One thing about social networking is that we can all come together and become a kind of big brother -- have collective outrage for the unjust, cruel, and wrong.
But what worries me is this:
Kids at this boys school knew what was going to happen, who was going to do this, and did nothing to stop it from happening. (And later didn't come forward with the information about who did this). You ask me how I know ... there's no such thing as a secret in high school. Kids knew. Some probably felt uncomfortable about it. Some probably laughed it off.
The NFL knew about Rice's behavior long ago and did nothing until it became public and had to react. You can bet friends and family knew what was happening as well.
So, we're back to the worst kind of perpetrator of any crime -- silence.
We remain silent because ...
- ... it's none of our business.
- ... we're scared.
- ... he's an amazing athlete, an asset to the team and sport.
- ... he was provoked. He's under a lot of pressure.
- ... he's worth a lot of money. I mean, he probably buys her anything she wants.
- ... boys will be boys.
- ... what happens behind someone's closed doors has nothing to do with us.
- ... it's what all the kids are doing; it's not really that big of a deal.
- ... nobody will listen to us anyway.
- ... we'll look stupid or silly.
- ... he deserves it.
- ... she was drunk, and she's had sex with everyone else anyway.
- ... she found the money (wallet, i-phone) just laying there, so who's to say who it belongs to?
- ... if he passes him some cash, he won't have to get a ticket and go to traffic court. And he's a good guy.
- ... he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Bad luck.
- ... we don't have time to deal with other people's problems.
- ... it's comfortable
So now we've become arm-chair ethicists, looking for the familiar hashtag, trending topic. It's easy to jump on the bandwagon and raise our voices in forums and feeds. It's easy to have tens, hundreds, thousands of people share our same indignation.
It's not easy, though, to be the single voice to stand up for a friend at school, to tell a teacher you're worried about that kid who always has bruises on her arms, to confide in someone that you've seen the girl down the hall sleeping in the park, to tell your friends to stop trash-talking that girl, to help that kid who is being terrorized every single day in tiny ways by the popular kids (it's all in fun, right?), to say, "No." It takes courage to rely on the internal meter we have that tells us when something is wrong, then take action.
That second part is the key -- take action. Do something about it.
We all mess up. But the times in my life I most regret are the times I remained in the shadows while someone else was getting hurt; the times I chose fear, pride, shame over what was the right thing to do; the times I sacrificed integrity to go with the flow, not cause waves, keep the status quo.
The times I forgot that kindness should be the meter for what's right and wrong, not Facebook, hashtags and trends.
Every single day we see the way people treat one another. If you're in middle school or high school, every single day you see that kid get bullied, you see the cyber shaming, you see the cruelty. And, more often than not, you remain silent.
I get that. It's complicated. It's uncomfortable. It's safe.
Here's my call to action. We can be a domino effect of good and what's right, and we don't need the backing of Twitter and trends. It's simple. But oftentimes the simplest acts are the hardest. Try this:
If someone is hurting you, speak up.
If someone is hurting someone else, speak up.
If you are afraid, speak up.
If you have been bullied, beaten, abused ... speak up.
If you see someone being bullied, beaten, or abused ... speak up.
If someone is getting hazed, speak up.
If someone is trash talking, slut shaming, or bad mouthing others, speak up.
You can call a hotline. You can talk to a teacher, a counselor, a friend. You can talk to a parent, a family member, a friend's parent. You can talk to a librarian. You can talk to that kid that's hurting and say, "Hey. Are you okay?" Look her in the eyes. Let her know she matters.
You can choose kindness.
You can make a difference.
Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
Cyber Bully Hotline: 1-800-420-1479
School Violence Hotline: 1-866-748-7047
Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-HOPE
Domestic Abuse Helpline: 1-888-743-5754