In a surprisingly insipid post, L.D. Burnett attempts to rebut Nick Grossman’s Arc Digital post that the damage done following the utterance of a racial epithet in a three-second snapchat failed to recognize that young people’s lives shouldn’t be ruined for the poor decisions that are emblematic of children. Considering that Burnett’s writing is usually thoughtful, this was disappointing, as was her reaction to criticism.
But considering her very progressive stance, this stood out above the myriad other failings of her argument:
But committing racist acts without expecting to face serious consequences is not a sign of immaturity; it is a symptom of assumed impunity.
So much of what was wrong in her post, and wrong in the knee-jerk viciousness and hypocrisy of delusional progressive thought is packed into that horrific sentence. This wasn’t just an exceptionally dumb utterance by a child, but a “racist act.” That it couldn’t be anything else is reflected by the universal understanding that no white person can utter the word without knowing it to be a racist act.
But that is so precisely because every white person beyond the age of accountability (8? 10? 12?) knows that it’s not a word that white people should say or write. It would be a very sheltered white child indeed who had never learned before the age of 15 that this isn’t a word for her to throw around as a joke, even if she is imitating a rapper.
Not only does this impute her sensibility to “precisely” every white person, a common theme of the self-righteous that they are the moral arbiters of the universe and anyone who fails to adhere to their notion of propriety is “precisely” racist. It can’t be otherwise, as no one can dispute their perfect sense of propriety. This is not to say teens shouldn’t recognize that this is a word they should not say, even if imitating a rapper, but the absolutist conclusion that a child must be racist because it couldn’t be otherwise is absurd.
Because of this, Burnett concludes that it’s not a sign of immaturity, but “a symptom of assumed impunity.” One of the most significant understandings of criminal law is that young people are immature. They don’t think like adults. They don’t behave like adults. They act impulsively and foolishly. Most believe in their own impunity, never considering that their childish choice will have consequences. That’s what immaturity is.
That, however, is not what Burnett means by immaturity, as she distinguishes it from her “symptom of assumed impunity.” What she means her is that this girl’s assumption of impunity isn’t based on her youth, but on her race.
Thus, to put the young white kid who dropped the N-word and the young Black kid who publicly shared and condemned the video in the same category—young people making typical young-people mistakes—denies both the moral inequality of their acts and the social inequality of their prospects vis a vis public scrutiny.
There are substantive differences between the two acts which rationally differentiates their conduct and distinguishes which “category” they should be placed in. She said it in a vacuum, not directed at anyone or used in any way to cause harm. No, that doesn’t mean her use was acceptable, but it also doesn’t mean her use was intended to harm anyone.
He, on the other hand, specifically sought to teach her a lesson by subjecting her to viral social condemnation. Burnett says this “denies . . . the moral inequality of their acts,” which is substantively correct, but that’s not at all what she’s saying. In her vision of “moral inequality,” neither the facts nor intentions matter. The only thing that matters is race, and consequently what the white kid did was inherently morally worse than what the black kid did.
But the most vicious aspect of that conclusory sentence was Burnett’s leap to punishment, that her utterance of the word, even if not directed at anyone or spoken without any overt racist intent, demanded that she “face serious consequences.” Not just consequences. Serious consequences.
Much of the reaction from the woke was along this line, borrowing the same tough on crime phraseology used to put black guys in prison for life plus cancer, “if you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime.” It’s a good reminder that the mindless extremes share the same perspective and depth of thought, only with different heads on the corpses.
Why must there be “consequences”? Why isn’t this a teachable moment, when someone says to the 15-year-old girl that her use of this word offends them, hurts them, and she really shouldn’t do it? Maybe this should come from a parent, if it hasn’t already because young people are notorious about ignoring the lessons their parents try to teach. Maybe a teacher. Maybe a close friend. Maybe a black kid at school who inadvertently saw the Snapchat.
Even if the teachable moment passed without mention, there is a matter of proportionality. At another moment in time, someone would yell at her to shut up, and that would be it. Instead, this ended up costing her college and putting her name in the New York Times as a racist monster. Even that doesn’t strike Burnett as excessive.
It is primarily white kids who grow up with the ability to mess up morally or ethically, or to hurt their peers, or show callous disregard for others, with the expectation that their misdeeds would be forgotten with time, or written off as youthful follies now outgrown. That was true before the internet, and it’s still true.
For example, white kids and black kids use marijuana at pretty much the same rate, but black teenagers are arrested for the same “crime” way more frequently than white teenagers, and are charged more harshly.
As Burnett isn’t involved in the legal system, and consequently doesn’t realize that she’s factually wrong and simplistic, and her conflation of uttering a word with committing a crime aside, this is what makes the carceral hypocrisy of the woke most disingenuous. The objective is to do better by black teenagers for the missteps of their youth, not to do excessive harm to white teenagers to balance out the social justice perception of karmic damage. Rather than try to do better by kids, all kids, Burnett would have no mercy for a young woman, but only if she’s white.