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Don’t Do This, Ever: “Please Stop Scrolling” edition

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On Monday, writer Camryn Garrett shared a piece she’d written for MTV News. Her essay, “Black Lives Matter Is The Bare Minimum” poignantly describes the frustration that she, a young black woman, feels when comparing her hopes for the future against the injustices of the present, and her anger at watching civil rights activism reduced to slogans while the oppressive machine of white supremacy grinds on.

So obviously, someone had to run in and take her to task for it.

Julia Nielsen, in response to Camryn Garret: Go back to 1965 and see how far we've come in race relations. This institutionalized racism is shit. Get"

Julia Nielsen tweets in a reply to Camryn Garrett: over it and move on. You're not being targeted. Stop the race baiting. Whites are shot more than blacks."

Neilsen 3

[NOTE: I’ve omitted Camryn’s tweets here, simply because white supremacists have been out in force, and the last thing I would want is to be the person who led a whole bunch of them angrily into her mentions intent on proving her statements to Nielsen wrong.]

Though Garrett handled Nielsen’s tweets with poise and without coddling Nielsen’s racism, other writers and bloggers stepped in quickly to take Nielsen to task, not just for her racism but because Nielsen is a YA author.

Garrett’s writing speaks for itself; I don’t need to add to that to explain why Nielsen’s racist tirades were unacceptable. But there’s an added dynamic here that further appalls me, and which we’ve seen before. And we saw it play out with Camryn Garrett.

After she wrote a piece for The Huffington Post in 2015 titled “John Green, YA Authors, and Rape Culture”, in which she addressed the YA community’s troubling response to a Tumblr user who likened Green to a creepy dad at a pool party, Garrett became the target of YA authors who felt the need to defend Green. These authors and their lack of self-awareness as they tried to shame and silence Garrett only further proved her point; Nielsen has done likewise with her hateful screed.

Nielsen, for her part, is not a name. Before she deleted her Twitter account, she had less than three hundred followers. I’m sure she felt that Garrett was an easy target. After all, she’s just a teenager. But she’s a teenager with two-thousand followers and a passionate group of authors, readers, and activists who immediately stepped in to set Nielsen straight. They set her so straight that she tweeted a panicked defense:

Nielsen: "Shit! I just found out my account has been hacked and someone has been posting about the #blacklivesmatter [emoji of fists in shades of brown] and making a fool out of "me."

Dozens of Twitter users were quick to point out that the hacker’s beliefs were bizarrely in line with Nielsen’s own white-tears-and-all-lives-matter POV, as evidenced from other tweets she’d made that day:

Nielsen 6 Nielsen: "We are all sickened by the horrible and senseless killings of both #AltonSterling & #PhilandoCastile, but remember not all whites are racist"

Nielsen tweets a link to an article about racial bias and lethal force, adding: "For the #BlackLivesMatter [emoji of brown fists] movement, you may be surprised to read this article that states no bias in cop shootings."

She’d also favorited tweets describing Black Lives Matter as a terrorist organization and made other anti-black statements in the days leading up to this incident, which Garrett’s defenders were quick to point out.

It’s easy to find some humor in watching Nielsen’s ham-fisted attempts at damage control. Her claim that she’d “just found out” about the alleged hacking of her account came only two minutes after the “hacker” had sent their last vitriolic tweet at Garrett. In a now-deleted tweet, Nielsen claimed that as a Mormon, she wouldn’t be allowed to use the foul language the “hacker” used, despite her exclamation of “Shit!” in her own tweet. She insisted she’d only started her account a few months before, until another user screencapped racist tweets dating back to 2014, at which point Nielsen desperately pleaded, “Please stop scrolling.” There’s something satisfying and even comical about seeing someone so nasty thoroughly self-destruct, but it made me wonder how many other teenagers Nielsen has gone after.

Nielsen clearly felt safe attacking Garrett. She knew to use Garrett’s age against her. And at no point did Nielsen, a YA author whose targeted readership is made up largely of teens, decide that this behavior was inappropriate. This troubles me deeply. Yes, people were there for Garrett, and the response to Nielsen’s comments came swiftly and decisively. But how many authors like Nielsen are out there? What kind of reader interactions are they having? What are they putting in their stories? And how do we find them and call them out before they come into contact with young readers who may not have the same support system Garrett had?

I wish I knew the answer. I suppose I could end this by saying that Nielsen’s racism, her claim about the hacking, her embarrassing back-pedaling and eventual deletion of her account were something to not do, ever (and they are), but I’m horrified that she even provided us with this example in the first place. I’m angry that she targeted Camryn Garrett, and I’m terrified that next time, this will happen to a teenager who doesn’t have anyone to speak up in support, or that other authors might join in. If black teenagers can’t be assured of safety in the real world or safety on the internet, the very least we in the book community can provide is safety from attacks by the very authors who write for them.

Edit: It’s rare that I have to edit a post before it even goes live, but it seems that Julia Nielsen just can’t stay away from Twitter. She reactivated her account to make amends:

Description to follow in text.Description to follow in text.

Because of Twitter’s reverse order of postings, I’ll quote her apology in the corrected sequence for easier reading, though I’ll keep the inconsistent punctuation so you can tell where each tweet began and ended:

For anyone and everyone that I hurt or lied to yesterday, I am very sorry. I have done much reflection and have to check myself. I have no excuse, I just lashed out without really understanding. I’m sorry for the young lady that I vilified and hurt. I hope she can One day forgive me. I have done a lot of reading up on the police brutality and was very much in the dark before but now have seen what Has been happening. I got scared because so many people got angry with me and said that I was hacked, which I wasn’t. I raised three kids To be honest and have integrity in their lives. I’m full of shame and guilt for what I did. I feel bad that there’s so much hate and I don’t Want to contribute to it. Again, please forgive me. You can threaten and boycott me, I guess, but I hope that you can forgive me. I fucked up. I hope you realize that this is a sincere apology.

Nielsen’s apology quickly shifts the narrative from her racist attack on a teenage girl to her own values and her desire for forgiveness. She refers to herself twenty-five times. She fails to name Garrett. She also sidesteps the issue of her racism. She’s sorry for lying about being hacked, and wants everyone to know that she raised her children not to lie, but that wasn’t why people wanted an apology. Sure, she did “a lot of reading up on the police brutality” and feels “bad that there’s so much hate,” but she doesn’t actually apologize for her racist attack. Even her apology for the hacking claim is insincere and insufficient. “I got scared,” she says, passing the blame for her actions onto the mean, mean internet people who forced her to lie out of self-preservation.

When her “apology” received an unfavorable reception, she returned twice, hours later, to portray herself as the victim of the situation:

Julia Nielsen tweets: "Listen, I apologized for yesterday. If I keep getting harrassed and abused, I will report and block you. Let. It. Be." and "I will just say this. Harassing, threatening, and blacklisting someone because of their opinion is wrong. And forgiveness is the higher road."

Now that she’s pseudo-apologized, Nielsen wants it all to go away. And of course, the best way to do that is to prove just how much you’ve learned:

Nielsen tweets: "Supposed? Tell me? How are blacks unequal? They have every opportunity as a white person. Stop the race baiting. I'm done."

Nielsen also reached out to Garrett directly, which Garrett confirmed to another Twitter user, describing the event as “creepy” and “uncomfortable.”

 

37 Comments

  1. ortho-queen
    ortho-queen

    ’embarrassing back-peddling’ or ’embarrassing back-pedaling’?
    Easily confused homonyms.

    to back-pedal: to retract or modify a previous opinion, principle, etc
    From the French pédale (as on a bike)

    to peddle: to travel about selling (wares); to hawk (‘peddling goods from door to door’)

    July 13, 2016
    |Reply
    • JennyTrout
      JennyTrout

      Wow, I can’t believe I mixed those up.

      July 13, 2016
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  2. terri Czarski
    terri Czarski

    Some people make me ashamed to be white.

    July 13, 2016
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    • drmaggiemoreau
      drmaggiemoreau

      Just know we’re in the same genus makes me ashamed.

      July 15, 2016
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  3. Stormy
    Stormy

    Yikes. Some people just don’t care about anything that doesn’t directly affect them (in a way they can discern, anyway).

    And a staggering number of people on the internet also seem to think that accountability and consequences don’t apply to them.

    July 13, 2016
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  4. candy apple
    candy apple

    “Please stop scrolling.” lol “Please stop using my own words, which came directly from my own keyboard, against me, that’s cruel, #YoungAdultWritersLivesMatter”

    She has no shame at all. If I were ever in that situation (which I wouldn’t be), I’d leave and never return out of sheer embarrassment at my own colossal failure. Her apology is no more sincere than the “Help, I’ve been hacked!” gambit.

    July 13, 2016
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  5. Tracy
    Tracy

    Out of curiosity, what YA books has this lady written?

    July 13, 2016
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  6. Dev
    Dev

    This woman is an idiot but I’m disgusted by the relentess, endless dog pile  I saw on Twitter over the last two days, not to mention the snarky hackmymovie hastag.

    The point about this woman being a racist dumbass was made and established yet I watched dozens of people who imagine themselves righteous defenders of all that’s good circle jerk each other with who could insult her the most cuttingly, denounce her most thunderously, and sound whistles to summon others to join in on kicking the person you’ve already knocked to the ground.

    This is a world where Donald Trump and David Duke and Rush Limbaugh are out there spouting racist bullshit from positions of actual power and influence yet all of you rejoiced in expending so much energy on a nobody who isn’t even published and probably never will be who had thorougly discredited herself within hours of the onset of the dogpile.  Julia Nielsen has no followers, no platform, yet you expended so much relentless rage on her rather than channeling it towards something meaningful, and why? Because you were all getting off on it. Actually getting off on it.  You were all feeling such pleasure from this small show of power.

    If the unrelenting attack truly sprang from the motives you all tell yourselves you had,  you would have spent that energy in a way that mattered to more than your target. You would have gone to a protest. Argued on a message board. Written an article. Fundraised or phone banked for a cause. All of these things influence minds and help shape the world. Rejoicing in demolishing some random idiot like a pack of ravenous wolves does nothing but inspire disgust. Directed at you.

    I’ve witnessed this same bullshit over and over again, always from the same people. Karma is a goddamned bitch. Don’t forget that.

    July 13, 2016
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    • JennyTrout
      JennyTrout

      I don’t know, Dev. A lot of the people who disgust you because of the way they stuck up for Camryn Garrett are, you know, outspoken activists. Some of them DO go to protests. Some of them DO write articles. You know, the like one that Garrett got attacked for, by the woman you’re passionately defending here. Why don’t YOU go write an article defending Julia Nielsen. And the venue for that is not the comment section here.

      July 13, 2016
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    • Petra
      Petra

      I’ve been Twitter friends with Camryn for a while now. I know her to be a kind, talented thoughtful young woman with a massive talent. You talk about this woman being a “racist asshat” (something you seem quick to move on from btw) but seem far more concerned about the motivations and behaviour of the people that called her out. Yes this woman may not have a huge platform or that many followers but you fail to recognize that the person she came for was a 16 year old kid. Let’s just let that sink in for a moment. This person felt moved to go into the TL of a kid of color and be openly racist to her. Then when she was called out for it, lied about it. I think at the very least your “concern” for the motives of those that checked her is so far off base that it zoomed past “inappropriate” and kept going until “laughably awful” was a blip in your rear view mirror.

      July 13, 2016
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    • Nielsen verbally attacked a teenage girl. But sure, let’s be more concerned with her.

      July 13, 2016
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    • Tesria
      Tesria

      I think you’re also forgetting that most of those replying won’t have read more than a few of the other tweets in the “dogpile,” if that, and wanted to a) lend their voice in support in a countable way, and b) probably added a point that had been added 10 tweets ago because they hadn’t seen it. I’m sure it seemed coordinated when you’re on the receiving end of so many people agreeing with each other, but she put herself in Garrett’s mentions. She basically published her opinion to Garrett’s Twitter followers and was surprised when they defended her. Each of them had an opinion and expressed it, just like she did. Sucks to be on the receiving end of, but she felt the need to give her unsolicited opinion publically to Garrett and didn’t like the public replies she got. Then she kept replying instead of letting the initial situation blow over, which just drew more people to tell her more facts and opinions. It’s not like this was a coordinated activist thing, Nielen just walked into the middle of a like-minded crowd and somehow thought only the person at the podium would notice her shouting.

      July 13, 2016
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    • Laina
      Laina

      It would have been very easy for her to apologize and stop DOING RACIST THINGS on Twitter. The reason people kept talking to her was because she kept saying racist stuff!

      July 13, 2016
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    • falalala
      falalala

      The average person types at a speed of 40 words per minute. A tweet that uses the full 140 character limit is likely to be roughly 20-25 words long; many tweets will, of course, be shorter. But let’s be generous to your argument and assume that the average person tweeting a response to this racist idiot both wrote a maximum-length tweet and spent twice as long thinking of what they wanted to say than they spent typing it out. That still puts the total amount of time spent on said tweet at less than two minutes. I’m pretty sure someone can spend two minutes telling a racist idiot that they’re a racist idiot and still have plenty of time and energy to protest or write or fundraise too. It’s not an either-or proposition.

      July 13, 2016
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    • candy apple
      candy apple

      Hey, everybody, I’ve found Julia Nielson’s secret blog-commenting account!

      July 14, 2016
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    • Jemmy
      Jemmy

      A 16yo girl wrote an article and was viciously attacked by a much older woman. Why aren’t you saying Julia Nielsen was pouring an unnecessary amount of time and energy into her actions? Why is Julia the hard done by person when she initiated it all by going after a child?

      You say they should go write articles – why, so they can be attacked again by some ignorant bigot?

      She attacked a 16 yo girl who was speaking as a minority under attack, and you think Julia got it a bit rough? I am extremely glad there was such a strong group willing to defend Camryn Garrett. I’m sure many of them pour enormous amounts of energy fighting for their causes, one of which is to smack down ignorant horrible people like Julia Nielson. No one want after Julia, Julia started something and she got precisely what she deserved.

      I don’t know any of the relevant players, but if anyone went after a child I knew like Julia Nielson did, I’d have done exactly the same thing. Karma is a goddamned bitch and Julia Nielsen got all the karma she was owed.

      July 16, 2016
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  7. I didn’t hear about this until it was over, but I agree that Camryn Garrett is AWESOME, full stop. I started following her after her brilliant John Green essay and have adored her tweets ever since. Her tweets are smart and kind and the fact that some awful person went after her like that sickens me.

    tl;dr
    Cameryn rules, Nielsen drools

    July 13, 2016
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  8. Mandi Rei Serra
    Mandi Rei Serra

    In the Mormon faith, those deemed inferior by God were marked with darker skin, so, uh, her proclamation of faith doesn’t mean squat, other than her privilege is showing. https://youtu.be/PJS39vUlwbk

    July 13, 2016
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    • As a long-time practicing Mormon, I can assure you this is out of context and not true at all.

      I’m absolutely angry she tried to pull the “I’m religious” card like that excused any of her behavior. And she used it to apologize for her cussing?? Didn’t exactly bother her in her apology, apparently. Bleck.

      July 13, 2016
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      • Mandi Rei Serra
        Mandi Rei Serra

        It was my understanding that the Mormon view of God made the Lamanites dark skinned so the Nephites knew not to marry them. Then the Lamanites that were deemed “good” got their turned white. Then Nephites all died and Lamanites became what is commonly known as Native Americans, in an over-simplistic view of the story. Basic takeaway: religious story about “good” people being paler than “bad” people.

        I’m not Mormon, but I do have family that is; they are sweet and generous people, but they are of an older generation. While the living prophets may have changed their stance regarding POC and the priesthood back in 1978, there’s still some amount of innate racism in the Mormons I know personally (that is to say that I am well aware that those in my area aren’t representative of the whole of Mormonism { as I understand it, those in Salt Lake are a breed unto themselves }– but they wouldn’t acknowledge that some comments they have made had racist undertones when called out (actual conversation: me– “I want headphones that go over my ears because earbuds hurt after a while.”
        Their reply, and I shit you not, “It’s always the black guys with pants sagging that have those big headphones on.”
        me– “Is this where I make a snide comment about magic underwear, since we’re making shitty comments about groups of people we don’t belong to?”
        them– “That’s not okay, don’t go there. grumble*sacred garment*respect*grumble… I didn’t say anything that wasn’t true.”
        me– “Your definition of the truth differs from mine. But you are right about blanket statements pertaining to groups of people as not being cool. I won’t do it again if you don’t.”)

        Every Mormon in this area I’ve been acquainted/friends with has, at one time or another, bashed a POC– not outright to the POC’s face, but little snide comments that are tinged with superiority. I don’t know if it’s the views of those running the ward or stake, or those leading the congregation that lend their particular worldview on those gathered, or if it’s more simply a cultural thing (not specifically Mormon culture; “culture” being used in this case to indicate views of the whole area, especially those views held by caucasians in this area) belonging to those in rural, insular areas, where xenophobia grows without tending. It could be my particular area in Northern California which acts as an asshole magnet (it’s a real possibility, is all I’m saying. Not proud to say that there were kids from the local high school on Dr Phil for having committed a hate crime a few years back.) that further bolsters this assholish behavior/attitude of others. I know the mindset of this area vastly differs from the Bay Area, and like areas of diversity.

        Best I can do is call it out the bs when i see it happen, be an ally, and raise my children to be respectful of humanity as a whole, not just the slice they help represent. Maybe in a few generations (sooner would be *awesome*) there’ll be less hate and more appreciation all members of our species.

        July 14, 2016
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      • candy apple
        candy apple

        Just because the Mormon church no longer engages in active racism because it makes them look bad in the press, does NOT mean it can disavow its racist past as if it never happened.

        “Had I anything to do with the negro, I would confine them by strict law to their own species…”
        Prophet Joseph Smith, Jr., January 2, 1845, History of the Church, v. 5, pp. 21-218

        “Shall I tell you the law of Odin in regard to the African race? If the white man who belongs to the chosen seed mixes his blood with the seed of Cain, the penalty, under the law of Odin, is death on the spot. This will always be so. The nations of the earth have transgressed every law that Odin has given, they have changed the ordinances and broken every covenant made with the fathers, and they are like a hungry man that dreameth that he eateth, and he awaketh and behold he is empty.”
        Prophet Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, v. 10, p. 110

        July 14, 2016
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        • candy apple
          candy apple

          Forgot to proofread; I have a Chrome extension that changes the word “god” into “Odin” with any text for my own personal amusement. All references to “Odin” should read “God” in the quote by Brigham Young, which I should have fixed before posting it. Sorry, I forgot.

          July 14, 2016
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          • JennyTrout
            JennyTrout

            Sidebar: can you make the extension say any god’s name, or just the norse ones?

            July 14, 2016
          • Noisyninja
            Noisyninja

            Oh, phew, I thought for a second that Joseph Smith had somehow co-opted Norse gods for racist purposes and I’d have to re-think a lot of stuff…

            July 14, 2016
          • Rhiannon
            Rhiannon

            Ha ha I was quite taken aback at first at the thought that the Mormons worship Odin! 😉

            July 14, 2016
          • Rorythings
            Rorythings

            How do I get this extension? I need it.

            July 14, 2016
          • Mandi Rei Serra
            Mandi Rei Serra

            Odin makes it awesome. Is it a similar extension as that which turns Trump into Drumph?

            Odin story time! Someone found my blog by searching for “Odin’s peen” and I’m pretty sure I let them down.

            July 15, 2016
  9. Goldberry
    Goldberry

    Good grief. This! Of all the ugly, small minded, horrible and twisted viewpoints. Attacking a teen…heck attacking anyone on social media, is the lowest of lows. This is why social media is often times the worst, puerile brains with the ability to snap off tweets. Not only that, but attacking someone who IS a part of the of the people group that has historically been abused by whites, is really callus and horrible. Anyway thanks for the blog post and bring this person’s slimy behavior to light.

    July 13, 2016
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  10. Victoriana
    Victoriana

    This is completely awful. I’m very sorry, both for the teen who was attacked (Camryn’s writing seems incredibly intelligent and eloquent by the way) and for other black and POC teens in the online YA community who may have seen this go down and felt less safe as a result. I’m glad Camryn had so many defenders, but like you I’m also worried about teens without that support system. Also, this author seems to have been relatively obscure, but what about if next time a very popular, mainstream author does it? Will the same amount of people come to the teenager’s defense, or will they side with their more powerful colleague?

    July 14, 2016
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  11. mishkarma
    mishkarma

    I was online for the majority of the event. TBH, in some ways it made me (white (I stress white) cis predom het female) uncomfortable because it was a dogpile, much as when folks I don’t agree with pile on someone I do agree with. Having said that, I am confident that if the writer in question here had apologized sincerely at the get go, maintained that apology throughout the initial storm, the storm would never have grown to the size it did. It grew because she fed it by continually refusing to either 1) honestly admit she had done something wrong and prove it by a change in behaviour, or 2) taking a stand on her own views firmly and without apology by saying something like “I hear that you all are upset, you’re entitled, you’re not going to change my opinion. I am not sorry for saying what I said, I stand by it.”

    I think either of these would have called off the storm. The first because she would have demonstrated a change in perspective. The second because she would have demonstrated no change in perspective. Either way, a dogpile or storm would have no impact.

    Instead she kept changing her course in any way she could to try to mitigate damage to herself and her image. THAT was the crux of the problem and why she was continuing to be called out. If she had made it about herself by refusing (calmly) to apologize for her opinions, that would have been one thing; instead, she made it about herself because she saw potential damage coming to herself. She wasn’t prepared to change her opinions, even though she could see were potentially damaging to her career, especially if they came to light; so instead she tried to derail the point of the storm into a “poor me, why y’all picking on me” situation. When that happened, she lost the bulk of my sympathy.

    No one deserves a dogpile, imo. However, how one handles the start of a dogpile speaks to their character. In my view, how this writer handled it certainly spoke to hers.

    July 14, 2016
    |Reply
    • JennyTrout
      JennyTrout

      RE: The dogpile: What made me uncomfortable about it was that there were some people making a good faith attempt to educate her, some people rightly calling her out on every point of her bullshit, but then some people who were tweeting about how hilarious the whole thing was. And while Nielsen’s increasingly bone-headed behavior was comical, at the heart of this, a young black woman was attacked. How did that make for good entertainment?

      At the same time, Nielsen deserved every nasty message she got, IMO.

      July 14, 2016
      |Reply
      • Laina
        Laina

        Some of what I think people thought was funny were things that Camryn herself thought was funny – like Nielsen calling her “Carmen”. And just how outrageous a claim of “hacking” was. Or at least that’s what my Twitter feed was doing in general. I think if Camryn hadn’t found humour in those things, at least some people wouldn’t have made jokes about them. Kind of a laugh or cry thing?

        July 14, 2016
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        • mishkarma
          mishkarma

          I agree with the “laugh or cry” thought. I also think that some of the ones making jokes and laughing believed that Camryn would appreciate what they were doing. It’s hard to tell where making jokes highlights the problem, vs obviates the problem. In this case, by the end it was no longer as clearly evident that the issue was the writer had dumped on a 16 year old for expressing her views in an article on a major site; instead it seemed the issue was how inane and inconsistent the writer’s response was. Hopefully the latter doesn’t overshadow the former, but rather just underscores it.

          July 14, 2016
          |Reply
    • drmaggiemoreau
      drmaggiemoreau

      Being subjected to racism every day of your life is a big dogpile.

      Neilson merely received a fairly mild consequence for her actions. I was pretty unimpressed with her non apology and stupidity in general. Her original statements were terrible.

      July 18, 2016
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      • mishkarma
        mishkarma

        I agree with what you’ve written, Dr Maggie. I’ve been privileged not to (so far) have experienced a dog pile, on twitter or IRL (I have experienced harassment but that’s something separate), and my “discomfort” is a product of that. I’m choosing to realign my focus, thru your response, onto what happened to and for Camryn, and away from me.

        July 18, 2016
        |Reply

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