In 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.
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.
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.