Should You Be Fired for Your Dumb, Bigoted Tweet?
Social media has revealed to me that my favorite artists are morons.
Pre-Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram, I would have bet all of my worldly possessions that some of my favorite singers shared many of the same basic beliefs and moral principles based on the songs they sang, and lyrics they wrote, but alas, I was terribly wrong. I understand all the posturing and pretending done by pop stars and rappers alike, and I’m aware of the smoke and mirrors.
However, when heavy issues like race, sexual orientation, same-sex marriage, or reproductive rights bubble up onto various social media platforms, I can undoubtedly count on being disappointed by a tweet or two (or twenty). Should I really spend my money on concert tickets to see a singer whose tweets are highly problematic? Even beyond music—can I segregate the awful parts of a celebrity and support their craft without being a hypocrite?
Learn to Balance Your Public and Private Life
As social media users, we all have to figure out how to balance our public and private lives and determine how much of the private we think is safe to project via social media.
Unlike most mediums that give us the opportunity to polish, refine, and perfect, social media creates a space most favorable for blurts, babble, and gossip. Often, thoughts seemingly surface and head directly to our fingertips without making a pit-stop at our brain to cleanse it of the mental sludge that will get you labeled ignorant, sexist, an asshole, or worse.
If there is a discrepancy between the liberal-minded person you’re purported to be and the less than smart or articulate statement that you decided to tweet—what does that mean? We’re all aware that we’re projecting, not ourselves, but a version of ourselves, a curation not of our honest thoughts, but of thoughts that won’t threaten our jobs, or come off contrary to the beliefs we publicly hold. So doesn’t that mean that we’re all disingenuous? Are we policing each other way too harshly?
Your Private Thoughts Don't Matter
One of my oldest and closest friends has always expressed to me that she wasn’t a fan of same-sex marriage. She was raised in a household that didn’t accept it as a lifestyle, and her parents taught her that it was wrong. She has never expressed those views on any social media platform and says she never will. Sharing her stance on same-sex marriage isn’t worth the judgment from her peers, and most importantly from potential employers.
So do your real thoughts even matter? And does the rude, slightly-bigoted, sorta offensive thing you might say to your best friend about someone else matter—if your actions don’t reflect it? It calls to mind Bomani Jones’ ESPN article where he details how former Clippers owner Donald Sterling has been sued for housing discrimination for not renting apartments to Blacks and Latinos—yet only made major headlines for the racist remarks that he thought he was making in a private conversation.
While Sterling’s words and actions are perfectly congruent, denying people housing solely on the basis of their race is far more deplorable than stray remarks. Should we factor in how many times someone has said something offensive? Just do a Google search of “Iggy Azalea’s racist tweets”—she doesn’t seem to quite get it.
When I found out that PR executive Justine Sacco had gotten the ax from her job at IAC for this tweet, a wave of joy washed over my entire being. I screamed at my computer, “Yes!” There is so much brilliant irony involved in a PR executive getting fired over a racist tweet.
BUT—what if Justine has treated everyone she has ever encountered regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation with care and respect, but decided to tweet something racist? It’s a question I asked myself, but not something I can come to terms with. Although I’m aware of everything that makes humans complex—and that sometimes we say things we don’t mean—I cannot find it in my heart to feel sorry for her.
Let’s face it: Human beings are flawed. We live in a country with a vile and disgusting history built on the labor of enslaved Black people. And for some ridiculous reason same-sex couples still can’t get married in every state in the U.S.
There is a host of people of varying ethnicities, class levels, genders, body types who have to navigate a world where some people have more privilege than they do.
Perhaps we’re all proselytizing, perched atop our high horses and attempting to govern what is and isn’t appropriate in order to force each other’s private worlds to align more closely with our public selves. My assumption is that most of us want a world free of mean-spirited people, hatred, and bigotry. I imagine we’re all (or maybe just most of us are) trying to live as righteously as possible amid our personal and collective histories. Is there room to hold people accountable for their words and allow flexibility for them to get it right?