University of Connecticut

Events Calendar

Who Are the Trolls Really Trolling?

Wednesday, November 8, 2017
10:00am – 11:00am

Storrs Campus
Dodd Center Room 162

Although it has been repeatedly shown that integration is essential in closing the achievement gap between poorer and more affluent schools, there is still so much resistance to the idea. This session will offer reflections on a recent video that unintentionally went viral on social media and revealed, once again, how racial bias permeates so much of our lives. The goal is that, as participants engage in a discussion about unintended consequences, they can be more aware of the joys and vexations involved in promoting cross-racial interactions in education.

When I learned about a video of a few 5-year-olds trying out a popular dance move had gone viral, and everyone was making fun of one of the boys in it, I didn’t think much of it. Until I realized that the video had been recorded in my son’s school and posted on Instagram by one of his teachers. The teacher, who cared deeply about the children he works with, later apologized, claiming he had the best of intentions, just wanted to share a cute moment with his friends and family, and had no idea how far it would reach. His forcefully subdued pride of his unexpected fifteen minutes of fame (it was shared by celebrities and TV stations were contacting parents) was only surpassed by his inability to comprehend the implications of his actions.

It was soon clear that there was a lot more to this story than a botched dance move and a blatant violation of student privacy. In some of the YouTube channels where it ended up, the headline was “Funny White Kid Can’t Dab,” referring to the fact that the only child who could not perform a dance move properly was white. It sounded at first as if this white kid – who happens to be my son – was the one being publicly shamed on social media. However, it was immediately obvious that the bulk of offensive, negative comments was not directed at “the funny white kid who can’t dab,” but at all the other non-white participants. Sample comments are “we know the only kid who has a dad” and “he’s the only one who’s ever going to amount to anything in life.” How can people reach these conclusions based on a one-minute video of children they don’t even know? Here was one more display of privilege: my family has a choice of where my son goes to school to get a good education. Millions of children around the country have no such luck when faced with difficult situations.

During the session, as I share reactions from different parties involved, I will insist that an episode like this shows how not ready we are as a nation to deal with racial integration in schools and that’s exactly why we need to insist on it in spite of the many frustrations along the way.

Presented by Cynthia DeRoma, CETL/English


Together (primary), Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL), English Department, UConn Master Calendar

Control Panel