Gerod Roth, who goes by Geris Hilton on Facebook, is out of a job this morning in the wake of a conversation on his Facebook page going viral. He found out the hard way that the Internet never forgets.
Who knows what was going through Roth's head when he took a creepy snap of his co-worker's 3-year-old black son and posted it online?
Who knows what he was thinking when 52 people liked the post and started leaving comments like, "I didn't know you were a slave owner?" and "Send him back, dude, those f***ing are expensive!" and simply "Sambo???" to which he had no response but to refer to the child as "feral," "abandoned in the Atlanta projects...a deaf mute."
Who knows what went through his head when, upon losing his job for this pile of disgusting garbage, he referred to himself as being "targeted"? Who cares?
Trying to get inside the minds of bigots is an ugly, dark job, and one that's usually fruitless. Instead, we should focus on what the mother of this child was thinking when she started a hashtag that's taking over the Internet and what the extremely former employer of this man was thinking when he posted what has to be the best denouncement cum apology any corporate face has ever made.
Let's focus on all the positive that is coming from an undoubtedly negative situation.
First, Jade Shelton, the mother of the boy in the picture, wants you to know that #HisNameIsCayden. Cayden Jenkins, her rambunctious 3-year-old son, is not an Internet meme or an anonymous picture to mock. He is a real child, "the apple of her eye" and "well-loved and fun-loving." She wants his name associated not with the picture that led to hurtful comments and despicable mockery, but with the smiley, adorable snaps that show a wild-about-life preschooler.
Second, let's talk about Michael Da Graca Pinto, the president of Polaris Marketing Group, who opted to act with conviction and stand by it when the issue was brought to his attention and promptly fired Roth, issuing the following statement before, presumably, dropping the mic:
In a world of "sorry you were so offended"s and "it was never our intention"s, it is more than refreshing to see someone who uses unambiguous language like this to denounce a racist and his racism. It is hopeful to see someone in a position of power put his employee above his bottom line.
Finally, while virality has its dark side, the support this family has received has been nothing short of breathtaking. #HisNameIsCayden is gaining traction, both on Facebook and Twitter. A GoFundMe has been set up in the preschooler's name to help fund his future tuition. People from all over the country and the world are offering their support to this family, and that's never a bad thing.
It's clear we don't live in anything that even remotely resembles a "post-racial world." That's not new. But it's also clear that we do have some recourse: As much as the Internet can be a hateful place, it can also be a useful tool for combating that senseless hate. It is certainly one that a mother is using to protect her little boy.
#HisNameIsCayden. Pass it on.
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