The internet is everlasting and unforgiving. Our digital lives seem to be written in stone and follow us everywhere. It’s with this digital record that we hold up the mirrors and judge each other.
There’s a growing trend to scour each other’s past to pull from the shadows an old statement or action that was offensive, that runs contradictory to who that person claims to be now. For high profile individuals, this often means public shaming and a loss of their career over something they said a decade ago.
Let me first say that words and actions matter, and they have consequences, whether it be immediate or delayed. People should be held accountable. In cases of crime or harm to others, there should be no moratorium on consequences.
But our eagerness to hunt for skeletons of the past and drag them through the streets is unhealthy and unproductive.
In the current antiracist movement, some who have spoken out for equality have had the internet hordes point out racist tweets or posts from years ago. They are publicly shamed and in some cases fired.
I don’t want to be judged by my worst moments or who I was a decade ago. I assume you don’t either. Yet we readily pile on the criticism for someone else, especially those in the spotlight..It ignores the very basic hope that individuals can grow and change. We focus on a singular moment in the past, rather than the path that a person has taken or the trajectory they are on. We cling to the fossil image of who that person used to be, and don’t allow them to be who they have become.
What does that say about us?
Should we be judged by the worst of our past? Are we ourselves incapable of growth? Or are we so afraid to confront our own demons that we need find the ghosts of other people’s past?
This mentality is also detrimental to social progress. Equality and justice requires individuals to change their minds, their beliefs, and their worldviews. People can only do that if they are allowed to grow. How will that happen if we keep reminding people of who they were rather than encouraging who they’re becoming?
We can’t hold ourselves or others to the past. We must see and call out the future in each other.