual Emmett Till moment, it didn’t facilitate justice for Emmett Till. His murderers were exonerated and when the woman in question who said Till whistled at announced that she lied, the Justice Department couldn’t find that she lied.

Additionally, I don’t want to see mutilated children on my television screen, the same way I don’t need to see the images of dead Black people at the hands of police. I am not sure what good that does. Those images can either traumatize of desensitize people and neither is a good thing.

Lastly, this isn’t the first-time young people were killed by a mass shooter. If Columbine or Sandy Hook or Virginia Tech didn’t encourage folk to elect representatives to pass gun reforms, more pictures are likely to have the same impact.

My third and final example is of fans of the show Abbott Elementaryrequesting via tweet, numerous tweets, that showrunner Quinta Brunson write a show on school shootings to highlight this devastating normal occurrence.

As someone mention on Twitter, these folks are demanding the wrong Abbott to do something.

As an educator, I enjoy watching Abbott Elementary and I have nothing but love for Quinta Brunson and I have more love for her after tweeting that Abbott Elementary is a show and not a politician and that it’s politicians that need to do something.

But here’s the thing… Not that school shootings can’t happen anywhere, but many of them have taken place in schools that Abbott Elementary patterns itself after – an inner-city school where Black children are in the majority. What we don’t need to see is a dramatization of Black children under threat of being mass murdered; probably by a mass shooter who is Black… how does that crystalize the issue of school shootings?

If were being honest, children in Philadelphia have a greater fear of being shot outside of school versus inside of school. But I digress.

All a potential episode will do will reinforce the racist ideas that people have about Black people that have no merit, such as the culture of poverty argument. That episode would embolden people like Greg Abbott, who referenced Chicago as an anti-Black pejorative, in his press conference to deflect from the white supremacy that is at the underbelly of many of these mass shooting.

I get that people are hurting and looking for answers the best way they can. I get that folk want to do something to not feel powerless. I understand that folks wish to help prevent these things from happening. But saying these things—and possibly doing something to bring these to fruition—isn’t what the people need; particularly seeing dead children and a television show episode about a school shooting.

What the people need is for legislators to enact gun legislation. What the people need is for legislators to stop with the tomfoolery about Critical Race Theory. What the people need is for the adults to be the adults. Instead, they’re making asinine comments.


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