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Has everyone seen the disgusting racist comments that have been cycling through the social space since last week’s Hunger Games movie premiere? Apparently, people are upset about casting choices that actually reflected Suzanne Collins’ descriptions in the novel. People who tweet that because Rue was black in the movie her death wasn’t as sad should be embarrassed for having such thoughts — let alone sharing them with the world.

And that’s the main thought I was left with when I’d (somewhat) cooled off after reading these disturbing posts and tweets: What are these people doing sharing things like this online?:

It’s shocking — but is it, really?

After all, think about the vocal people you know who seem to be missing a filter, or perhaps a lack of regard for the views of those around them. If these people are social networking users, it’s likely their inconsiderate comments extend into Facebook or Twitter as well. (Come on — everyone has “those Facebook friends” whose updates pop up in your newsfeed and make you cringe/sigh/fill with rage/etc.)

I suppose it’s that there’s a crucial element of awareness that isn’t present. It must be, right? No matter what your views are (racist thoughts about The Hunger Games movie, extreme political leanings, strong religious ties), shouldn’t you be aware enough to realize when and where it’s a good idea to voice those opinions and when you should probably keep your mouth shut (or your status un-updated)? That’s what baffles me the most about comments like those mentioned in this article. Do I find the tweets offensive and sick? Yes, most definitely I do. But I also feel a sense of sadness for the people who posted such comments.

For one, it’s proof that no amount of connectivity or technology can eliminate such opinions and the voicing of such opinions. In fact, the opinions can be amplified like never before through 180 characters or fewer.

It’s also upsetting because these commenters all seem to be young, proving that despite the fact that younger generations, as a whole, have been exposed to different people, cultures, beliefs, and customs at a higher rate than ever before (ironically, social networking and similar technologies have assisted with this exposure), racism is far from dead. Instead, it seems to be thriving within a space where teens feel empowered (and, perhaps, anonymous) to share their prejudices.

Certainly, countless others (teens and adults alike) are using social networking outlets as places to be inclusive, insightful, and culturally sensitive. I consistently read articles, blog posts, or comments that I value and feel contribute positively to a specific cultural dialogue, and I’m often exposed to those thanks to shares by Facebook friends.

In 2009, I attended a Flight of the Conchords show in Chicago. For those not familiar with this awkward and hilarious New Zealand music/comedy duo, do yourself a favor and check them out. Anyway, one of the highlights of that show was when Jemaine (of FOTC) responded to an annoying audience member who’d been screaming things throughout the show. Jemaine just paused for a moment and finally said, “Just because you’re loud doesn’t mean you make any sense.” It was wonderful.

Unfortunately, this whole Hunger Games racist social networking comment debacle proves a sad but true point: True — just because you’re loud doesn’t mean you make any sense, but it does mean you’re still being disruptive. You still have the power to offend. Your voice — however full of nonsense and hatred it may be — can occupy the same space as the voices of those trying to bring understanding and reason to the table.

The Hunger Games raked in $155 million at the box office last weekend, making it the third most successful movie premiere ever in North America. Certainly the vast majority who saw the film left without making racist comments afterward. And yet, this small — but loud — group who did choose to write derogatory comments are making waves. Their comments seem to carry just as much weight as the non-offensive ones when it comes to exposure. It’s an age-old issue that, unfortunately, doesn’t seem to be going anywhere.

Didn’t we learn anything from The Hunger Games?