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Passive social media responses to Charlottesville inadequate, assertiveness is required

The internet isn't the effective way to take action about different issues, especially political ones

by Mary York, Digital Sports Editor

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It has been a week and the deluge of social media posts about Charlottesville finally begin to dwindle.

Reactions to the violence and bold-faced racism were understandable. It has been half a century since the Civil Rights movement and 80 years since the Holocaust. Are there really still anti-semitic white supremacists in this country?

Fingers were pointed at our president, political parties and nearly any other group that can shoulder blame. In fact, even the parties responding to the racism were called racist. Black Lives Matter and the Alt-Left were slung with mud along with the groups they oppose.

It was a riotous week in America, and now all is quiet.

This is not the first time Americans rose in righteous anger, creating an army of memes and hashtags to combat a targeted evil — only to forget about the crusade weeks or days later. When was the last time there was an article about Syrian refugees posted on Facebook? Have refugees stopped drowning in the Aegean Sea?

Are they all safely acclimated in new homes across Europe and the Americas? Or is it just that attention has turned to shinier objects, like the Trump Administration and each subsequent media flare up that followed? Or maybe after letting out frustrations on social media, Americans feel like they have done their part in the crisis.

It would seem that to speak one’s piece about last week’s events is the only piece that means anything. As long as the cyberworld knows who is and is not a racist, what does it matter how long it will take for Charlottesville to rectify its community?

Like the “ice bath challenge” of several years ago, the passion for helping is short-lived. There is no need to continue giving money to medical research or follow the progress of Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

Last October, articles were shared about the UN’s need for blankets for refugees facing a cold winter in Europe. Reshare and check off that box.

Whatever happened to Aleppo? The stories stopped coming.

Black Lives Matter, Blue Lives Matter, stories that only matter as long as they keep our attention. We live in a quick-fix culture where affirmation lives at the end of a “like” button and most millennials and many Gen X-ers never actually had to invest the whole of themselves into something in order to see the fruits of their labor. Our society does not understand or appreciate what it means to fight for something, or that real action takes place in real life and not the internet. Wars are won through actions — not memes and hashtags.

After the 2016 election, there was a mass cleansing on social media as people began “unfriending” anyone who voted for Donald Trump. They stood on grounds of “principle.” They did not want people who supported a racist bigot counted among their friends or acquaintances.

Is it a surprise then, to find out that there are white supremacists? If one does not engage with people of differing beliefs and opinions, how would one ever know they exist? More importantly, how would one ever be able to influence effective change?

African American musician Daryl Davis, of whom the documentary “Accidental Courtesy” is about, made it his mission to collect the robes of Ku Klux Klan members. He does this by befriending members of the Klan. He gets to know their families, dines with them and spends time in their homes. He puts aside his own pride, though never his principles, and he listens to men who not only disagree with him, but do not even respect his humanity. Through friendship, Davis convinced his acquaintances to give up the KKK.

Davis’ method takes time and humility. It requires investing in the people around us, despite political opinions or personal backgrounds. It has no place in the fiery debates of Facebook or the scathing, sarcastic, aggressive social media gimmicks we use to preach to the choir.

If America really wants to fix its problems, it is time to get off the computer and spend time at the houses of our neighbors.

 

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