Very often, I criticize the first-world-social-media revolution. I view it as the cause of many of the issues we have communicating about race in this country. For one, social media has drastically limited our ability to communicate firsthand. I don’t need numbers to back me up. My life gives me all the evidence I need. All too often, at family gatherings, the older generations would be sitting with one another, talking, laughing, and sharing stories from the good old days…while the younger generations are scrolling through our phones.
OK, I’m exaggerating a bit; but the underlying narrative is quite familiar; we, the millennials, are more active on our mobile devices than we are with the people around us. And this form of stunted communication limits our ability to talk about taboo subjects that deserve attention. At first glace, this realization isn’t auspicious; how are we able to have expressive dialogue if we’re unable to verbally communicate?
But on a deeper level, social media provides us an outlet to talk about things that we’re uncomfortable talking about in person. Race being a prime example.
Most racial controversies begin on social media. How often did some fool tweet something completely racist, and the Internet retaliated? As it should; people should be publicly criticized when their views are indiscriminately announced in the public space. Tweeting or posting is essentially like standing in a crowded room voicing what you feel. Some may nod in agreement and ‘like’ what you’re saying, but the larger audience doesn’t care …. because they’re too busy doing it too.
Racial scandals quickly spiral out of control when they’re broadcasted in cyber space. We all remember that Justine Sacco, may she rest in peace. And with popular blogs like Public Shaming, racists are quickly identified, and the cyber lynch mob goes into battle mode.
But is the best way to encourage and promote racial justice?
The jury is still out. Although we may applaud the speed at which racists delete their profiles or are fired from their jobs, I doubt that these perpetrators change their views following a wave of cyber backlash.
Where society has failed the race question is through our negative perceptions of it. All too often, we view race in the negative. When there is a racial scandal, there are usually negative connotations that ignite both sides of the argument; racial justice advocates express their anger (rightfully so), while others become more obstinate in their racially insensitive views.
We talk past each other; we do not listen to each other’s arguments, and instead, create a chaotic public debate that does little to advance any comprehensive agenda. No wonder so many people are turned off by race, and want nothing more than to move on from it.
But imagine if we crafted race in a positive dynamic. Further imagine if we did so through social media…
Following the tidal wave of social media outlets, anti-racism activists have found a community stretching across the globe. We’re sharing our stories with one another, and are holding online forums in which we detail our experiences.
Some of our conversations go viral; a prime example being the #solidarityisforwhitewomen hash tag that examined how traditional feminism is dominated by the upper-middle class white elite, while women of color are continuously and systematically ignored.
Historically, people of color dismantled certain forms of racism through coordinated protest. The Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s-60s is a prominent example. But in today’s technologically advanced world, physical protest is difficult and time consuming. Millennials are more inclined to gather and spread information in the online arena. Then, if there is enough online support, physical mobilization ensues.
Any action against racial or cultural discrimination must adapt the world in which we live; our world is saturated through the electronic medium. Our means of protest should be as well. A stunning example of this adaptation is the Arab Spring. We’re all familiar with how quickly such protest caught on fueled by social media.
Technology and race must go hand-in-hand if we wish to promote racial equity in the United States. We’re headed in the right direction, but more work needs to be done. We need to better transition from online to physical protest when necessary. We also need to promote racial literacy through solid written and visual work. This is where sites like Buzzfeed, excel.
Furthermore, we MUST continue. Often, sites that promote the experiences of marginalized groups are met with severe backlash. We cannot let these voices deter us from our respective missions. We must remain vigilant and dedicated in our appreciation of racial justice and cultural equity.
Technology is a blessing for the racial justice, we just have to be more potent in how we utilize its great potential.