'Dude where the hell did you get a black kid??'
This article originally appeared on 10.06.15
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??"
"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.
The Internet caught wind of #HisNameIsCayden. And unlike Roth's friends on Facebook, there were some really fabulous responses.
Some pointed to how the Internet can sometimes be a pretty amazing place...
Others gave a shoutout to Cayden's courageous mom...
Some noted how Cayden's story can serve as a refresher in online empathy...
Brands used the event to demand more from us...
And Cayden's grandma joined in, too, to celebrate her beautiful little grandson...
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.