#humboldtbroncos: It's About Grief, Plain and Simple, Not Color
“I’m trying to not get cynical about what is a totally devastating tragedy, but the maleness, the youthfulness and the whiteness of the victims play a significant role.”
This tweet from freelancer Nora Loreto, a writer whose work has appeared in Macleans and The Globe And Mail, among other publications, was in response to another tweet she made regarding how much the GoFundMe for the Humboldt Broncos had raised as of April 8. The follow-up tweet, which hit social media shortly thereafter and virtually exploded, notching over 3,800 replies or comments on Twitter and popping up on Facebook and other social media platforms, has created a firestorm. Some who have seen the tweet have threatened Loreto's employment and in some cases her life.
It's frightening to me how people will pick the absolutely worst time to push forward on whatever agenda they might have. It's equally frightening how emboldened people become when they think they're defending the defenseless.
I have two problems here, and neither of them are particularly comfortable or easily solved. My first issue is with Ms. Loreto, my second with the response to her tweet.
Ms. Loreto has the good grace and sense to at least acknowledge that the Humboldt Broncos tragedy, which has now claimed 16 lives, is devastating. That said, I think she would be hard pressed to find anyone who is looking at the situation differently simply because we're talking about a group of young white males. Trying to make the Humboldt bus crash and the subsequent global response to it about race is like strapping wings to your back and saying you're a bird: no one will believe you, you sound crazy and you look like a fool.
I am not denying that there are several pockets around the world where there are race and diversity issues, or that there are even these issues in Canada. Those are well documented. However, to look at something so awful as the death of 16 individuals who had an entire busload of lives ahead of them and think that the global response of grief to that is due to the victims' whiteness or maleness speaks volumes. This is about the loss of 16 young lives, about individuals that could have been anyone's son or in the case of Dayna Brons - the 16th victim of the crash - anyone's daughter. This is about the unthinkable happening and trying to figure out a way to make sense of an incomprehensible tragedy.
I read Ms. Loreto's tweet and reread it several times. It still does not make sense to me that she would have chosen to say this to further her own interests and activism - not in the immediate aftermath of something of this magnitude and certainly not at all. She has every right to her opinion, but in this case, what she said smacks of opportunism to garner the most attention she could possibly get - the more clicks as a freelancer, the more attention and potentially, more pay if she's on a "pay per click" set up depending on her writing platform - and now, especially if you look at her Twitter feed, it's clear she's getting a whole lot of very angry attention.
I am a parent of two kids. Neither are particularly interested in hockey, but then, the Humboldt tragedy is not just about hockey. It's about the loss of 16 young lives; the loss of daughters, brothers, sisters, and a father. Anyone who read Ms. Loreto's tweet has had a very visceral response to it, and while I am certain there are those who might agree with what she said, I am certainly not one of them.
Here's the second problem, and while I understand the anger in response to Ms. Loreto's tweet, I don't understand how it's being expressed.
There are people who, in responding to Ms. Loreto's tweet, have called her all manner of names, and while I try to live by the same "sticks and stones" mantra most of us learned as children, some of what she's been called has got to sting, to an extent. Most disturbingly, though, there are tweets that have hoped for her untimely death. There are tweets that have suggested she should not go to certain locations for fear that she might be physically hurt or killed.
I understand the backlash against Ms. Loreto's tweet. Most of the reason I'm writing this particular post is simply because I saw it and was angry that she chose to make a horrific situation a time to further her own agenda. However, there's backlash, and then there's criminal. Those who choose to raise their voice against Ms. Loreto for such an insensitive tweet can still do so without death threats or wishing that she was harmed.
Speaking up about something is one thing; wishing harm upon those who disagree with you is quite another.
I could not even imagine what sorts of things Ms. Loreto might be hearing from the victims' families for such an insensitive, awful statement. There's a time and a place to take a political stand about systemic injustices, or whatever the case might be. Saying something while a nation mourns the loss of 16 young lives in a terrible accident is not that time. Sure, you'll get attention, but it will be some of the worst sorts of vitriol you might ever witness.
Seeing a statement like Ms. Loreto's might be terribly upsetting - I know it was for me - but threatening her life and wishing her harm is awful. It is all right to disagree with someone who is being deliberately insensitive and hurtful, but wanting to see that someone hurt or worse speaks to the absolute worst that humanity might offer. Ms. Loreto might not care that her tweet has probably hurt the families and friends of all the victims in this crash, or that everyone involved in the incident have had their lives irretrievably changed, but that does not mean she needs to be fearful for her life.
There's a time for everything. Choosing to make the Humboldt tragedy a race issue is not just a bad time - it's just simply not true. Threatening Ms. Loreto's life and livelihood because of what she said is also wrong.
Everyone needs to do better.
Let's not compound one tragedy with a few more.