Don’t feel bad, it’s meant to be funny.
It is easy to see that social norms and differences between races and social classes can never be completely ignored or muted over the internet. Even with the multitude of barriers and ability to stay anonymous, people of different races, religions, and socio-economic backgrounds act differently from each other, and this has leaked into social media in a very big way. One of the main (and most current) ways this has manifested is through Twitter. With 2.32 million active monthly users, Twitter has become a huge media site that has attracted a lot of attention, being a place where one small 140 character message can gain traction and be seen worldwide within seconds.
A new twitter handle, @WhiteVsBlackTwt started a movement of highlighting the difference in use of images and twitter as a whole between white and black users, and has gained a lot of popularity since its start ino September 23rd, 2014. In just this short amount of time, the handle has 284,000 followers, and has stemmed into different trends going on on different websites like Reddit and Imgur as well. The posts generally show the same photo twice, once with the “white” caption, shown next to the same photo with the “black” caption, and is meant to be humorous.
This begs the question: is this racism? Is highlighting a difference between races on mainstream sites something that shouldn’t be taken so seriously? This is a tricky spot. An article on HipHopWired.com highlights the handle as being a “Trending topic” or “Movement” and ‘warns’ readers: “You’re in for a good laugh”. After class discussions, and too much time spent online, my personal opinion is that it is not meant to be racist, and almost unites blacks and whites on the common ground of humor. While I don’t feel it necessary to comment on the validity of the posts, it is very apparent that these are not meant to single out either black or white twitter users. As we discussed in class, most of the racist comments or words found online are done in good humor, and don’t come from those who are trying to offend other races or show their disrespect over the internet. I use social media as a means of entertainment, and I would never consider looking for trouble in finding these racist users who don’t have anywhere else (they feel) to express their ignorance. I don’t think Twitter, Myspace, Facebook, etc., were made to be platforms of social reform and debate, and these kinds of comments that are specifically meant to hurt others don’t belong on the internet, or anywhere for that matter.
Unfortunately, this is not the only way that racism is discussed online, and is still an issue today. While I don’t think social media is the place to be spreading very serious ideas about different people’s lifestyles and backgrounds, many are still finding it the best way to make themselves heard (regardless of who’s listening). Articles as early as May 2013 (surrounding President Obama’s re-election) have been mapping racism on Twitter, making it only more apparent that this isn’t something that is centralized to one place or race as a perpetuator. An article on colorlines.com titled “Geography of Hate’ made in 2013 shows the different countries that have put out racist tweets, and highlights that this is a global problem that persists very much today. That being said, there are also campaigns and Twitter handles dedicated to the ratification of worldwide racism. For instance, I came across a twitter handle @ItStopsWithMe that boasts, “An initiative of the National Anti-Racism Strategy that aims to empower individuals & organizations to prevent & respond effectively to racism in Australia”. There are also many other country-specific antiracist Twitter handles as well as antiracism hashtags that are going around as well. While I have hope that this racism that has been seen on social media doesn’t persist, I find it hard to have confidence in the ratification of those who don’t see the error in their ways, or have come from cultures and upbringings that perpetuate this behavior in the real world and internet alike. Even in chuckling to myself about the differences in race that we see in every day tweeting, I hope that I am not helping to create, increase, or cement a divide between races passed the point of our different physical features and cultures (that even still are diminishing over time).