I was scrolling through Twitter, when I came across the now infamous Esquire cover article about “The Life of an American Boy at 17.” There was so much to unpack—from the pictures, to the article, to why Esquire even thought it should be published on the front cover during Black History Month.
Donald Trump’s America is awfully appealing to the same people who claim that the “old days” were the “good ol’ days.” The “good ol’ days” meant you could say offensive things because you were white and they were the norm. Privilege is quite the security blanket, and while not having to think about other people’s feelings may be far easier than taking a few seconds to consider the consequences of your words, things are changing.
The subject of the “American Boy” article was Ryan Morgan, a fairly average conservative kid who lives in the middle-of-nowhere Wisconsin. The article is a decent length, following him, his relationships and his under-researched thoughts about deeply serious issues, including his opinion on James Gunn.
After reading it, I debated whether or not I even wanted to give it more attention than it was already getting, but I thought it was important to pick apart and decipher some of the real problems with what Ryan Morgan and many other Americans seem to be confused about.
I worked as an intern at the Newseum in Washington DC, and while we “champion the five freedoms” of the first amendment, everyone in America should be well aware that every amendment has its limitations. I’m constantly interested to see that many “American Boys” like Ryan seem to believe that freedom of speech should allow him and his friends to spout hate speech.
When I entered college, I realized more concretely that there are things you can do and there are things you should do. Everything really falls under one of those categories. While Ryan is protected in his thoughtless explanations of complicated problems, and the KKK is also protected in their hateful ways, these are things you can do, but definitely shouldn’t.
This article gave Ryan the opportunity to say the things he wanted to say. This was in a series of articles Esquire plans on publishing on how it feels to grow up in America. What a good idea, in theory. And I do believe that every person deserves a voice, but this article fell absolutely flat.
It was poorly executed, and completely tone deaf. Esquire easily could have released all the articles at the same time, creating a comparison point. By releasing the “white boy” point of view first, it confused and polarized many people, including myself, who are used to seeing this representation of the “American Boy” but never seeing themselves represented.
I don’t and will never feel bad for people who complain about not being able to say whatever they want. The fact of the matter is that you can say whatever you want, but you better be damn ready to face the backlash.