Earlier this week I wrote about the hateful, racist comments posted by Washington Post readers following a story by Bill Turque about the D.C. Public Schools serving dinner to some 10,000 children in addition to breakfast and lunch as a way of alleviating hunger and supporting after school programs. At the time, an online poll displayed alongside the article showed that 47 percent of those who responded thought the dinner program was a bad idea.
Since that time, the percentage of poll respondents who oppose the dinner program has slipped a little to 45 percent, compared to 52 percent who think it’s a worthy cause. A total of 764 readers voted. Of course, this is no scientific poll. But the comments seem to support the poll results and if anything have gotten more nasty, arguing in often virulent fashion that feeding children should be the responsibility of parents, and that parents who can’t manage shouldn’t be having children.
“The taxpayer money spent in these programs would be better utilized in preventing this insanity to persist by demanding tubal legations and vasectomies,” ranted one reader. “Those who breed in poverty on others’ finances and without resources or direction are animalistic – they are unfit parental stock.”
I posted about the story and the comments at the online environmental magazine Grist, where I contribute regularly on school food issues, and was criticized by some readers for giving any credence at all to comments made anonymously online. Such comments are made by “outliers,” or so the thinking goes, and are invariably hateful. I, too, wanted to attribute the racial stereotyping to suburban nut jobs. But should we also dismiss the many thoughtful, supportive comments that attach to this and other such articles? Crediting some comments but not others doesn’t make much sense to me.
Then readers pointed me toward a recap of Turque’s piece in the online DCist that drew some 80 comments, many of them echoing the sentiments in the Post. One reader, for instance, suggested that families be docked food stamp funds for any dinners their kids might eat at school.
“I think they should just move into the school and live there. This way we can make sure that everything is just perfect in their lives,” fumed a second DCist commenter. “The mothers can just shoot them out of their vajayjay’s like ping pong balls right into the pre-pre-pre-pre-K classroom where they can then live off of the rest of us, that is until we suddenly kick them out at age 18 and demand they become totally self sufficient.”
Silly me for thinking readers of an online news source aimed at D.C. residents would be more urbane and open-minded.
Vince Gray, as our presumptive new mayor, you certainly have your work cut out of you. Class and racial divides are alive and well in the District of Columbia, it seems. No wonder Adrian Fenty lost. He just didn’t get it.