Any High School, USA

Submitted By:
Patrick Nelligan, Marin Country Day School, Marin County, CA

Accountable, by Dashka Slater, explores how the racist postings of a high school student on social media indelibly altered the individual lives of a group of young people and divided the greater community of a small town in the Bay Area. This carefully researched narrative presents the racist memes and tropes first posted on a private Instagram account by Charles, whose targets include his classmates and friends. Before Charles and his account are exposed to school administration and authorities, a number of students view and interact with the account. The book provides moments where the students involved express what they were thinking, much of which resides in the “I don’t know why I did it” or “what I was thinking” category of explanation. Their passiveness underlines an ugly complicity and a tendency to pass off hate as humor, a dangerously pervasive undercurrent of social media. The complex intersectionality of race and ethnicity in the liberal and relatively diverse Bay Area town of Albany adds additional context to this story. Slater was, remarkably, able to directly connect with many of the students, parents, school officials, and teachers involved. A few years out, Slater writes, “It wasn't easy, it didn’t happen in a straight line, but in the end each of them found a path through it.” This important nonfiction account does not have a storybook ending, which is one reason why it’s a must-read. Another reason is that this story could have taken place in just about Any High School, USA.

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