The Times West Virginian

October 28, 2012

Should Twitter comment lead to repercussions?


Times West Virginian

— ”I can’t bring myself to think about voting for that colored man #Romney2012”

If I were scrolling through my Twitter feed, that statement would certainly make me stop. What is this, 1960? The use of the word “colored” isn’t just old fashioned; it’s offensive because it directly relates to a time prior to the civil rights movement when black Americans had to follow Jim Crow laws and their individual rights and freedoms were suppressed. It’s just a word, right? But by using the term, it’s almost as if you are relating to that time period, that shameful time period, when “separate but equal” was legally acceptable.

But when you find out that the word is used by a West Virginia University athletic trainer in his 20s, not an some 80-year-old who doesn’t recognize the faux pas, you have to wonder. Athletic department spokesman Mike Fragale told The Associated Press he couldn’t comment on what consequences the student, who works with the football and baseball teams, will face because he is protected by federal student privacy laws. The university is calling it a personnel issue that will be handled internally.

Too bad his statement wasn’t made internally. Too bad his statement was tweeted to the hundreds who followed him and the exponential number of people who saw retweets.

Was it racist? That’s between the kid and God. Was it inappropriate? Most would agree his use of the word “colored” was tasteless and ignorant. Should he face consequences? That’s what we asked readers last week on our online poll question, which can be found each week at www.timeswv.com. Last week, we asked, “A student WVU athletic trainer has been accused of tweeting about the presidential election in a way that could be considered racist. What are your views on the issue?”

And here are your responses:

If you’re in the public spotlight or a public employee, you’re likely to offend someone just by commenting on the weather — 7.14 percent.

If you wouldn’t say it (or show it) on national television, don’t say it on Twitter — 14.29 percent.

You can’t unring a bell. If you’re irresponsible on social media, you should face consequences — 30.61 percent.

Big Brother is watching you ... and apparently follows you on Twitter. Freedom of speech is being stepped on 47.96 percent.

This week, without bringing race into it at all, the biggest question is who will get your vote come Nov. 6.

Log on. Vote. Email me or respond directly online.

Misty Poe

Managing Editor

mpoe@timeswv.com

@MistyPoeTWV