A useful response to the bigoted copy-and-paste post your  acquaintances keep sharing

The U.S. has long engaged in discussions and debates over civil rights and social justice—issues that certainly don't seem like they should be controversial, but somehow turn out to be. In an ideal world, no one would ever have to fight for their rights or beg for equal justice, but we've never lived in an ideal world. And while much of the work that needs to be done to get there lies at the level of systems and institutions, those systems and institutions are run and upheld by people. So by extension, people's individual beliefs and attitudes matter.

A post shared on Reddit shows a viral copy-and-paste post that has been circulating on social media that reads:



"YOU KNOW FOLKS, I never cared that you were gay, until you started shoving it down my throat, and I never cared what color you were, till you started blaming me for your problems, and I never cared about your political affiliation, until you started condemning me for mine. I really never even cared where you were born, until you wanted to erase my history, and blame my ancestors for your problems...you know I never even cared if your beliefs were different than mine, until you said my beliefs were wrong, but now I care, my patience and tolerence [sic] are gone, and I am not alone in feeling this, there are millions of us who feel like this..."

u/beerbellybegone/Reddit

The screenshot was shared along with a response that the poster called "as devastating a response as they come." It reads:

"'I never cared that you were gay, I just supported laws making it a felony for you to have sex with the partner of your choices, preventing you from marrying who you love, stopping you from adopting children, and saying it was okay to fire you for being gay. ESPECIALLY if you're in the military, where I wanted firing you to be a requirement.'

'I never cared what color you were, I just made excuses for discrimination against you in hiring and law enforcement and fetishized a movement that fought and lost a war to keep you from being treated as human beings with actual rights.'

'I never cared about your political affiliation as long as you shut up about it and let mine have total control of the government.'

'I never cared about your beliefs as long as you let me use the government to impose mine.'

'And when I say all my patience and tolerance are gone, I mean I never had any in the first place.'

Fixed it for you."

u/beerbellybegone/Reddit

The most interesting thing about the initial post is the sense of victimization coming from the original poster. It seems to say that having to pay attention to issues of justice and civil rights and being asked to acknowledge the ongoing impact of historical oppression and what role each of us might play in keeping others down somehow takes something away from them.

Being asked to see and care about victims of injustice doesn't make you a victim yourself. The logic there is so strange. And what does it mean to shove being gay down someone's throat? Because of course it would be reasonable to push back against someone actually cramming something down your throat, but the in this context "shove it down my throat" usually means "did something publicly in my line of vision." Not the same thing.

As a few commenters explained:

"The trouble is that the top phrases are all dog whistles. For example, 'shoving (being gay) down one's throat' is simply another term for being gay in a public space. This can range from being openly gay, mentioning your boyfriend to a coworker, etc to calling yourself a sparkle fairy or whatever. It's not just the literal definition of what they say, but how these terms are used in real life."

"I spend so much time surrounded by straight guys who talk about nothing except women's bodies and sex, but my pride flag bumper sticker is apparently throwing my sexuality in people's throats."

"Ok, so I am a lesbian, in the relationship with the woman who is now my wife and the mother of my children for the last almost 2 decades (for reference that I really do have a ton of experience), and from personal experience when people say 'don't cram it down my throat' they mean 'stay in the closet'. When I talk about my relationship at work, it is 'cramming things down their throat'. When I hold her hand in public, same deal. When the laws about marriage were discussed, it was 'cramming down their throats', when health insurance was being discussed - the same, same again when adoption was discussed. As soon as being a lesbian was equal to being not lesbian, all of a sudden I appear to have stopped 'cramming' anything anywhere."

Another commenter summed up the gist of the initial post in one sentence.

"I never cared about other people being different because society used to make it easy to pretend they didn't exist."

The thing is, the complaints in the original post are not actual complaints. People being gay in public isn't cramming it down people's throats. People pointing out all of the insidious ways ingrained white supremacy works is not blaming an individual for their problems. Pointing out that someone's political views or affiliation are doing real harm to real people could be seen as condemnation, but shouldn't things that harm people be condemned? And as for erasing history, that's a hard no. No one is erasing history, because 1) that's literally not possible and 2) a good portion of our history has been "erased" through omission or dishonesty, such as school textbooks referring to enslaved people as "workers." All that's being asked if for history to be taught accurately and for the heinous parts of our history not to be celebrated with monuments to it. And as for patience and tolerance, the irony of a person who clearly doesn't fit into the marginalized categories of people they are addressing saying they've lost both simply because they're being asked to actually care about the ways people have been and still are experiencing injustice is quite rich.

No one is asking people to care about their sexual orientation or race or religion political affiliation or beliefs. They're asking people to care about those things being used as excuses or tools discrimination. Until we have actually achieved equal justice and society no longer tacitly accepts or perpetuates people being marginalized due to race, sexual orientation, gender, or non-harmful beliefs, we have to care about those things.

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Teens of today live in a totally different world than the one their parents grew up in. Not only do young people have access to technologies that previous generations barely dreamed of, but they're also constantly bombarded with information from the news and media.

Today’s youth are also living through a pandemic that has created an extra layer of difficulty to an already challenging age—and it has taken a toll on their mental health.

According to Mental Health America, nearly 14% of youths ages 12 to 17 experienced a major depressive episode in the past year. In a September 2020 survey of high schoolers by Active Minds, nearly 75% of respondents reported an increase in stress, anxiety, sadness and isolation during the first six months of the pandemic. And in a Pearson and Connections Academy survey of US parents, 66% said their child felt anxious or depressed during the pandemic.

However, the pandemic has only exacerbated youth mental health issues that were already happening before COVID-19.

“Many people associate our current mental health crisis with the pandemic,” says Morgan Champion, the head of counseling services for Connections Academy Schools. “In fact, the youth mental health crisis was alarming and on the rise before the pandemic. Today, the alarm continues.”

Mental Health America reports that most people who take the organization’s online mental health screening test are under 18. According to the American Psychiatric Association, about 50% of cases of mental illness begin by age 14, and the tendency to develop depression and bipolar disorder nearly doubles from age 13 to age 18.

Such statistics demand attention and action, which is why experts say destigmatizing mental health and talking about it is so important.

“Today we see more people talking about mental health openly—in a way that is more akin to physical health,” says Champion. She adds that mental health support for young people is being more widely promoted, and kids and teens have greater access to resources, from their school counselors to support organizations.

Parents are encouraging this support too. More than two-thirds of American parents believe children should be introduced to wellness and mental health awareness in primary or middle school, according to a new Global Learner Survey from Pearson. Since early intervention is key to helping young people manage their mental health, these changes are positive developments.

In addition, more and more people in the public eye are sharing their personal mental health experiences as well, which can help inspire young people to open up and seek out the help they need.

“Many celebrities and influencers have come forward with their mental health stories, which can normalize the conversation, and is helpful for younger generations to understand that they are not alone,” says Champion.

That’s one reason Connections Academy is hosting a series of virtual Emotional Fitness talks with Olympic athletes who are alums of the virtual school during Mental Health Awareness Month. These talks are free, open to the public and include relatable topics such as success and failure, leadership, empowerment and authenticity. For instance, on May 18, Olympic women’s ice hockey player Lyndsey Fry will speak on finding your own style of confidence, and on May 25, Olympic figure skater Karen Chen will share advice for keeping calm under pressure.

Family support plays a huge role as well. While the pandemic has been challenging in and of itself, it has actually helped families identify mental health struggles as they’ve spent more time together.

“Parents gained greater insight into their child’s behavior and moods, how they interact with peers and teachers,” says Champion. “For many parents this was eye-opening and revealed the need to focus on mental health.”

It’s not always easy to tell if a teen is dealing with normal emotional ups and downs or if they need extra help, but there are some warning signs caregivers can watch for.

“Being attuned to your child’s mood, affect, school performance, and relationships with friends or significant others can help you gauge whether you are dealing with teenage normalcy or something bigger,” Champion says. Depending on a child’s age, parents should be looking for the following signs, which may be co-occurring:

  • Perpetual depressed mood
  • Rocky friend relationships
  • Spending a lot of time alone and refusing to participate in daily activities
  • Too much or not enough sleep
  • Not eating a regular diet
  • Intense fear or anxiety
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Suicidal ideation (talking about being a burden or giving away possessions) or plans

“You know your child best. If you are unsure if your child is having a rough time or if there is something more serious going on, it is best to reach out to a counselor or doctor to be sure,” says Champion. “Always err on the side of caution.”

If it appears a student does need help, what next? Talking to a school counselor can be a good first step, since they are easily accessible and free to visit.

“Just getting students to talk about their struggles with a trusted adult is huge,” says Champion. “When I meet with students and/or their families, I work with them to help identify the issues they are facing. I listen and recommend next steps, such as referring families to mental health resources in their local areas.”

Just as parents would take their child to a doctor for a sprained ankle, they shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help if a child is struggling mentally or emotionally. Parents also need to realize that they may not be able to help them on their own, no matter how much love and support they have to offer.

“That is a hard concept to accept when parents can feel solely responsible for their child’s welfare and well-being,” says Champion. “The adage still stands—it takes a village to raise a child. Be sure you are surrounding yourself and your child with a great support system to help tackle life’s many challenges.”

That village can include everyone from close family to local community members to public figures. Helping young people learn to manage their mental health is a gift we can all contribute to, one that will serve them for a lifetime.

Join athletes, Connections Academy and Upworthy for candid discussions on mental health during Mental Health Awareness Month. Learn more and find resources here.

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