What a couple of jokers.
There’s been a lot of talk the last couple of days about Coatesville school administrators Richard Como and Jim Donato—the duo who lost their jobs for sending a stream of racist, sexist texts to each other—as well as a bit of pondering of What It All Means. But here’s the truth: It doesn’t mean anything. Just read the transcripts of the texts. Como and Donato are just a couple of jerks who got caught being jerks. That’s all.
The Coatesville community is rightfully treating the messages as a betrayal. In a school district where nearly half the students are from minority races, it’s shocking to find out the leaders to whom you trust your children—their day-to-day safety, as well as their future—are instead dehumanizing those children, reducing their identities to nothing more than “Leroy Nigger … Clarence Nigger, Latoya Nigger, Thelma Nigger, and so on.”
It hurts to read, doesn’t it? One wonders why it didn’t hurt those men to type that word, over and over and over again.
My theory? I suspect the men aren’t racist, exactly. Just an older version of a type we know all too well: Entitled, jokey fratboy douchebags. And kids, I hate to tell you this: We may yet win the final victories over racism and sexism, but we will always have entitled jokey fratboy douchebags with us.
I don’t have much evidence to support this theory, admittedly; this is just a notion gleaned from the transcripts and their tone, that Como and Donato were engaged in a sort of nihilistic one-upsmanship of offensive humor, the same behavior that gives us The Hangover movies, Comedy Central celebrity roasts, and Seth MacFarlane’s entire career. It’s funny because it’s extremely offensive but, hey, we’re all friends and we all get the irony involved, don’t we? And if somewhere that kind of behavior trips over the invisible line into a Michael Richards meltdown, well, there’s the lesson to be learned: You can get away will all manner of crap if you just do it with a smile on your face.
The problem: Even in the hands of professionals, the “funny” examples I mention above are only occasionally funny. In the hands of amateurs, well… it’s pretty ugly stuff. And if you’re not in on the joke, you’re likely to find no humor in it whatsoever.
Coatesville’s remaining officials said they would institute expanded sensitivity training in the district, but it seems rather pointless, doesn’t it? If you’re an adult in 2013, don’t you know by now that you should refrain from racial slurs, that using them liberally will probably result in terrible consequences for you and your career? Can you imagine what kinds of jobs Como and Donato are going to be able to get, when a quick Google search of either man’s name will—for a very long time—bring up “racist text” stories at the top of the results? Did anybody guess that there would be a different outcome to this chain of events?
Coatesville’s remaining teachers, staffers and administrators don’t need sensitivity training. All they need is a finger pointed at Como and Donato. Here’s where taking a joke too far can get you.
My dad, when I was 12 and too inclined to make a punchline out of everything in front of me, introduced me to the Bee Gees, a pre-disco song of theirs largely forgotten except by devotees of the band’s first wave of popularity in the 1960s. It was a warning to me, and it should be a warning to everybody tempted to cast aside good sense in search of a killer punchline. “I started a joke … that started the whole world crying. But I didn’t see that the joke was on me, oh no.” It’s an anthem, whether they claim it or not, for entitled jokey fratboy douchebags everywhere. Como and Donato, it seems, will have plenty of time to contemplate it.