“Because to be funny is to be admired. And to be funnier than someone else is to win. The stakes keep going up. Be funny. Be funnier. And by all means, don’t be the person who complains about the joke. Because boy culture says that everything is funny.”
Fans of Dashka Slater’s award-winning book, The 57 Bus, will be equally captivated by her newest release that follows the true story of a high school student’s Instagram account and the overwhelming impact that was felt when the content was shared among the students, the school, and the entire community of Albany, California. Accountable: The True Story of a Racist Social Media Account and the Teenagers Whose Lives It Changed, is a timely and relevant story that serves as a reminder and a warning of what price will be paid when funny content leads to edgy content that leads to racist content, all for the sake of some laughs and likes for some, and heartbreak and trauma for others. Through the telling of this story, we see what price was paid by the student that created the account, those who followed the account, those who knew about the account, those who found out about the account, and of course, the victims targeted on the account.
The adults who tried to intervene were ill-prepared to deal with the aftermath of the revelation of the account and the emotions of the students, staff and community. Rash decisions were made and an attempt at restorative justice turned violent. This is one reason why I highly recommend this book to educators and parents in addition to high school students, as although it doesn’t model what to do in situations such as this, it certainly details for the adults what not to do. And even high school students, who hold the understanding of the power of social media, need reminders of the consequences of the content of their accounts, and the lasting impact it can yield.
What makes Slater’s writing and story-telling unique is her ability to elicit compassion and understanding not just for the victims who were targeted on the account, but also for those who followed, commented, and even created the account, reminding us that we are all better than our worse decisions. This book left me with more questions than answers, and kept me thinking long after the last page was read. Along with this is her unique take on the story is her writing craft, which includes poetic prose alongside hard-hitting factual narrative. Here is an example of one chapter:
DOES IT MATTER IF YOU DIDN’T MEAN TO HURT ANYONE?
Does it matter if you thought no one besides your friend would see it?
Does it matter if it was supposed to be a joke?
Does it matter if you laughed?
Does it matter if you never commented?
Does it matter if you never saw a post?
Does it matter if you knew it was wrong but you said nothing?
Does it matter if you said something but no one listened?
Does it matter if they bullied you?
Does it matter that they’re still your friends?
Does it matter that you’re a teenager?
Does it matter if you’re sorry?
Excerpt from Accountable: The True Story of a Racist Social Media Account and the Teenagers Whose Lives It Changed by Daska Slater