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The Carson King story is problematic on several levels. It exposes hypocrisy, the fallout of Cancel Culture, the responsibility of journalism, and also the deep roots of systemic racism.

For those who don’t know, the 24-year old man raised more than $1 million dollars after holding a sign on ESPN’s “College GameDay.” He asked for donations to his online Venmo account to pay for his “Busch Light Supply,” but when cash unexpectedly poured in, King decided to give it to an Iowa City children’s hospital instead of buying beer. Venmo and Anheuser-Busch then pledged matching donations.

A journalist from the Des Moines Register doing a profile story discovered King had Tweeted racist jokes when he was 16, and the newspaper published that finding. The lines of tolerance and intolerance were drawn quickly.

King, it must be pointed out, had forgotten about the Tweets and when they were revealed was “disgusted” by his own behavior as a teenager.

As a writer myself, I can only give my point of view and cannot pretend to know with certainty the feelings or intentions of others. Yet, I believe Carson King when he says he is appalled by what he did.

I also believe children at 16 are going through every development that nature and society has concocted and are susceptible to bad decisions; they aren’t yet aware (in most cases) of cause/effect and implications. They are only beginning to navigate moral decisions outside of the environment they’ve been raised in.

I also believe the ugly thread of systemic racism is central here, and the young King did participate in that heinous reality. Here’s where I part, however, with those who ostracize a child’s actions without context: That is not a solution, it’s only a reaction, and now a good deed as an adult has, indeed, been punished.

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How we contain the toxic continuation of prejudice is to call attention to it; to reveal its grotesque core, but also to allow people to evolve.

True enlightenment is not the result of a forced awakening. It is the recognition of truth, then to measure ourselves against that truth and to have the freedom to follow its light.

The same applies to all of us and to politicians who once took positions a more enlightened society has rejected. People can learn, they can change their minds, they can see the light, and we must allow them to do so.

In fact, the best advocates for justice are often the ones who once fell on the other side of that fulcrum. They actually learned what the rest of us profess to have already known.

This situation was a symphony of our new culture and mostly reveals its flaws. Journalists caught between the function of journalism to report and not to editorialize; finger-pointing progressives who emerge to prove how righteous they’ve always been; conservatives who change their values just to defeat progressives; and the systemic racism that continues to feed upon vulnerable minds.

Give the kid a break. The break we give just might be the break we need.

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Gary Kroeger is a local business owner and advertising executive in Cedar Falls.

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