Somehow, she thought this was OK.
Something, somewhere in her life convinced Harley Barber that it was OK to open her mouth and pour forth a river of vile, putrid, ignorant racism.
Somehow, she figured she’d get away with it. Maybe it was her “finsta” profile, a fake Instagram account that she erroneously thought would provide her with the anonymity to act with impunity. Maybe it was alcohol or the invincibility that comes with youth that told her nothing bad would happen because nobody knew her or nobody took this stuff seriously. Maybe it was a life of privilege or a “mob mentality” that gave her a sense of protection from whatever might be out there.
Maybe, she didn’t care who saw it or what they thought.
After all, as she pointed out multiple times, she’s in the South, where denigrating people based on the color of their skin seemed to be as normal as the sun rising in the east and setting in the west. After all, she’s from NEW JERSEY, which gave us such greatness as Chris Christie’s bloated bravado and the anger-soaked rhetoric of “The Sopranos.”
After all, she has a fur vest from Nieman Marcus, bitches, so don’t fucking think of “snaking” her again.
Like many people, I watched the first video, and shook my head at the stupidity of her thoughtless words. What the fuck is wrong with her, I asked myself. I wonder how she’s going to try to get out of this.
Like many people, I watched the second video where she… whatever the infinity factor of “doubled down” is on her racist tirade, dropping n-bomb after n-bomb as a dare, shouting that she couldn’t give a fuck less if it was Martin Luther King Day. It was like watching a car wreck unfold in front of me on the highway: First a swerve, then a skid, then suddenly it was flipping over and over and over before catching fire and exploding in the ditch.
As she finished up and the video halted, my throat locked and my mouth filled with ashes. I thought about her parents. I thought of them because of the simple rule my father gave me when he sent me off to college: “Have fun, do whatever you want, but don’t bring shame on the family. It’s my name, too.” I lack the capacity to imagine what my father would have thought if a horrific personal failing on my part had made the family name the number one trending story on the Washington Post’s website for an entire day.
(Her estranged mother stepped forward today and said she completely agreed with the decision Alabama made to rid itself of her daughter. She said the child was not raised to be a racist, although with the few exceptions of those people in scary documentaries on the Klan, I can’t think of anyone who would state their child had been raised for such a purpose.)
What I do know is that various people will take various things from this incident. Perhaps those who view the Greek system as elitist and racist will have another exhibit in their case against it. Perhaps students will see that there is no fool-proof level of privacy in a digital age and once again, we have a fool who proved it. Perhaps social media users will understand that they are always playing with live ammunition and that consequences exist for every action taken in the public arena.
Unfortunately, few people will take away the one thing we all need to understand when it comes to our humanity and our ability to live and breathe as a nation. For every poverty-soaked redneck who sees their losses as the black man’s gains and for every person who professes love for the “history” of the Confederacy and for “fogey” who “just grew up in a different time,” we likely have at least one Harley Barber.
Harley Barber is 19. She is from the “union” side of the fight. She has the money to attend an out of state school and pledge a sorority. On the surface, she would lack any reason to harbor the racist resentments we can so easily ascribe to those fungible elements of time, place and deprivation listed above. And yet there she was, not “making a mistake” of using race as a costume or “failing to fully grasp” what it meant to appropriate another person’s culture, but rather defiantly displaying her racial animus.
The thing people need to understand is that there are Harley Barbers all around us, quietly lurking, politely nodding and peacefully existing. They “pretend to like black people” enough that on the surface, there’s no reason to think otherwise. They are the “least racist people” you would ever know. Until they reveal themselves with an n-bomb, a “Miss Housekeeper” comment or a general flinch of disgust about “those people.”
In each of those people, under that polite surface and those occasional dermis-level glimpses rests the heart and soul of that video: A rich, thick hatred that only lies dormant because to release it would be to their demise.