Each of Facebook’s 1.15 billion users has uploaded an average of 217 photos apiece, but it only takes one picture to become infamous. Just ask Gerod Roth, who lost his job at Atlanta-based agency Polaris Marketing Group after posting a photo of himself with a colleague’s three-year-old African-American son that drew waves of racist comments.
The photo in and of itself is seemingly innocuous, but drew such hateful comments as “I didn’t know you were a slave owner,” “But Massuh, I dindu nuffin,” and “Send him back dude … [they’re] are expensive.” It’s unclear what exactly drew the racist commentary, but in response to the question, “Dude where the hell did you get a black kid??” Roth — who goes by Geris Hilton on Facebook — replied “He was feral.”
A few things happened in the wake of the post. First, Sydney Jade, Roth’s former co-worker and mother of three-year-old Cayden Jenkins, started the hastag #HisNameIsCayden in defiance of the derogatory and objectifying comments, which immediately took off.
Second, Polaris Marketing Group fired Roth. The company posted a statement on its Facebook page condemning Roth’s actions, making it clear that there was no tolerance for racism or the exploitation of small children.
“It breaks my heart that Sydney and her adorable son Cayden were subjected to such hateful, ignorant and despicable behavior,” Polaris Marketing Group President Michael Da Graca Pinto said in a statement. “Cayden visits my office almost every afternoon after daycare, he’s sat at my dinner table.”
However, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports Roth had been fired “for unrelated reasons,” days before Pinto became aware of the post.
Roth told WAGA-TV that the entire post was being taken out of context, and that he too felt victimized .
“I just really feel upset, not only with myself, but also with the character that was based on the comments my friends made,” Roth said. “I feel as if, not only poor Cayden himself has been victimized, but also myself for being targeted.”