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  • Zachary Walker

White Privilege, Headline Culture, and Making Fools of Ourselves

Updated: Aug 9, 2020

John Amaechi recently released this video on BBC to help explain White Privilege to children. Within a day, the 3 minute video had over 1 million views and was receiving reactions from around the globe. Most of these reactions were appreciative and supportive of the simple, easy-to-understand, non-threatening way he explained privilege. Many found it helpful for both kids and adults. However, there were also "loud" detractors who said negative things- some veiled in criticism of the concept while others more blatantly racist.

I do not want to talk about the actual video itself. Instead, I would like to focus on the danger of some of the people who commented. It is clear that many of the people who spewed vitriol had not taken the time to watch the actual video. BUT they had seen the headline and automatically assumed it attacked white people. Most of the commentary was posted by white people but there were black people who posted as well. The fact that people commented, and sometimes engaged in long debates with other social media users, yet had no idea what they were commenting on is the problematic part.

We are bombarded with news and media and there is simply no way to consume it all. This excellent piece by Maria Konnikova explains how headlines change how we think. Unfortunately,

there are those who consume headlines, assume they know the story, and feel justified to offer their opinions. I can think of very few things more damaging than an uninformed point of view. It is important that we are informed. It is our right to have an opinion. And it is, unfortunately, our right to be ignorant. However, it is also our responsibility to consider what we post and how that may impact others.

Controversial headlines sell papers and magazines and receive more clicks. So I am not sure we can count on media companies to change their tactics as most are more driven by profits rather than unbiased reporting and truth. However, we can consider what we do with the rest of the content. Can we take an extra three minutes to watch the content? An extra ten minutes to read the whole article? How much of our time is worth not making a fool of ourselves? If we don't have ten minutes, can we abstain from sharing our opinion at all?

Headline culture creates fools. It is important that we are responsible users- not just consumers- of content. When we post our opinions but are not consuming the content at all, we reveal the fool in ourselves. Even if our opinions are valid, we risk looking silly because we did not spend a little more time or show a little more care.


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