Friday morning, I cheerfully grabbed an issue of TSL and skipped nonchalantly back to my room. Along the way, I glanced down and read the title of one of the front-page articles: “‘Snapping’ Causes Controversy at RHS Training.” I immediately froze, but I kept reading incredulously. My eyes trailed over quotations like “…some white students had interpreted the snapping during Mayes’s lecture as an effort by students of color to ‘rage against the oppressor’” and “‘As sponsors, we didn’t know what the snapping was, and so we didn’t snap … and so it became a very isolating thing where I felt that only one viewpoint was being expressed by the snapping…’” My mind was reeling because I could not imagine anything as simple as snapping leading to such a polarizing debate.
The particular type of snapping that the article mentions is completely benevolent in its intentions. It only means that the person agreed with what you said or thought it was particularly deep. It’s quieter than clapping; it’s a polite way of showing positive feelings and encouraging the speaker. In a group setting, using words can distract others. If someone wants to indicate agreement or support, offering words of encouragement over the speaker’s voice—and five other people doing the same—will distract and confuse the audience. Even though the article described the snapping as “loud,” snapping, even when done in groups, does not reach great decibels. The anti-snappers in the article never seemed to take the time to understand the snappers before making their judgment. Reading this article, I felt like a fitting analogy would be if your mother gave you a kiss on your way to the school bus, and your neighbor complained that his child was never kissed.
However, the snapping seemed more like a cover-up for real sources of conflict. The issue became most heated during a speech dealing with race, and it seems that the conflict was less about snapping and more about other sensitive topics, as seen in the quotation about snapping being used to “rage against the oppressors.” Instead of banishing a form of expression, we should discuss why snapping was found to be unsatisfactory. The article became confusing because it combined issues of the divisions between snappers and anti-snappers, white students and students of color, and sponsors and RAs. This makes discussing the article difficult because if readers focus on only one of the issues, other aspects risk going unnoticed.
An additional consideration should be about whose voices were heard in this article. I underlined every instance where snapping and RAs were written about in a negative light, and I circled every time they were depicted in a positive light. Harsh black lines stained the pages and streaked over almost every column, while a lonely circle sat at the bottom of page two. This is partly because the anti-snapping students who were interviewed spoke passionately, while there were no pro-snapping advocates who offered their opinions. The article only interviewed two people who had neutral comments. All of these factors seemed to create a very one-sided article, which shifted the tone from news to a complaint against snapping. Even the title announced that “‘Snapping’ Causes Controversy at RHS Training” when, realistically, anti-snappers and pre-existing rifts between RAs and sponsors contributed just as much to the disharmony. While the article was inspired by serious issues, the lack of balanced voices and the focus on snapping distorted it and rendered the article’s placement on the front-page of the paper highly questionable.