A fourth-grade teacher at Bennett Elementary School in Frenship ISD, which serves Lubbock, TX, has written, deleted, and faced widespread public shame for a Facebook post in which she details her anger at Eric Casebolt’s resignation and her support for a return to a bygone era in which blacks were formally segregated on one side of the town.
To reiterate, this Texas elementary school teacher saw the video screenshotted in the post she shared—saw a white agent of the state pull his gun on a bunch of teenagers while brutalizing a black girl’s bare body—and wrote:
This makes me ANGRY! This officer should not have had to resign. I’m going to just go ahead and say it... the blacks are the ones causing the problems and this “racial tension.” I guess that’s what happens when you flunk out of school and have no education. I’m sure their parents are just as guilty for not knowing what their kids were doing, or knew it and didn’t care. I’m almost to the point of wanting them all segregated on one side of town so they can hurt each other and leave the innocent people alone. Maybe the 50s and 60s were really on to something. now, let the bashing of my true and honest opinion begin... GO! #imnotracist #imsickofthemcausingtrouble #itwasagatedcommunity
It is essentially safe to say in 2015 that any time you hear someone saying “I’m not racist,” they’re hella racist. It’s the historically cancerous cousin of “I don’t mean to be rude.” It’s also phenomenal that the intellectual escapism around race in America is such that a white woman can see that video, write a post longing for the good old days when blacks didn’t have civil rights, and then honestly think she can claim not to be racist.
Anyway, Karen Fitzgibbons is responsible to her workplace for her public communication: a statement from Frenship ISD reads, “If an employee’s use of electronic media interferes with the employee’s ability to effectively perform his or her job duties, the employee is subject to disciplinary action, up to and including termination of employment.” Well, I think overt and unapologetic racism interferes with an elementary school teacher’s abilities to effectively perform her duties as well—but as of Wednesday, Fitzgibbons is still teaching.
Regardless of what happens to her now, Fitzgibbons will now forever be associated with this Facebook post and the resultant (and to her—and maybe you! I don’t know—unwarranted) public shaming. Does this seem good to you? Does it seem bad? There’s been much written about public shaming in the last year, thanks to Jon Ronson, whose So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed book came largely down on the idea that shaming ordinary people isn’t worth it, and is a way of the masses spinning our collective outrage wheel to produce straw (fleeting satisfaction at the “ruination” of someone’s life) rather than gold (political change).
And it’s true that Twitter can get people fired but rarely hired, that public attention tends to push in one direction, by which I mean straight to hell. But one of the things I hated about Ronson’s book was its soft political logic—the flattening of public shaming generally into a fairly monolithic impulse that “creat[es] a world where the smartest way to survive is to be bland.” On this point, Ron Jonson was wrong, and backing down from the real fight. Public shaming, though as useless as anything else we do online, does not change the underlying power dynamic that people are trying to protest in their outrage. White men outlast their public shame; white people, in general if not always, tend to—buffered as they are by whatever real or imagined invincibility made them say the dumb-ass thing in the first place. In Fitzgibbons’ case, I’d venture that it’s the black children who ever have the misfortune of coming in contact with her that will suffer more than she ever—clearly—could, or could even try for a moment to understand.
Update: The original version of this post conflated two Bennett Elementary Schools. One is in McKinney; it’s not the school where Fitzgibbons teaches, she teaches at Frenship ISD. Jezebel is very regretful for the error.
Update 2: Fitzgibbons has apologized, but it wasn’t enough to satisfy her embarrassed employers. She’s been fired.
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