Racist Selfie Mocking Black ChildIn the latest edition of “Saying Stupid Shit On Facebook Will Get You Dragged by Black Twitter, Fired From Your Job and Lead To a Life Of Ruin,” a white guy who posted a picture of his co-worker’s 3-year-old Black son, inspiring a thread of racist slavery jokes about the toddler, is now out of  a job and trying to salvage his edges from a vicious internet snatching.

To be clear, Gerod Roth, who went by the name Garis Hilton on Facebook, deserved what he had coming. Without the knowledge or consent of Sydney Shelton, his Polaris Marketing Group coworker, Roth posted that picture of Shelton’s son, Cayden Jace, and, for two weeks, left it there with a grip of foul jokes up and down the thread, including “Help feed this poor child today,” “I didn’t know you were a slave owner,” “Kunta… kunta kinte,” “But Massuh, I dindu nuttin,” and even a cover of a Little Black Sambo book. Roth later chimed in, calling the toddler “feral.” As in a wild animal.

Sheldon didn’t find out about the exploitation of her son until concerned Facebook users shared the image and thread with the hopes of finding Cayden’s parents. According to Colorlines, two weeks had passed by before the mother realized her child was being exploited on the internet by her fellow employee, who had nary a problem working everyday with Sheldon and kee-keeing with her son, even as he and his friends made fun of the toddler online.

That is some nasty, shady, disgustingly foul mess right there—enough, I know, to have made even the most sane, rational Black mama want to wait for him out in the parking lot with a posse and maybe a choice bat or two. Luckily for Roth, Cayden’s mother has sense. She reserved her anger and instead focused on changing the narrative blazing across search engines—a narrative that describes her son as everything but what he is: a beautiful, smart, sweet, funny Black boy who deserves the respect and protection we afford to children.

“I just want people to understand that Cayden is the absolute opposite of what they said of that picture,” she told Colorlines. “He’s the smartest kid. He’s got such a big personality.”

With the help of an online friend and advocate, she also started the hashtag #HisNameIsCayden so that rather than training attention on Roth, she could shine a light on her heart and joy. The hashtag was accompanied by a passionate Facebook post and a grip of gorgeous pics of her and her son.

HisNameIsCayden

Sheldon’s job also threw its support behind the mother and her son by firing the hell out of Roth, and releasing a passionate Twitter statement of its own, praising Sheldon and her baby. Michael De Grassa Pinto, the company’s president, wrote:

This morning I was disgusted to learn that one of my former employees made several racially charged comments on his personal Facebook page. Even worse, the comments were directed toward the son of another employee. It breaks my heart that Sydney and her adorable son Cayden were subjected to such hateful, ignorant and despicable behavior. Cayden visits my office almost every afternoon after daycare, he’s sat at my dinner table and I consider him a part of the PMG family. The atrocious lies, slander and racism he and his mother have been forced to endure are wholly intolerable. Myself and the entire PMG family in no way condones this kind of behavior and would never willingly associate with anyone who does. It has no place in this world. PMG has terminated the employee responsible and will ensure that none of the business that we associate with will ever do business with him again.

I couldn’t be more proud of the way Cayden’s mom handled the situation, or her company for having her back and saying, under no uncertain terms, is what Roth did acceptable. But I promise you, the story dug up all kinds of reservations I had when the girlpies were little and I was all new and leary about leaving them in the care of others and I was on what seemed like an endless search for a sitter. The truth is, I didn’t trust the idea of having a white nanny watching my Black daughters. I just couldn’t. I couldn’t bring myself to trust that a white woman (or man) could and would know how to do the basics, like lotion their skin after a bath every time, or style their kinky hair without breaking it or having them leave the house looking like they were wearing a bird’s nest on the top of their heads, or know how to talk to them about the beauty of a Donny Hathaway song or a Stevie Wonder lyric or the chocolate in a juicy Kadir Nelson illustration.

Mostly, though, I was scared to death that a white Nanny would do exactly what Roth did behind Sheldon’s back: mock and encourage racist behavior directed at my children, or, worse, slay my children’s self-esteem with sideways comments about things they can’t change and that I’ve vowed to spend their lifetimes teaching them how to love: their skin, their hair, their Black bodies, their culture, their family, their souls. It was just best for everyone involved that I hire a sitter who could, shall I say, hit the ground running with knowing how to handle the racial aspects of caring for Black children, and stick to letting my children around white adults I liked, trusted, vetted and spent an incredible amount of time around to be sure we wouldn’t have the equivalent of a racist selfie mocking black child moment.

Yes, I know this sounds unfair. Some may even consider me intolerant. But I’m human and Black and wise enough to know the limitations of others and especially my own: had Roth or someone like him done that to one of my babies, you would not be writing nice things about me. You’d be raising my bail.

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Denene Millner

Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.

11 Comments

  1. Many the ingnorance and the insensitivity of this story just breaks my heart!

  2. It is SICKENING that this man and his friends did this. I know some people who knew it was wrong must have seen it and let it pass. Shame on them too. This is why I have lost some friends by confronting their disgusting racist behavior on social media. Thank goodness for that sweet little baby that his mother approached the situation so rationally and got some justice.

  3. Lord, have mercy. I can’t allow my mind to conceive of what I, let alone my husband, would’ve done to that white boy.

    My monsters are 15 and 7. I am still untrustworthy of their white teachers. We decided before the eldest was born that I would not work (outside the home) because we don’t trust ANYONE with our kids. I cried like a baby the day my son started kindergarten & part of my fear was that he’d be in the care of someone who wouldn’t have his best interests at heart because he’s black & she was white. I volunteered weekly in his classroom & seeing the way the teacher & assistant treated and talked aboyt non white kids, I was right. I’ve gone Angry Black Woman many times since then, to the horror & embarrassment of my son. I trust what I know & I don’t trust white folk with my babies.

  4. Also a reminder to parents to be mindful when their kids tell them about the behavior of teachers in school. My 5th grade teacher nicknamed me Koonie, it took me till 9th grade to understand that name.

  5. I’m a white mom of a precious chocolate son. I agree with you wholeheartedly. I don’t let white people care for him and I have taken people’s phones away and deleted pictures they took of him without my permission. Nothing makes mama bear come out like people thinking they can help themselves to his story, his image, his personhood to objectify and dehumanize. I won’t have it.

  6. Victoria Sanders

    Protecting your Girlpies is what you are supposed to do. That’s how
    you have raised 2 amazing young women who bless us all everyday of their lives.

  7. I cant blame you. I’m in the construction industry in NC and most of the white guys i work with dont realize I’m in a biracial relationship and assume that because im white racial slurs and similar behavior is cool. Then are stunned at my anger. The worst is dealing with clients doing the same thing.

  8. This is why I have trust issue with white people. I know it is some out there who love you like famliy and will bleed and cry for you but this other kind always keep you on alert.

  9. “Yes, I know this sounds unfair” – It does NOT sound “unfair”..(though I hate the word “fair” which also means “white” being used to define what is just) it is LOGICAL and correct. Don’t ever apologize for protecting your children from abuse of any kind and not putting them at risk to be harmed. In this case potential abuse because they are not “White”. You owe no one an apology or deference on this matter.

  10. The real story behind this should be how absolutely prejudice a LOT of people in this country are. If you speak about it you get bombarded with all sorts of defensive tactics. But meanwhile the people are exposing who they really are. For grown people to come together to make fun of a child! Plus the culprit is among you and your child like nothing happened?! No. This article should highlight the underlying danger of closet prejudice. Don’t smile in my face when you really want to spit in it. These cowards need to own up to their behavior. No more fake smiles and fake friendships.

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