Brilliant, tough, compassionate story from Buzzfeed’s Joe Bernstein on the Baraboo photo:
The culture of racist irony that prevails online and offline today is, in part, a distancing technique that creates the space people need to dehumanize and harm other people. The Christchurch shooter’s video is the most chilling and extreme documentation of this phenomenon. But it’s a mistake to think this dynamic only exists in extreme cases. Intolerance in Baraboo frequently came from a distance: shouted from a speeding car, carved into a sidewalk and left to shock, posted to the doors of the middle school. What does a racist joke do except create the cognitive distance necessary to do harm, dissolve the bonds of moral obligation? Ironic hatred, captured at the wrong time, was capable of pulling bedrock feelings of belonging and safety in a close community into question.
Another part of the story got my attention: the lack of context not just of the photo, but of each community member’s — parent and child — lack of knowledge of history and in some cases willful blindness of possible harm caused to others.