Sunday, March 21, 2010

Teen prankster arrested for racial joke

The NY Times reports:
WASHINGTON TOWNSHIP, N.J. — The authorities in southern New Jersey said Saturday that they had arrested a 16-year-old boy for activating a public-address system at a Wal-Mart store last week and ordering “all black people” to leave.

The boy, from Atlantic County, was charged by Gloucester County authorities with bias and intimidation and harassment in connection with the episode last Sunday. If convicted, he could face up to a year in a juvenile detention center, officials said. His name was not released because he is a minor.

According to the police, the boy picked up a public-address telephone in the Wal-Mart in Washington Township, one of two dozen accessible to the store’s customers, and said, “All black people, leave the store now.” ...

Investigators also scoured Facebook, MySpace and YouTube, and found postings, including some that the police chief said involved “kids bragging” about what happened.

With the help of anonymous tipsters, he added, investigators were led to the suspect, who was arrested Friday.
I can see why Wal-Mart is embarrassed, but what is the crime?

Wal-Mart could easily prevent this sort of thing if it wanted to. It could turn of the system when not in use. Apparently it has a store full of video cameras, but they did not record this.

The black people in the store did not leave, and assumed that it was a joke.

If no one was harmed, then what was the crime? Is rude behavior in a Wal-Mart now illegal?

I also heard this story reported on the radio. This is only news because some editors think that it is funny. So how are these editors better than that teenager? He risked offending a couple of black folks in the store, while the editors risk offending millions of blacks.

In other teen crime news:
In most states, teenagers who send or receive sexually explicit photographs by cellphone or computer — known as “sexting” — have risked felony child pornography charges and being listed on a sex offender registry for decades to come.

But there is growing consensus among lawyers and legislators that the child pornography laws are too blunt an instrument to deal with an adolescent cyberculture in which all kinds of sexual pictures circulate on sites like MySpace and Facebook.
The problem here is that there are draconian penalties for behavior that today's teenagers see as harmless fun. The authorities are going to have to convince the teenagers that it is harmful, change the law, or prosecute a lot of kids.

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