Numerous groups are hunting down, humiliating and ruining the lives of pupils who say a ‘wrong’ thing, express support for the police, or simply stay silent. And morally illiterate teachers and schools are encouraging it.
I don’t like vigilantes at the best of times. But when a 16-year-old organiser of @Smithtown_Racist_Callouts brags about outing peers for making racist comments online, in order to prevent them from going to college, you know that something really scary is going on.
There are now numerous groups of teenagers in the United States who are devoted to the project of exposing and humiliating other children whose remarks they perceive as racist or problematic. Anonymous Instagram accounts devoted to calling out racist comments made by fellow students have appeared in the United States. Within a few hours, one such account launched at San Marcos High School in San Marcos, California, attracted around 900 new followers.
The aim of these student groups is not only to punish and humiliate, but also to ruin the future prospects of someone who made a racist comment. They hope that one outcome of their exposure will be to prevent their target from gaining acceptance into university.
Individual would-be vigilantes have also joined in the game of outing racist teenagers. One Instagram account run by a “white British Male who supports BLM” states: “We don’t condone racism – DM us any information on these racist thugs!”.
Youthful vigilantes policing social media are often far too ready to interpret people’s remarks as evidence of their racism. All it takes is for a post to be deemed “insensitive” before they are condemned as racist. Invariably, calling someone out serves as an invitation to mob them, like a playground ‘pile-on’.