Fighting racism … one keystroke at a time

Fighting racism … one keystroke at a time

Very few of the major traditional online news media sites have good comment moderation. The New Times is probably better at moderation than most, and the most egregious spew never makes it through the waiting period there for posting. Sometimes things do slip through though, but it is fairly easy to flag garbage, and the response, in my experience, is swift.

Recently while reading a Times piece on Michael Brown's murder and the ensuing events in Ferguson, I saw a comment, recommended by readers, that fit into the "but … but … but … Mike Brown was a thug" genre of post. It was a repost of a vile email and post making its way through racist networks that purported to show an arrest record for a Michael Brown. The problem is that the Michael Brown with the record was not the same Michael Brown whose life was cut short by Officer Darren Wilson. This is not to say that it makes one whit of difference if the deceased Michael Brown had or didn't have an arrest history—nothing in a person's background should excuse being executed. I'd already seen a debunking here on Daily Kos, and did some checking on my own. Weeks later, Michael Brown's lack of a record is now in the news and yet the smear campaign continues.

When I read that story, and saw a recommended reader comment citing the false email, I flagged it, and when I checked back about an hour later it had disappeared.

One small victory in a sea of cyber-hate.

Cyber Racism: White Supremacy Online
 and the New Attack on Civil Rights, by Jessie Daniels

The phenomena of cyber-racism is an area that is currently being explored in academia. The book, Cyber Racism: White Supremacy Online and the New Attack on Civil Rights by Jessie Daniels, is a good place to start learning more:
In this exploration of the way racism is translated from the print-only era to the cyber era the author takes the reader through a devastatingly informative tour of White Supremacy Online. The book examines how white supremacist organizations have translated their printed publications onto the Internet. Included are examples of open as well as 'cloaked' sites which disguise white supremacy sources as legitimate civil rights websites. Interviews with a small sample of teenagers as they surf the web show how they encounter cloaked sites and attempt to make sense of them, mostly unsuccessfully. The result is a first-rate analysis of cyber racism within the global information age. The author debunks the common assumptions that the Internet is either an inherently democratizing technology or an effective 'recruiting' tool for white supremacists. The book concludes with a nuanced, challenging analysis that urges readers to rethink conventional ways of knowing about racial equality, civil rights, and the Internet.

In her book, Cyber Racism: White Supremacy Online and the New Attack on Civil Rights, Jessie Daniels discusses the common misconceptions about White Supremacy Online; it’s lurking threats to today’s youth; and possible solutions on navigating through the Internet, a large space where so much information is easily accessible (including hate-speech and other offensive content). Daniels claims that although no one can say for sure how many white supremacy sites there are on the internet, the number is definitely rising (especially after Barack Obama’s election in 2008), and a majority of them are fueled by people in the USA.

A review from the blog and website for the African and African American Studies course, "Exploring Race and Community in the Digital World," taught by Carla D. Martin, states:
Daniels lays out three threats that white supremacists pose online to the the world:

Threat 1: Internet provides easy access—she coins the term “globalization”—and hence, perpetuates ”translocal whiteness”: a white identity that is not bound by geography.

Threat 2: Some white supremacist sites, that subject minorities to the “white racial frame,” motivate danger and violence in real life.

Threat 3: Through the nature of its medium, the Internet tends to equalize all sites, rendering what used to be intensely personal and political views in the 1960’s into a modern-day matter of personal preference.

Some of you may know Professor Daniels' work from the blog, RacismReview, which she co-founded with sociologist Joe Feagin.

Hate speech on the internet has become an issue of global concern, addressed by the United Nations, and groups like the International Network Against Cyber Hate, which is sponsoring a conference in Belgium in October.

While I've focused on online racism in this post, the same problem exists for sexism, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, ethnocentrism, antisemitism, anti-Islam, anti-immigration, and all the other "isms" and haters.

No one person alone can counteract the tidal wave of hate that swamps many websites. But each individual can help stem the flood.

I frequently read grumbles here at Daily Kos about the moderation system. Frankly, at a site that gets an enormous amount of hits daily and thousands of comments, the incidents of racism that get a free pass here are minimal in comparison to other major sites. Trolls who make an account simply to spew are swiftly ban-hammered. The racist remarks from people who have a longer tenure here (yes they occur—no community, no matter how progressive, is immune to racism) are also fought against and hidden, and repeat offenders usually find themselves no longer welcome here. Does that mean we can't do better? No.  

I believe that there are "more of us" than of them (the haters) but I also think that many of us have found it too easy not to push back, having determined that it is a thankless and/or futile task.

Black Panther Party Minister of Information Eldridge Cleaver once said, "You're either part of the solution or you're part of the problem." I agree with Eldridge.

Since I'm on the net every day, searching for news sources for articles and for material to use in my classes, I've set myself a daily quota of pushback. I do about 10 per day (not counting efforts here at Daily Kos). It doesn't take up a lot of my surfing/reading time. I don't really participate much in Facebook or Twitter, other than to push a "post" button from here, but there are news outlets with comments sections I do use frequently. I also use video a lot, both here and for school. As disgusting as comments are on YouTube, they are pretty easy to flag, and to vote down.

"A few keystrokes a day can drive racism away" is my new motto.

Try it.

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