Friday, February 23, 2013 was supposed to be a regular school day. For me, it was more than just regular. In the middle of the day a classmate approached me and asked me if I had seen a Tweet about me. I told him no. He gave me his phone and I read the Tweet. It read: “If Imani Herring makes one more smart got dam remark in Mr. Rogers class, shit will drop. I wish a Nigga would”. This Tweet...It Was Not Okay!
I am an African American. The student who brought me the Tweet was white and so was the student who tweeted. At that very moment of reading it, my heart sunk while my blood boiled. I was hurt, afraid, angry and offended. Hurt because the words were hurtful. Afraid because I knew my first desire was to retaliate, angry because I did nothing wrong and offended because this was racist and threatening. The way I felt...It Was Not Okay!
Instead of making a poor decision, I walked out of class and went to the school’s administration. The student was suspended and a hearing was held. 13 days later the student returned to school. That Was Okay!
Since the Tweet was sent, I started to feel more and more uncomfortable. You see, my school is a magnet school in Charleston, South Carolina. I attend a school where I am a minority. There are times when going to school is normal, but there are times when it is very difficult.
The parents of the student who sent the Tweet got a black lawyer to appeal the decisions made by the hearing. She returned to school but was not allowed to participate in prom, graduation ceremony or other activities.
The lawyer for the family contacted the media regarding this case. The media ran stories that were not accurate and portrayed me as a bad person. I am not a bad person. I am just a student trying very hard not to be a statistic. The headlines in the newspaper were slanted, inaccurate and made the person who sent the Tweet a victim and made me appear negative. IT WAS NOT OKAY.
The media was irresponsible. It was one sided. It targeted me and my mom. My mom felt that I had been through enough. We never thought that I would be a victim again. THIS WAS NOT OKAY.
Since the release of the article, my life has been horrible. People have made me feel as though I did something wrong. During this week, as I walked the halls at school, very few adults spoke to me. They stared at me and I felt their eyes on me. Students either came up to me all day to ask me one of three things:
- 1. Why did you do this to Ashley?
- 2. Are you Imani Herring?
- 3. What was that article about you in the paper?
Since this entire event, maybe two teachers have asked me if I am Okay. I feel alone. I feel angry. Believe it or not, I feel bad for Ashley. No one in the school brought us together to talk or to do mediation.
I am hurting. I feel alone and I need your help. Please join me in helping other people understand the following:
- 1. The victims of cyberbullying deserve support, not isolation. All people deserve Dignity and Respect.
- 2. The media should always try to consider multiple sides to a story.
- 3. Use your voice. Technology has its place but the most painful part of this experience has been the hurt of people not knowing how to communicate or have Courageous Conversations.
Study the facts:
Please join me in my campaign to help the world know that IT IS NOT OKAY!
- 1. It is not okay to attack others through technology.
- 2. It is not okay to ignore, target and avoid communication with victims of Cyberbullying.
- 3. It is not okay to report one side of the story with cyberbullying. The real truth is that everyone becomes a victim. Media...this means you!
- 4. It is not okay to avoid mediation and face to face conversation when working through issues. Talking still works.
- 5. It is not okay to be silent. Silence is permission.
So I have decided to launch a campaign as an opportunity to heal. Join the movement to help others understand that IT IS NOT OKAY to avoid proactive, inclusive, socially responsible activities for ALL students, regardless of race, gender, or sexual orientation. Be a voice, don’t lose your voice. Together, we can all make a difference.
Join the movement:
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