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28 September 2023 ACCOUNTABLE: THE TRUE STORY OF A RACIST SOCIAL MEDIA ACCOUNT AND THE TEENAGERS WHOSE LIVES IT CHANGED by Dashka Slater, Macmillan/Farrar Straus & Giroux, August 2023, 496p., ISBN: 978-0-374-31434-7


“She’d noticed that the dynamic seemed to be more about power than anything else. ‘Powerless people bully because they want to have power over other people,’ she says.”


“Hate groups of all kinds have discovered that messages that are disguised as humor, irony, or trolling are far more persuasive and attractive to young people than straightforward racism…

In other words, if you want to make the unthinkable thinkable, make it sound like a joke.”


ACCOUNTABLE by Dashka Slater is an essential piece of nonfiction for today’s tweens and teens. This true story about racist and misogynistic online bullying should be brought to the attention of every school board in the country. I urge teens and parents to read it. I strongly encourage school boards and district administrators to  figure out contingency plans for dealing with this sort of abuse, and to develop strategies for educating young people so that similar situations are.either avoided entirely, or quickly nipped in the bud. This is the sort of bullying that, far too often, can easily lead to suicides.


“But on March 20, 2017, Eren wasn’t ready to interrogate his own failings. All he was thinking about was how to control the damage. He still didn’t know the role his phone had played in revealing the account. He just knew that he was getting a blizzard of condemning texts and he was far more interested in figuring out how to survive the storm than he was in understanding what had caused it.

‘I was trying to save my perceived popularity and public image,” he says. “This was directly attacking that—and me as a person. So I felt the need to defend that.’

That night when he got home, he posted on his main Instagram account, which had around 1,200 followers. “I did not create this account. I do not condone what was posted on this account.” And so on. He had labored over the caption for hours, boiling it down to a paragraph-length defense against the accusation that he was racist.

If anything, his post made things worse, judging by the comments.

‘By knowing about it and not saying anything about it, you are condoning this,’ someone wrote.

That stopped Eren cold. He couldn’t argue with the logic. He had condoned it. He’d double-tapped, making the little heart icon turn bright red. It was, he says now, an aha moment.

‘I recognized then: Yes, I did have a role in it. Being a follower of the account, liking, commenting, everything like that, that holds weight,” he says. “And that kind of prompted

immediate introspection, like what does that mean for me as a person and my morals?’

That night, he paced back and forth in his room, unable to sleep. It was still a child’s room—the walls covered with book fair posters from elementary school, the shelves laden with Bionicles and stuffed animals: a shark he’d won as a carnival prize at the Beach Boardwalk in Santa Cruz, a teddy bear his godfather had given him, some Plants vs. Zombies plushies from China. His bed was a mattress in the middle of the room, at floor level so that his blind and elderly cat, one year older than he was, could easily climb aboard. Now he circled around the bed, his steps powered by a surge of self-loathing and anxiety.

What had he done? He didn’t want to tell his parents, didn’t want to risk them seeing him as he suddenly saw himself.

‘I was scared that they were going to think I was racist,’ he says. ‘In my self-reflection, that was a big question. Am I racist? What makes someone racist?’”


ACCOUNTABLE is a stunning chronicling of the creation, revelation, and complex aftermath of the racist Instagram account. Created by an Albany (California) High School student, it adversely impacted the educational community's students, teachers, administrators, and parents. The author persuaded dozens of those directly and indirectly involved to participate in interviews that led immeasurably to the resulting book’s power and clarity. 


ACCOUNTABLE is also a well-researched, fascinating examination of so many related psychological issues. A discussion of guilt versus shame is a great example of the author’s invaluable explorations. 


Don’t miss this one! The rise of social media platforms has provided racists and other bullies powerful soapboxes for their hateful messages. There is no doubt that getting ACCOUNTABLE into the right hands can easily change or even save a life. Hopefully, it will cause readers to pause and consider the Golden Rule before posting something racist/misogynistic/homophobic or just damned cruel. Hopefully, those who might condone or, even worse, encourage such postings by friends, will think twice about the potential harms and open their mouths. 


Richie Partington, MLIS

Richie's Picks http://richiespicks.pbworks.com





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