Teen stands up against classmates' vile game, shows what true leadership is
There's a lot that's not OK about a group of kids using beer pong to make a long, unfunny joke about the wholesale roundup and slaughter of 6 million people. Besides the anti-Semitism and a stunning display of terrible judgment on social media, you gotta wonder who bought them the booze. But for all of the things that are stomach turning, disgusting or disappointing about the saga of that Jews vs. Nazis drinking game, there's at least one really positive thing at the core of all of it. A person, rather: Jamaica Ponder.
If you're unfamiliar with the game, which started getting attention late last week, here's a quick refresher. A bunch of New Jersey high schoolers — students at Princeton High School — were so tickled by their clever Holocaust drinking game that they shared a photo of the setup on Snapchat. At one end of a ping-pong table there are a bunch of cups arranged into a Star of David. At the other, a swastika. Do you see where this is going? Just wait, because it gets much better worse. From a description of the drinking game's — alternatively called Alcoholocaust or Holocaust Pong — gameplay from Metapedia:
"The Nazis start off the game with a blitzkrieg, with each player shooting continuously until he misses, but this is only allowed for the first volley. Either before shooting starts or during gameplay, each side has a special ability they may use only once. The Jews have the 'Anne Frank cup', which allows them to take one of their cups and hide it anywhere in the room so long as it is shootable, while the Nazis can 'Auschwitz' or 'concentration camp' one of the Jews players, making that player sit out the game until the two remaining players on the Jews team each make a cup. Also, during the game each team is supposed to 'say as many racist things as possible to make it more enjoyable."
So yeah, that's what these kids were up to. Hilarious, right? Jamaica Ponder didn't think so either. She attends Princeton High School too, and was shocked to see the photo on Snapchat. She was further flabbergasted when she realized that she'd been to the Bar Mitzvah of one of the boys helping to set up the cups.
So she blogged about it.
She grabbed a screenshot of what she saw and posted a quick reaction on her very articulate blog, making it clear that to her, and presumably to a lot of other kids too uncomfortable to say anything, this funny little racist joke was neither funny nor inconsequential. Toward the end of her post, she wrote something that evidences the fact that no, not all teenagers are devoid of empathy or incapable of understanding consequences.
"Who is permitting these deranged ideologies to develop and materialize in the form of beer pong? We are. Evidently, as a society, we have gone wrong in some way, shape or form. Because the moment that the Holocaust became a running joke was the moment that ignorance outweighed intellect - and that is the death of compassion for human life."
That kind of cognizance is important. A lot her classmates — and of course, the odd Internet racist dumpster human — are angry at Ponder for voicing her opinion and sharing the photo, something that she remains unapologetic for, which is good. As she said in her post, someone was proud enough of the game; someone thought it was funny enough to post. She wasn't disseminating any information that wasn't already out there. She was just adding a much needed sane opinion to it.
Can anyone blame Ponder for the fact that when bad behavior hits sunlight everyone outside of the little bubble where the behavior takes place might not find it funny or charming or cute?
Ponder is a student leader. So too, she told The New York Times, are some of the boys playing Alcoholocaust in the photo. The difference, it appears, is that only one of them takes that role seriously. Our leaders are important, whether in the workplace or the White House or in high school. They are leaders precisely because people are willing to follow them. When the people that others look up to endorse anti-Semitic speech and behavior as harmless and funny, that has ramifications.
And when the people that others look up to take a stand and say that it's unacceptable, that has ramifications too. We all want to raise kids that do the right thing. We all understand that we will raise kids who will sometimes do the wrong thing. Or a stupid thing. Or lots of stupid things.
But I think we all hope that when it comes right down to the big, important values that we try to model and want our kids to have — standing up for what's right, rejecting racism, not playing anti-Semitic drinking games long before they are legally allowed to buy booze — we'd want them to act as Ponder acted.
That requires modeling behavior and having firm and outspoken views on what we consider to be appropriate speech and action when it comes to things like racism and prejudice. A quick look at Ponder's blog (go do it, seriously, she's a great writer) makes it pretty clear that she's a confident, mature, whip-smart young woman who isn't willing to back down from what she thinks is right, and she won't apologize for doing the right thing.
That's the sort of thing that would make any parent proud.