Lessons Learned in Digital Footprints & Racism
Ever regret having said something that was genuinely stupid? Do you wish that you could take back an offensive thing that you said? Now that you're an adult, have you learned and grown up from the mistakes that you made when you were young? Were your mistakes pretty incriminating?
In the age of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and blogs, the ramifications of youthful blunders are amplified, as former UCLA student Alexandra Wallace showed us last week. When you say something stupid, hateful, and all-around inappropriate, cyberspace will memorialize your behavior. The lesson to be learned? Think before you speak, upload, or share.
When Alexandra Wallace uploaded her racist rant "Asians in the Library" to YouTube, she had no idea that she would become an overnight Internet sensation-- for all the wrong reasons.
In her video, Wallace complains about UCLA's growing Asian population.
"The problem is these hoards of Asian people that UCLA accepts into our school every year, which is fine. But, if you're going to come to UCLA, then use American manners."
She mocks Asian customs and family traditions and even goes as far as to criticize Asians who talk too loudly in the library... while calling family members who may have been affected by the tsunami. She even goes so far as to imitate a fake Asian language:
"Hi. In America, we do not talk on our cell phones in the library... every 15 minutes, I'll be deep into my studies... and then all of a sudden when I'm like about to reach an epiphany... ohhhhhh ching chong ling long ting tong. Are you freaking kidding me? In the middle of finals?... I swear they are going through their whole families, just checking on people from the tsunami thing...if you're going to go call your address book, you might as well go outside because if something is wrong, you might really freak out if you're in the library and everybody's quiet."
Alexandra's YouTube video went viral and as consequently stirred an uproar in the social media space, landing her coverage in The Huffington Post, The New York Times, and countless television news stations. Her words brought her death threats and even a video response from UCLA officials-- who in the end, supported Wallace's right to free speech and did not punish her. Last week, Wallace left UCLA.
It seems as though Wallace has instigated widespread Internet dialogue about digital footprints, racism, school policies, and free speech online. While some people have sent her death threats, others have simply laughed at the stupidity of her actions. Somebody even wrote a song about her.
As despicable as Andra Wallace's video is, it's brought about some good by fueling powerful and emotionally charged dialogue. Racism and stereotypes are horrible, but they are still very much present in our world. She's forced us to confront these topics head-on in a manner that forces us to step back, get angry, laugh, and force ourselves to realize that we still do have a long way to go.