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ASK RENE: THE RACIST FACEBOOK FRIEND

I am a single mother of 2 multi-racial children, and my son, who is 13, received a friend request from a fellow student whose political views were listed as KKK.

My son’s FB account is constantly monitored and I have ALL ACCESS to the account. He and I have an open relationship and discuss deeply and openly ALL issues. He is aware of the do’s and don’t of FB, etc. He declined the friend request and has chosen not to be “friends” with this kid. However, this kid is on the football team.

My question to you is how would you handle this situation?

ASK RENE:
THE RACIST FACEBOOK FRIEND

I am a single mother of 2 multi-racial children, and my son, who is 13, received a friend request from a fellow student whose political views were listed as KKK.

My son’s FB account is constantly monitored and I have ALL ACCESS to the account. He and I have an open relationship and discuss deeply and openly ALL issues. He is aware of the do’s and don’t of FB, etc. He declined the friend request and has chosen not to be “friends” with this kid. However, this kid is on the football team.

My question to you is how would you handle this situation?

Thanks,

S.D.

Hi S.D:

Well first I must commend you for your work as a single mother and for the openness you and your son share. Sometimes it doesn’t take but a minute for kids to get in trouble on the Internet and with social media so it’s good you are keeping a watchful eye.

Your problem is an interesting one and I know all too well, as a person of color, the immediate reaction is to steer clear. But I’m going to suggest something a little radical. Hear me out.

First, I’m not sure this kids truly believes KKK as a political view and was just trying to be provocative, as 13-year-old boys like to do. But if he does believe that we must remember that racism is born of ignorance; stereotypes do not hold up once a person gets to know, on an intimate level, the group they are targeting.  I can remember my father talking about his time in the military. He fought in World War 2 right after they desegregated the military. There were guys who had never spent any time with black men, even professed to hate them, until they were right there in the foxholes, shooting at a common enemy. They learned in the heat of battle that they were really much more alike than they were different.

For your son, playing on the football team with this boy is similar to my dad’s experience in the Air Force. A common goal, a common enemy can help break down barriers and broaden his limited view of minorities just like in one of my favorite movies, “Remember the Titans”.

It’s so much easier to stay isolated in our groups, to hate those who hate us. But what if your son did friend this kid on Facebook?  What if they became good friends on the football team? What if he did spend the night at your house and realized how cool his mom was? What if they talked about girls and double dated? What if they leaned on each other in the weight room or learned that they have the same favorite food?  And what if this became the basis for a life-long friendship?

Here’s how I see this playing out. You and your son teach through example. This boy learns who you really are; that skin color is just that. He looks at his FB profile and realizes how stupid it is and takes it down. But more than that, he becomes an ambassador for understanding and brings back lessons to his own family where the behavior was learned in the first place.

You and your son have a chance to be a pebble in a pond for this kid. You have a chance to change not just his behavior but also his way of thinking. Who knows where that could end up!

Now if this doesn’t work out the way I see it, your son has every right to steer clear. Something tells me that won’t be the case.

Good luck and please let us know how it goes!

Do you have an issue you want Rene to take a crack at? Drop her a line here!

9 Comments

  1. Mark Orgel

    August 6, 2010 at 8:50 am

    GEM…that advice is…well…a gem! I wholeheartedly agree with you that for the most part racism is born out of ignorance. I would look at this as an opportunity for both boys to grow

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  3. Brian Gagnon

    August 6, 2010 at 9:33 am

    I think you are right, Rene. Isolation contributes to ignorance. At 13 I doubt that there is anything this boy understands about race or the klan. At 55 I know I want nothing to do with the klan but there is still so much more to learn about race. That seems to be a never ending process. I also think the kid’s mom who wrote the letter needs to start letting her son get a taste of the unkind place we know to be the world.

  4. Shay

    August 6, 2010 at 5:39 pm

    I also think you are right… the boy professes on his profile to be pro-KKK, but he knows SD’s son, so he has to know he is friending someone who the KKK would not tolerate. Seems the boy is just being 13. Or 15. Or 27. People do things. People say things. And they don’t always understand the implications of what they say and do, and they don’t always really mean what they’re saying.
    Give the boy a chance to learn.

  5. VictorHM

    April 13, 2011 at 11:52 am

    Good advice. I would caution that his immediate family may not be aware is hanging out with one of “those people,” and may make a stink about it. Here’s hoping that won’t be the case.

  6. Sylvia

    April 13, 2011 at 12:14 pm

    Those are excellent suggestions! Most of us have been there a time or two. In the words of Martin…”I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

  7. Elisa Malinovitz

    April 13, 2011 at 1:49 pm

    it would take a lot of courage for me to friend someone who’s all about me being dead…so if he can do it he has far more courage than me…I know it would be the right thing to do, but I don’t think I could stomach it.

  8. Will Jones

    April 13, 2011 at 3:27 pm

    Absolutely fantastic. My immediate raction weas the same as the mother’s; “Get this kid away from my kid.”

    This advice changed my mind too! Thanks.

  9. Rob Dyer

    April 13, 2011 at 8:58 pm

    It’s just a sad state of affairs and starts at home. I am not sure what to say and I think you said it well.

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Combing the aisles at Target in search of the best deal on Cheerios, it hit Rene Syler like the stench of a dirty diaper on a hot summer’s day. Not only is perfection overrated its utterly impossible! Suddenly empowered, she figuratively donned her cape, scooped up another taco kit for dinner and Good Enough Mother was born.

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