If you weren’t taught anything else as a kid, there’s a good chance you got two very clear pieces of instruction:
- Play nice.
- Respect your elders.
That’s why the viral video of a teen doing quite the opposite might be the strangest “WTF” moment we’ve seen on the internet, well, in the past few weeks.
In case you somehow missed it, Miami’s NBC 6 reports that Nancy James was abruptly lifted, dropped (on concrete!) and then tossed in a community pool after asking a group of teens to turn down their music.
The 16-year-old youngster who committed the act is described as an overall good student and active in typical school activities. He turned himself in a few days later and was sentenced to 21 days of in-house detention. According to NBC 6, he told officers: “I messed up and now I have to own up to it.”
In the video, the group parts to let James pass, after which a dissenting voice is heard encouraging someone to throw her in the pool. No one responds at first—but then you see a kid jokingly making a “pick her up” motion.
But who would dare?
A few seconds later, the 16-year-old swoops in to do it, loses his balance and slips hard, causing both of them to fall down on the concrete. If that wasn’t a clear sign to stop right then and there, the teen then sloppily picks James up again and tosses her into the pool, falling in along with her. The crowd quickly disperses, running and laughing.
This was an immature and disrespectful act that could have killed or seriously harmed the elderly woman and there will be ramifications.
When folks lecture kids about responsibility, the focus is often on flagrant fouls, such as stealing, sexual assault and more aggressive criminal acts. But what about the gray areas: the bad decisions that aren’t meant to do serious harm, but are terrible ideas nonetheless?
Instead of laughing or simply shaking your head, use moments like these to speak to the young folks in your life about the importance of good judgment. For Black and Latinx kids, a bad split-section decision can easily make the difference between freedom or prison, employment or struggle, and even life or death.
Here are a few important things to drive home for the younger heads in your life (and for us to ALL remember ourselves):
1 Put your character first. The decisions you make when you think no one is watching— or when you know everyone is watching— are the biggest indicators of who you really are and what you value. Are you a follower? Does your desire to be popular or “cool” allow you to core values? Let every single choice you make reflect the morals you hold true to your heart.
2 Group think is real. It’s easy to fall in line with what everyone is doing, particularly since most people want to be liked. But when perpetrators face the fallout for their actions, the instigators probably won’t be held accountable for egging a situation on. Think for yourself. Anchor your decisions in what you know is right. Only you will face the consequences of your bad actions.
3 Don’t be afraid to be the “fun police.” It’s often said that the person who speaks the loudest holds the power of influence. Don’t be afraid to speak out and up when you know something is wrong—even if that means ruining everyone else’s good time. Ain’t no fun if the homies get locked up doing it, right? Right. They may hate you in the moment, but you’ll thank yourself later.
4Take that second chance to do what’s right. There will be moments that can escalate or de-escalate a situation—for example, this pool fiasco could have ended when the boy fell. He may have still been punished, but he certainly made things worse by continuing to try and throw the woman in the pool. Even if you initially make a regrettable choice you have the power to make things better, or worse.
5Think: consequences, consequences, consequences. Everything has a natural repercussion; some are good and others aren’t just bad— they’re devastating. When you hear your conscience talking to you, that’s a good time to stop and think about what happens next.