In a statement after his Facebook page, littered with racist trash, was exposed to the world this week, Justin Schaffer — whose dad is running for the U.S. Senate in Colorado — absurdly claimed, “I do not agree with the sentiment or content of the offensive material …” If that is true, the obvious question is: Why was it there in the first place? And, did any of the 438 “friends” connected to Justin Schaffer’s Facebook site demand he quit it with the bigotry? Did none of them find the imagery as disturbing as the rest of us?
Honestly, imagine coming upon a Facebook page on which there were rabid messages like “Slavery Gets Shit Done,” and a picture of Jesus standing in front of a Confederate battle flag, holding an automatic weapon with an accompanying “What Would Republican Jesus Do?” You see another image, a picture of Barack Obama doctored up to look like Osama bin Laden. What would you do? Would you ask the owner why he thinks it’s remotely acceptable to litter his social networking page with such racist garbage?
Here’s another question: With his father the presumptive Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate, why didn’t either he, or his campaign staff, notice that his son was displaying overtly racist material on his social networking page — particularly since the elder Schaffer’s own Facebook page was connected to it? In the aftermath of Bob Schaffer’s embarrassing stamp of approval over the U.S. guest worker program in the Northern Mariana Islands, where conditions have been likened as slave labor, you’d think they’d be a little more sensitive about such things.
Is there anything remotely amusing about claiming that, “Slavery Gets Shit Done?” Of course not. But, as state lawmaker Rosemary Marshall, along with at least two academic leaders in Colorado have wondered, why did Schaffer’s bigoted “jokes” have to be exposed to the world before being roundly condemned? Marshall, an African-American representative from Denver, has called on the U.S. Senate candidate to publicly condemn the offensive materials on his son’s site, which he so far has not done.
After his Facebook page was planted on the blog ColoradoPols this week, the younger Schaffer sent 9NEWS an e-mail. “I apologize to everyone who was offended and humbly ask for your forgiveness,” he wrote. Bob Schaffer claimed he and his wife were in “a process of firm and severe discipline with our son.” Whatever that means.
To its credit, the University of Dayton, where 19-year-old Justin Schaffer is an economics major and is in ROTC, announced it is considering charging him for violating its Standards of Behavior.
Closer to home, the response was distress — and disgust.
“My reaction is, this is very shocking and disheartening that there are people who harbor these views or feelings,” says Ali Thobhani, interim chair of the department of African and African American Studies at Metropolitan State College of Denver. “I thought the country had come a long way in the area of race relations and inclusion of background, including in politics and society as a whole.
“On the other hand, I’m not totally shocked because the country has a long history of racial issues, which have not completely been wiped out.”
The fact that Schaffer’s father is running for the U.S. Senate makes this story all the more deplorable.
“I think it’s certainly the right thing to do to apologize, but in my mind the question is, how sincere is his apology?” Thobhani asks. “It’s maybe an act of expediency because his dad is running for a high profile political office.”
Rochelle Mason, the director of minority student life at Colorado College in Colorado Springs, echoed Thobhani’s sentiments.
“It’s shocking and it’s deplorable. It’s an erosion of civility.
“There was a time when people who held these types of viewpoints didn’t speak up so much, but for some reason people are becoming more comfortable making these types of statements,” Mason says. “I’m glad he took it down, but it’s deplorable it was up there in the first place … the impact is shock, disbelief, anger, hurt — whether it’s intentional or not.”
And, as Mason points out, it’s also an indication of the backlash to tolerance for multiculturalism and diversity that has certainly reared up in some segments of society.
Just as you are what you eat, you are the product of your environment. Just ask conservative commentators Ann Coulter or Rush Limbaugh who, instead of being condemned as racists, are treated as heroes by some on the right.
In his statement this week to 9NEWS, Justin Schaffer wrote that, “The offensive materials directly contradict the values that my parents taught me and are forbidden in my parents’ home. My Facebook page is solely my responsibility…”
Of course young Mr. Schaffer’s Facebook is his responsibility. And it’s society’s responsibility to strongly — and forcefully — denounce its message.