In a world where you can express your every stray thought and whim to the entire world in an instant, it’s never been easier to screw up your whole life with one click. In 2018 America, we’re all carrying Mob-Justice Machines in our pockets, and tweeting the wrong thing can have dire consequences. You could be shamed by thousands of people you don’t know. You could lose your job. Hell, you could even become the president of the United States! There’s no telling what can happen if you say something stupid online.
For example, recently a young man in Yonkers named Quai James posted the following video to Facebook and Snapchat, and it went viral. In it, James confronts a young boy walking down the street and taunts him for his traditional Hasidic haircut.
WARNING: Adult Language and Childish Anti-Semitism*
“I’d be cryin’ if I looked like that too, bro. That’s f***ed up, what they be doin’ to y’all…. F*** it, bro. It’s your life.”
James posted this clip because he thought it was funny. A lot of people agreed with him. A lot of people laughed at a grown man humiliating a little boy who was just minding his own business. They saw the hurt and sadness in that child’s eyes, and it delighted them.
Fortunately, a lot more people were outraged, and they let James know about it. I tend to be leery about shaming campaigns, but if you’re hurting a little kid’s feelings for clicks, I think I can make an exception. If anybody deserves to be shamed online, it was this guy.
But then, something amazing happened: Quai James apologized. And not just the sort of shrugging “I’m sorry if any of you snowflakes were offended” crap that passes for an apology these days. James did it right. He didn’t make excuses. He didn’t play the victim. He didn’t blame his critics. He didn’t claim he was hacked. He took full responsibility for his actions and sincerely apologized for them.
No, really, he did. Watch!
— Quai James (@quaijames) May 8, 2018
That is how you do it. Admit you were wrong. Apologize to the people you wronged. That’s it.
Now, you may think that this guy only apologized to get everybody off his back. You may think he’s just acting, and he doesn’t really feel the shame and regret he claims to feel. If so, then somebody hand him a Best Actor Oscar.
I believe him. If that had been my child, I would’ve wanted to throttle this dude for hurting a little kid like that and showing it off to the world. But after that apology, I really believe that he didn’t think about the consequences of what he was doing, and now he realizes it was wrong, and he’ll never do it again.
I’m not the only one who thinks so:
So this just happened 🙏🏽 today after work i went back to the Jewish community to seek forgiveness from those who have been affected & as soon as i started talking this man instantly realized who i was from the media & Asked to take a photo also invited me back for a dinner🙏🏽 pic.twitter.com/eNGutGT5Vb
— Quai James (@quaijames) May 9, 2018
There are real bigots running around in the world, and unfortunately, there always will be. There are genuine anti-Semites out there, and white supremacists, and black supremacists, and every other sort of supremacists. But not everybody who does something bigoted is genuinely hateful in their hearts. Some of them see the error of their ways and want to redeem themselves.
I hope the rest of us can still let them. It feels good to lash out at people who make us angry, but they’re still human beings. Forgiving them when they admit their mistakes might not get as many clicks as you’d like, but at least you get to keep that little piece of your soul.
*That video is a copy. James deleted the original, and I can’t blame him. Whenever something like this happens, you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t. If you leave up the offending post, people say you’re condoning it. If you delete it, people say you’re trying to hide what you did. You can’t win. His complete and total apology helps, though.