Tag Archives: racist

Cyber Racism, Part I

The University of Connecticut lost a student athlete last week.  Jasper Howard, a junior cornerback, was fatally stabbed to death on the Storrs campus on October 18th.  His suspected murderer (John William Lomax) is now being held on bond for $2 million; two other young men (Hakim Muhammad and Jamal Todd) who were present at the stabbing were also arrested.  There are various sources (Associated Press, ESPN, the Courant, and many more, I’m sure, if you use the Google search engine) that cover the tragic event in detail, offering updates as they become available.  As unfortunate as this senseless murder is, all the racism that is being spewed after the fact makes the entire tragedy all the more devastating.

Racism that is spewed online via message boards and/or comment sections of websites, or even freely on independently operated websites, is called cyber racism.  Racist words and thoughts that are freely spoken on the internet fall under the category of cyber racism.  Individuals spitting hateful, racist words while hiding behind the comfort of their computer screens are avidly contributing to cyber racism.  Cyber racism is one of the biggest things to have come out of Howard’s untimely and unfortunate murder.

When I browsed my various favorite blogs and news sources in the past few days, up until today, I noticed a number of them reporting the story of Jasper Howard.  After reading the story on each site, I proceeded to browse the comments sections following the story.  I was appalled, but sadly, unsurprised, at the huge amounts of cyber racism I encountered.  Racism directed at both the perpetrators of the crime and at the victim was posted by all sorts of seemingly ordinary people typing hate-filled words and thoughts, while sitting safely hidden behind a computer screen.  Racist words claiming “now my taxpayer dollars will provide these criminals with free housing and 3 meals a day”, “these thugs have it better in jail than in the ghetto because now they can live and eat for free while smuggling their drugs in for free”, and “affirmative action allows thugs to get into college” were common on the comments sections I encountered.  Now I am no statistician, but I am confident to say that a large percentage — I would say the majority — of the comments left by “anonymous” individuals were of the racist sort.

My question amidst all this tragedy and hatred is: what is about cyber racism that makes it so appealing to racists to perpetuate?  It could be the fact that very little is done to reprimand those who participate in acts of cyber racism, or that there is too little regulation on what an individual or organization is allowed to say online.  It could be the fact that too many cyber racists overemphasize the “right to free speech” to justify their hatred and racism, not understanding that there are boundaries to that right, especially when that right infringes on someone else’s right to freedom [to live a stressfree life, to live without fear, etc etc].  It could be the fact that it is not an easy task to track down exactly who is saying what behind the screen names that appear on these website message boards and comments sections.  I don’t exactly know what it is that is making cyber racism so appealing and easy to perpetuate, but I do know that it must stop.  There should not be a ‘free pass’ to those who are “tolerant of all races” in public, but go home and unleash their “inner racist” in the cyber world.  We should not tolerate this. 

There is no excuse as to why this cyber racist behavior is acceptable anywhere.  There is no excuse as to why, following the tragic murder of a young, ambitious student athlete, there are racists hiding behind computer screens who blame the victim.

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Filed under National Racism

On the claim “Racism will go away if we stop talking about it”

As a woman of color who is passionate about racism studies and teaching anti-racism, I cannot recall how many times I have heard people say, “Racism will go away if we stop talking about it.”  Though this claim is nothing new to me, it never ceases to leave me almost dumbfounded at how someone could possibly believe in it.  It’s like saying, if we all pretend we’re rich, and stop talking about being poor…that one day, we will all be rich!  Or, if we stop talking about the economic depression, the Swine Flu, AIDS, and homosexuality…it will all magically go away!  If things were that simple, and if erasing racism were that simple, wouldn’t you think we’d already be living in the ideal world? 

I recently had a conversation with a woman I work with.  We chatted about various intelligent things, such as sexism in the retail industry, and things were going quite smoothly.  That is, until this woman (who we shall call Jan), brought up the fact that she is sick and tired of “President Obama and the lefties playing the race card”.  Intrigued by this statement of hers, I asked Jan to be more specific, and to elaborate on what she meant.  She went on and on about her sheer disgust at “the liberal agenda” and the “accusations of all whites as racists”.  She concluded her rant with the classic line, “Racism will go away if we just stop talking about it!” 

Racism is already like the big ol’ pink elephant in the room that no one wants to talk about.  It’s a touchy subject that often can end up causing accusations, offenses, and the like.  So how are we supposed to address the issue?  By not talking about it, we are all guilty of passively perpetuating it and of giving a free pass to those who spew racism, or who benefit from institutions built on racism.  But by talking about it, we are making ourselves vulnerable to being blamed for somehow actively perpetuating racism, or even worse, being labelled as trouble makers or racists ourselves.  Seems like a catch 22 either way.

Discussing racism and racist remarks, attitudes and beliefs is not about creating a dichotomy of racist/non-racist.  It’s not about placing blame or pointing fingers, but more about taking the opportunity to learn and educate.  Racism is a huge, complex problem because it matters.  It affects all the social institutions around us.  It affects the quality of life we can expect. Racism matters, and no one should be able to say “Oh, it will just go away if we stop talking about it”.  So what if it makes a few people uncomfortable?  We need to address racism when we see it and do it in an effective, educational way.  That is the only way to really help racism on its way out for good.

The bottom line is, racism was created by humans.  It was and is being perpetuated by humans every day, everywhere.  If racism was created by humans and continues to thrive because of humans, we as humans are responsible for progressively talking about it, just as we are able to erase it.

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Filed under Everyday Encounters