I would be lying if I said it didn’t bother me.
A few weeks ago, I opened up my Twitter account and looked at the trending topics. One of the top three was the Miss America pageant that had just taken place the night before. I didn’t watch all of the pageant. Honestly, the production bored me so I flipped between channels for a while before finally deciding to watch the pageant’s talent portion and final crowning. The whole process seemed outdated and just plain sad.
But now, here I was on Twitter reading through some of the tweets that had already been posted. I “favorited” the comments that complained that the pageant did not represent minorities. I completely agreed. Maybe that’s why the pageant had seemed so tedious and obsolete to me. I decided to leave a post of my own.
I quickly wrote, “What year is this? Is America still really doing this? Pageant needs some serious updating! Lack of diversity is disturbing.”
I posted the tweet and didn’t think anything more about it. Though I was sincere in my words, it was just the Miss America pageant, after all. I couldn’t even begin to imagine what would happen next.
About a half hour after my tweet, I received a direct message. “Are you Jewish?”
What?! I was completely confused by this message. “No. Why do you ask?” I answered.
I was shocked by the answer I received. “@JamieZunick Can’t understand why you hate White people and are White.”
What?! I took a closer look now at the profile picture. Oh, no! It was an emblem for a white supremacy group! I didn’t want to get any more involved in this. I ignored the message and refused to answer. Over that afternoon, three more messages, each getting progressively more aggressive, showed up on my Twitter account.
“@JamieZunick The Preamble to the US Constitution says: “for ourselves and OUR Posterity”. This means USA is for Whites People!”
“@JamieZunick Diversity is a code word for White geNOcide”
“@JamieZunick Anti-White piece of shit! The USA is for Whites The Preamble to the US Constitution says: “for ourselves and OUR Posterity”.
I ignored all of the messages. How could an innocent comment about a pageant inspire so much hate? I now understood the purpose of the “Are You Jewish” message. This person must have seen my picture on my account, and assumed, since I am white, my comment about diversity must be due to religion.
Though the messages made me angry, I again choose to ignore the situation. Again, I was probably just naïve. I didn’t predict what would happen next. Over the next few days, more direct messages appeared on my Twitter account.
“@JamieZunick must stick up for minorities no matter what the circumstances”
“@JamieZunick typical liberal white woman. Can’t think for herself.”
“@JamieZunick shut the fuck up”
“@JamieZunick man you’se a cracka! You ain’t BLAK !”
“Coloreds and Marxist Filth in Rabid Rage Over White Miss America… hey @JamieZunick hating UR White race is DISTURBING”
I began to realize what happened then. The original “conversation” had been retweeted among other extremist groups. The whole thing seemed ridiculously bizarre. I would open up my Twitter account to find the little “twitter bird” happily proclaiming, “You’ve been retweeted!” “You just got favorited!” “You have a direct message!” I would then open my page to find incredibly hateful messages.
It was a little upsetting but I knew that extreme people were always looking for extreme responses. Be calm, I told myself. Don’t add more fuel to this situation. I made no response. I didn’t even move to block or report the messages. I was not going to show any weakness…but maybe, I wasn’t showing any strength either.
The next day, in my classes at the college I shared the situation with my students. I thought this would be a great learning experience for all of us. As I described the situation, some of my students began to laugh. “Why are you laughing?” I asked them. “Why is this so funny?”
“People are weird” was the overall comment. “Just one simple comment you made created this whole mess?” they questioned.
One student responded with, “I can’t believe that you didn’t respond to them. I would have answered every one of those comments. I would have loved to argue and fight with them. But that’s just me. Believe me, I wouldn’t have walked away from this fight.”
One student told the class, “A few months ago, I had someone send me a series of hateful messages calling me all kinds of filthy names. It was really mean.”
I asked her who had sent the messages and why.
“You know that show Catfish?” the student replied. Well, they had one woman on there who was really cruel and hateful. She was ripping people off. I sent her a message asking her how she could be so mean to everyone. And she responded by calling me all kinds of horrible names.”
“Were you upset by her response?” I asked her.
“Oh, no,” my student answered as she smiled, “I was just excited to get a message from someone who had been on TV!”
The whole room was silent for a moment before dissolving into laughter. Ah, the power of the media!
Though the situation finally began to dissipate over the next few days, I still felt dirty, disgusted, and confused. Did I do the right thing by not responding? How could I argue against people so filled with hate? But by not engaging, did I make a mockery of my own beliefs? Did I deny the power of my own convictions? But if I did respond, what would it have proven? What would have been accomplished? I would have just gotten caught up in an endless web of hate. Would I be able to keep my own sense of fairness and compassion? Or would I have been just as detestable and cruel as those who harassed me?
That’s when a thought occurred to me. I don’t need to fight anyone to testify to my beliefs. If I want to prove my convictions, I must live my convictions. I need to continually treat all people with respect and kindness. Violence doesn’t stop with more violence. The only thing that stops violence is love. Instead of fighting, I hoped that this experience would help me love more, have more patience, and see each person as an individual worthy of respect and kindness.
So, to all of my “haters”, the ones who have told me to shut the fuck up and identified me as a Anti-white piece of shit….thank you. Thank you for showing me that I will always choose kindness and consideration. Thank you for showing me that my life is filled with goodness, respect, and compassion. God bless you.