A little background before I get to the actual posting/conversation: my husband & I recently moved our family to Oklahoma from St Louis, Missouri. We both grew up there, have parents, siblings & various extended family throughout the metro area – everything from the “East Side”, to downtown, to “JeffCo”, St Charles & West County. STL is still “home” – in fact, I think it always will be. We’re rooted there. My family’s been there since prior to the Louisiana Purchase & his dad was a county cop for twenty years. For all its crime statistics & bad news…it’s “home” and we care about the neighborhoods of our hometown.
Over the weekend I began to get texts from friends & see links to news about the shooting death of an 18-year-old African American male by a white cop in the north St Louis suburb of Florissant. Not much more proven info available other than the unarmed kid was killed due to multiple gunshot wounds from the officer’s gun.
I thought, “okay, there’s more to this story that just that” and pretty much put it in the mental “hold” file for future exploration once more info became available. I figured that more info would come available over the next week and I’d read into it more then.
Last night, violence erupted. Stories of beatings, rioting along West Florissant Ave, store keepers fending off those rioters with handguns, riot police with shields & batons and riot dogs
began to surface – everywhere. My phone was exploding with texts, links to CNN, local news coverage, and the invariable social media circus.
And I was reminded of the damage that social media does in this scenario. When I woke this morning, I saw pictures of tanks (on flatcars on railroad tracks) with comments like “see! They’ve brought in tanks! It’s gonna be a war zone in STL.”
The teacher, the local gal, & the responsible social media participant in me grimaced & thought “here we go again”.
At a time where people are frustrated, unsure about the safety of their families and businesses, and are generally just in fear…you post a pic of tanks on a rail car, in a town that is still a railroad thoroughfare between military manufacturers & call it proof of a national guard presence/martial law?!?
I saw another pic of an armored SWAT van titled “tank”. Then I got aggravated at social media misinformation during a time of fear & social trouble. Do you really want to stir the pot of tension with misinformation? So, yeah, I butted into a few conversations with clarification…but it’s a raindrop in a river.
The teacher in me is almost disappointed at not having several dozen teenagers in a room for the chance to use this experience to address digital citizenship & simple “butt-head syndrome” (my term for people who treat real life events like a Hollywood movie). I still plan to, but catching those teachable moments after the event feels like trying to grab sand with just my hands when, a moment ago, I had a snow shovel.
So where do we go from here? I expect pockets of more violence will erupt tonight…and more sensationalist news coverage will be made by the professionals & armchair imflamists (is that a word?). But how do we use this to teach our kids – and maybe a few adults as well – to be responsible at a time when misinformation can cause real human damage?
What are your thoughts?
*update 1/2017 – I wrote this blog in the immediate aftermath of what would quickly become a national focus. There has certainly been some shifting in my perspective as more info became available & certain questions came to the surface. I have chosen to leave the blog I. Its original state as a piece of discussion for my students as we talk about “in the moment”news coverage and how social media plays in.
Did I consider deleting/changing/altering my original post? Certainly! However, I think there’s room for a broader discussion by leaving it as it began & then using it as a discussion piece. – A