Sometimes just walking around in my daily life, I will hear or see something and think, “Oooh, that would make a good topic for a column!” I always promise myself to get a little book or something and write these ideas down. I never do and the ideas (brilliant ones, of course) are inevitably lost to the ages.
There is probably some way to do that using a smartphone, but a smartphone is only as smart as the person using it. So, that rules that out.
I think a lot of my ideas are probably not fully realized and all of them could likely fall under the broad category of “dumb stuff.” I hate dumb stuff … well, the stuff I consider dumb. You may not. But then again, you don’t have a column, now do you?
I think one thing we can all agree on that falls into the dumb stuff milieu is the TV commercial with a cartoon bear family that seems obsessed with wiping their bums. They sing about it; they dance about it; they even lovingly hug and caress rolls of their favorite toilet paper. It even gets to the point where the mother bear stops, looks up, and says, “OK. This is getting weird.”
Sorry, it went way past weird a long time ago.
But sometimes dumb stuff rises above just annoying TV commercials. Sometimes people do dumb stuff that leaves you scratching your head and alarmed over the fate of the human race.
Last week, Mahopac News was made aware of a short video that was making its rounds across the internet. OK, it didn’t go viral like a clip of a cat playing the piano or a squirrel on water-skis, but it was retweeted about 100 times throughout the local community, which is fairly viral for Mahopac.
The video was made by three Mahopac High students—all female—in which they express their displeasure over someone they saw wearing a hijab—the head covering worn in public by some Muslim women.
One girl, who is off-camera and filming, can be heard saying, “[Saw some] Albanians and mosque [n-word] wearing the hijab…”
The two girls on camera respond simultaneously by saying, “… and that is [expletive deleted] disgusting.” One girl gives the middle finger with both hands while the one who is off-camera responds with, “And what else?”
One girl responds by saying, “And that’s not allowed. It’s gross and grimy …”
Referring to a Muslim as a “mosque n-word” is a new racial slur for me, and it’s interesting to discover that the racist dirtbags who come up with these vile monikers are still hard at work.
But hearing such asinine vitriol spewed forth by these young women is something else entirely. It is disturbing on so many levels.
First, these are young women. Women. And as we have learned over the past several years as the #MeToo movement blazes its path, women already face insurmountable challenges solely because of their gender. While we know this dynamic between man and woman has existed since the beginning of time, perhaps some didn’t realize how frequent and brutal it is when powerful, narcissistic men use their privileged positions to exhort women to do things they clearly want no part of. Women have always had to cope with this, going all the way back to the caveman days. So, even us old white dudes who never have dreamed of engaging in such misogynistic behavior have to take some of the blame because we’ve done nothing to stop it. Our passivity equates to complicity.
So, it becomes even more egregious that the young, aspiring racists in this video are women. Women who are degrading another woman for wearing the traditional garb of her faith. Instead of rising up and saying the hijab-wearing individual is part of their sisterhood and declaring, “We’ve got your back,” they call her a mosque [n-word], give her the finger, and declare her “gross and grimy.”
And it wasn’t just the words they said, it was the way they delivered them, with a cavalier, smug demeanor replete with a phony, appropriated accent. Ugh.
We debated around the office how much these girls’ parents were responsible for their attitudes. It’s easy to say, “all of it.” But then I recalled that while I did listen to my parents as a teen, I was more likely to follow the dubious advice of my peers. So, that raises the question of who the hell are these young women hanging out with?
And that leads us to the second level of why this video is so disturbing. Doesn’t Mahopac already have enough image problems when it comes to race? Look, when I first moved here nearly five years ago, I thought it was one of the finest places on the face of the planet. Still do. But I’m an old white guy. I am the demographic cornerstone of this town, so I simply fade right into the background. Mahopac, in 2012, was about 90 percent white. There’s a black population of 0.2 percent. So, perhaps by living in rural suburbia, these kids are a little sheltered. Maybe it’s just a case of these kids need to get out more.
What confounds me is that I work closely with the school district and am in the various schools several times a month writing about what goes on there. I know that the Mahopac School District (which issued a press release condemning the video) goes above and beyond to teach empathy and inclusion to its students. There are myriad clubs and programs—such as the Wing Men—that teach kids to embrace diversity and to offer a helping hand to anyone who may need it regardless of race, color, or religion. And, in turn, I see the students react with enthusiasm and perform the kindest acts.
So, does Mahopac deserve to be painted with a broad xenophobic brush? No, of course not. It is filled with kind-hearted folks who perform some of the most altruistic endeavors I’ve ever seen—from Relay for Life to Love Holds Life to the Walk for Multiple Sclerosis to all the Eagle Scout projects and much more. We are always raising money, collecting food, providing rides and volunteering for countless causes.
So, where does it come from? How do we alter the paths of the three young women who gracelessly made such a repellent video? Better yet, how do we keep them off that path to begin with? Because, quite frankly, this is some serious dumb stuff.
Those girls on the video really know how to fling the B.S. Maybe they should be the ones on TV extolling the virtues of their favorite toilet paper. At least it’s a topic for which they’d have some expertise.