Friday, May 21, 2010

Do The Right Thing!

I saw something rather disgusting tonight. I was on Twitter (using TweetDeck, I almost never go to the Twitter site itself) when a friend of mine posted a retweet from a "trend" (hashtag) #thingsblackpeopledo. Since she got a laugh out of it (and she's a black American woman by the way), I thought I'd look at what was going on. What I found was a garbage filled river of racist slanders against black people! And worse, it was being perpetrated by blacks.

So for a moment I figured maybe it's one of two things - just self defacing humor that we can excuse, or maybe it's sarcasm spouting out the antagonistic stereotyping they often face themselves. But in any case, I felt it was disgusting and dangerous.

Then I did an experiment. At first I thought, "hmm... all these people in this trend are black or appear to be... I wonder what would happen if a white person posted #thingsblackpeopledo?" Well, of course I didn't want to do it myself. I don't know if I can actually call myself colorblind, but I'm sure not about to be labeled a racist. So I got another thought... is there a #thingswhitepeopledo hashtag out there?

Sure enough, there was!!!! But to my dismay - it was also being perpetrated by blacks (at least 99 percent of the postings where blacks and some where even simultaneously posting in both tags). I was foolishly actually hoping I'd find a bunch of disenfranchised white people stereotyping themselves... but nope, the same racist tone as the other topic was coming through my Internet feed.

Now don't get me wrong. I didn't get offended (per se), I wasn't disgusted. In fact, tonight's observations are in no way surprising to me. I guess I did once have some hope, hope that maybe change was coming now that we are global peoples in virtual space... but i won't say I was at all surprised.

So I asked my lovely and colorful friend what her opinion of the trend was, and I also asked another person (a stranger who I saw tweeting in the trend that he was disgusted). I asked them if they noticed anything about both of the hashtags (meaning, I had to point out to them that the #thingswhitepeopledo was also in the air though not as popular) that seemed striking. Neither of them noticed until I pointed out the demographics of both tags where blacks. Then I became involved in several very healthy discussions about Twitter, trending, and racism and other ignorant behavior on the net.

The thing is... racism, stereotyping, and other disrespectful biases aren't just going away because America caught up with the outside world and hired a black man to do the top job (Many nations have long been doing this, so it really isn't a "historic event" as far as I'm concerned). Even when America catches up to England, India, and other nations and hires a woman for the job, that still isn't going to change things. What is going to change this is individual. We each have to stop slandering each other and slandering ourselves. That's the way this issue might go away.

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