The video went viral within two days. It provides another glimpse into how social media can both widen and bridge the deep divides in America today.
On May 6 comedian Jeremy McLellan posted a video to his Facebook page
with the following caption:
"A friend of mine (who wishes to remain anonymous) just sent this to me. I've confirmed that it's real. This happened today at the Trader Joe's in Reston, VA. This woman was in a hurry so my friend (who is a Muslim woman) offered to let her go in front of her in line. That's when she started talking bad about a different Muslim woman in the store (who was wearing niqab) and asking my friend why she didn't cover as well. My friend replied it was a choice and the woman didn't believe her and started talking about FGM and telling her "I wish they didn't let you in the country." That's when my friend started filming."
McLellan, a comedian from Charleston South Carolina, is an outspoken critic of politically and religiously conservative ideologies. The exchange in the video can be difficult to hear over the sounds of the busy Trader Joes in Reston. According to McLellan's post, his friend, who wishes to remain anonymous, allowed the woman to go before her in line.
It is unclear what is being said at first. The young woman filming says "I shouldn't have let you in front of me," in a noticeably hurt tone of voice. You can hear her disappointment; she acted courteously to another shopper and as a result was subject to an expression of prejudice. After a long pause, perhaps of deliberation over the most scathing way to respond, the woman said "I wish they didn't let you in the country."
"Lets make this lady famous."
Social media plays a huge role in how the public responds to relevant issues. Facebook and Twitter are platforms where contradicting ideologies clash. Social media allows the public to participate social dialogues they decide are worth talking about. In the past 15 years social media has played an important role in large and impactful movements
. In this case the goal is to hold individuals with prejudice accountable using the power of collective internet outrage, which is (in my opinion) the most fundamentally democratic power currently at work in this country.
The response to this video has been immense. The overall consensus is praise of McLellan for posting it and support of the young woman who filmed it. Some accuse McLellan of staging the incident, while McLellan himself poked fun at the power of collective outrage on social media.
Internet Shaming, Effective, Inappropriate, or both?
McLellan's goal is to shame one woman who has an unpopular (and prejudiced) perspective. Some may think that shame is an act of silencing someone else's perspective. In this case, the video has nearly 5 million views. Her message was loud and clear. In fact, her words are now at the forefront of American's dialogues about prejudice and politics. Internet shaming is, in some sense, Americans' way of saying "we won't tolerate this treatment of our peers." Other recent cases have shown that the consequences for those shamed can be very serious.
In conclusion, this is the use of social media for the purpose of upholding a sense of justice. And it can be very, very effective, but also very dangerous.
What do you think about using social media as a tool for a social movement? Should we use social media to shame people who we don't agree with or people who don't agree with us? Let us know in the comments below.