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Identity

When a man asks people to translate a hate message he's received, their response is unforgettable

Reading the words would be one thing. Having to think about what they mean is almost too intense.


As part of an experiment, a man asks for help translating a Facebook message he has received.

There's a man in Lithuania who speaks only English. The message is in Lithuanian. He can't read it, so he asks some locals to translate it for him.


As he asks one person after another to translate the message for him, two things become obvious.

1. He's received a message full of hate speech.

2. Translating it for him is breaking people's hearts.

It's nearly more than these people can bear.

There's a sudden, powerful connection between the translators and the man they're translating for. They want to protect him, telling him not to bother with the message.

They apologize for the message.

They look like they want to cry.

Words hurt.

Most of us would never think of saying such horrible things. This video shows people realizing in their gut what it must feel like when those words are pointed at them — it's all right on their faces. And so is their compassion.

The Facebook message is horrible, but their empathy is beautiful. The video's emotional power is what makes it unique, and so worth watching and passing around.

Here it is.

The video's in English, subtitled in Lithuanian. Just watch the faces.

This article originally appeared on 04.10.15

Gerod Roth's racist Facebook post.


Gerod Roth posted a photo of himself with a coworker's child last month.

And while it might not be immediately obvious why this was such a mistake, well ... let me tell you.

The initial photo, screencapped and tweeted above by Twitter user Dr. X, is seemingly adorable. But the comments and Roth's intent soon turned rather ugly.


Roth had snapped the pic of his coworker's 3-year-old son, Cayden, without his coworker's permission (already an incredibly uncool thing to do) and proceeded to use it as his profile picture.

After it was posted online, his Facebook friends filled the photo's comment section with hurtful, racist "jokes":

"I didn't know you were a slave owner."

"Dude where the hell did you get a black kid??"

"Kunta Kinte."

"But Massuh, I dindu nuffin."

Roth replied in the thread, "He was feral."

Yep. Real comments from real people ... aimed at a 3-year-old. Because of his skin color.

Of course, this being on the Internet and all, Cayden's mom quickly learned about the awful things being said about her child.

The funny thing about the Internet is, things get around. And before long, Cayden's mom, Sydney Shelton, heard about what this coworker had done at her child's expense.

"He is a well-loved, fun-loving, hyper-active and typical three-year-old," Shelton told Fox 5 News, adding there was nothing funny about that post.

Roth told the outlet he was disappointed in his friends' reactions to the photo and insisted that his own comment had only been "interpreted as racist," even though he hadn't meant it that way.

Shelton wasn't buying it.

“People post things in a [joking] manner and it gets taken a completely different way," Shelton acknowledged. "But I don't believe any of these people were joking."

Instead of firing back at Roth with a few choice words, Shelton responded by letting the world see the real Cayden.

She posted several photos of her smiley, adorable son to Facebook, accompanied with the hashtag #HisNameIsCayden.

Cayden Jace, racism, equality, social media

Cayden Jace and mom.

Image via Sydney Shelton/Facebook.

The Internet caught wind of #HisNameIsCayden. And unlike Roth's friends on Facebook, there were some really fabulous responses.

Britt Turner, a woman from Phoenix, was so inspired by Cayden's story that she decided to launch a GoFundMe to raise money for Cayden's college fund.

"Instead of continuing to shed light on all of the dark aspects of this horrible act, I would like to shed a lot of light onto the good things," Turner wrote on the fundraising page. "This young man has a full life ahead of him. I wanted to create this for Cayden, simply for that reason alone.”

In the aftermath of the comments on the initial photo revealing Roth's penchant for racist humor, Roth has since lost his job.

Michael Da Graca Pinto, president of Polaris Marketing Group, where Roth had been employed, shared a statement on the company's Facebook page about the incident. He, too, was not happy about what had happened and assured followers that Roth had been fired on Sept. 29 (although he claimed it was due to unrelated issues at work):

"It breaks my heart that Sydney and her adorable son Cayden were subjected to such hateful, ignorant and despicable behavior. Cayden visits my office almost every afternoon after daycare, he's sat at my dinner table and I consider him a part of the PMG family. The atrocious lies, slander and racism he and his mother have been forced to endure are wholly intolerable. Myself and the entire PMG family in no way condones this kind of behavior and would never willingly associate with anyone who does."

Sometimes the Internet can be a truly awful place...

But the times when overwhelming love trumps mean-spirited hate, victory tastes so sweet. Keep being awesome, Cayden.


This article has been updated. It was originally appeared on 10.06.15

Identity

LeVar Burton shares thoughtful reaction to finding out he has a Confederate ancestor

“There’s some conflict roiling inside of me right now, but also oddly enough I feel a pathway opening up…"

James Henry Dixon was a North Carolina farmer with a wife and children when he fathered Burton's great-grandmother.

The United States has long been seen as a "melting pot," a "nation of immigrants," and a country where people of diverse backgrounds mix and mingle together under the common banner of freedom and liberty.

It's a bit more complicated than that, though, especially for Black Americans whose ancestors came to the U.S. by force as part of the "peculiar institution" of human chattel slavery. Through the cruel system of buying, selling and breeding human beings for generations, many people's ancestral knowledge was stolen from them, a historical reality that prompted "Black" with a capital "B" as an ethnic and cultural identifier for people of the African diaspora.

Curiosity about the varied backgrounds of Americans is the basis of "Finding Your Roots," a PBS series hosted by Harvard professor Henry Gates, Jr. The show has revealed some surprises in some famous people's DNA, including the beloved "Reading Rainbow" host, LeVar Burton.


Burton sat down with Gates to go over what researchers had found out about his lineage, and what they discovered floored him. Burton said that his mom, who had raised him and his siblings as a single mother from the time he was 11, had never wanted to share anything about her own personal history, so he didn't know much about his ancestry.

As it turns out, the man who was on record as being Burton's great-great-grandfather, Louis Sills, was not actually his blood ancestor at all. The man who fathered Mary Sills, Burton's great-grandmother, was actually a white man named James Henry Dixon.

Burton knew Sills when he was a child and referred to her as "Granny." He had always been told that Granny had some Native American ancestry, but she was actually half white, her father being a North Carolina farmer who had a wife and children at the time Sills was born.

Not only that, but Dixon had served in the junior reserves for the Confederacy as a teenager, too young to be in active combat when the war broke out in 1861. So not only did Burton have a white direct ancestor but that ancestor was on the side of defending the enslavement of Black people.

"Are you kidding me?" was Burton's initial response to this news. "Oh my god. I did not see this coming."

Once the news sunk in, Burton thoughtfully reflected on what it might have meant.

“I often wonder about white men of the period and how they justify to themselves their relations with Black women, especially those in an unbalanced power dynamic," Burton said. "There has to be a powerful disconnect created emotionally and mentally. So it’s possible in my mind that he could’ve contemplated it and was conflicted at worst, maybe repentant at best. And then there’s the possibility that he didn’t think about it at all."

Through we don't know the nature of the sexual relationship between Sills and Dixon, sexual violence was a ubiquitous feature of enslavement in the U.S. and the power dynamic between white and Black people at that raises questions about whether any relations could be viewed as truly consensual. Previous episodes of "Finding Your Roots" has unveiled relationships that defy assumptions one way or the other, so that element of Burton's family history remains a mystery. However, Dixon fathered at least nine children and had at least 40 grandchildren, meaning Burton likely has white relatives scattered throughout the country.

When Gates asked Burton how this revelation of having a white Confederate great-great-grandfather made him feel, he said, "There's some conflict roiling inside of me right now, but it, it, it also, oddly enough, I feel, I, I feel a pathway opening up…I believe that as Americans, we need to have this conversation about who we are and how we got here. But yet I see that we're so polarized politically and racially. We're not talking to each other. And so I've been looking for an entry point to talk to white America."

"Well, that door just opened," said Gates.

"Here it is," responded Burton. "Here it is."

Some people didn't understand Burton's reaction, highlighting the complexity of racial identity and the history of race relations in the U.S. in particular due to the reality of race-based slavery. One of the things people love about "Finding Your Roots" is how it opens up entirely new perspectives in people's own life stories, which is a very personal thing.

As Burton wrote in response to a commenter on X, "It is one thing to know something on an intellectual level, another matter entirely to be introduced to an emotional truth that is both surprising and wholly unexpected."

Burton found out a lot more about his ancestry on both sides, including the fact that education and literacy—which Burton has dedicated much of his career to—can be traced back several generations through his father's side. His father left when he was 11 and he didn't know anything about his background, but he actually had educators in his family going back to at least 1880.

Though Burton said it was "overwhelming" to find all of this out about his lineage, he also said he was "ecstatic" to learn it.

"Never in a million years would I ever have imagined that you would find information like this for my family," Burton told Gates.

Watch Burton's entire ancestry being revealed on "Finding Your Roots," starting at the 12:00 mark and continuing again at 32:50:

Image from YouTube video.

This is Ernestine Johnson.

Sometimes what people may consider to be a compliment is actually horribly offensive.

This is one of those times.


An incredible woman has the perfect response for someone who says, "You speak so well ... for a black girl."

black, inequality, offensive language

How would he react?

assets.rebelmouse.io

black in America, Arsenio Hall, artist

Ernestine claims to be an average black girl.

assets.rebelmouse.io

But that's not all. Ernestine Johnson is just getting warmed up. She has plenty more to say about what speaking, looking, and acting like an average black girl really means.

And nope, this isn't another lesson in political correctness; it's more about common sense.

She clearly explains it all 42 seconds in the video below:

Oh, and my favorite quote that I'm taking and framing?

This one.

"See, the average black girl that I know, the average black girl that I know were Egyptian queens like Hatshepsut and Nitocris who were ruling dynasties and whole armies of men, excuse me while I set fire to this poem on my pen because I am tired. Tired of the stereotypes black girls have fallen into because of American mentality. Oh, but not half as tired as Ella Baker, Diane Nash, Septima Poinsette-Clark. I am sick and tired of being sick and tired, Miss Fannie Lou Hamer, Daisy Bates, Anna Arnold Hedgeman, and Dorothy Height are far more tired than I am." — Ernestine Johnson


This article originally appeared on 01.28.15