Bigotry and the Blogs

The internet does give voice to racism -- but also, increasingly, to those who fight it

| May 24, 2007

The color of one's skin shouldn't be a problem when people can't see each other face-to-face. But as anyone who's ever visited the oft-covered blogosphere knows, racism can be overt when people hide behind the anonymity of the web. According to Celina De León, writing for ColorLines, the internet has 'emboldened racists hiding behind the mask of virtual reality.'

One of the reasons why racism is allowed to flourish on the internet is because of the under-representation of minority voices. De León cites a Pew Internet & American Life Project report which found that people of color account for 40 percent of bloggers and just 26 percent of internet users. De León quotes Chris Rabb, author of the blog Afro-Netizen, who posits that this lack of representation makes bloggers shy away from discussions of race. 'Whenever issues of race come up,' Rabb writes, 'it's seen as a distraction.'

In the world of internet dating, though, race can often take center stage. Writing for the blog Racialicious, Wendi Muse points to a plethora of subtly and overtly racist posts that appear in personal ads on Craigslist. 'I LOVE WITE GRLS,' one emphatic love-seeker wrote. 'No black or Latin women, please,' specified another.

These personal ads lay bare an 'underbelly of racism' on the internet, writes Muse, that exposes 'how people feel about race, ethnicity, and nationality.' The ability to post anonymously makes Craigslist a haven for people to 'abandon political correctness and resort to exotification, stereotypes, and blatant racism when referring to racial/ethnic 'others' in their attempts to choose a mate,' Muse observes.

To combat the bigotry, many bloggers and web-savvy users have begun to organize 'carnivals,' or collections of reprinted blog posts that are hosted by a rotating cast of bloggers. The Erase Racism Carnival, for example, aims to create 'a world free of racism' by providing a forum for anti-racist blogging. The Carnival of Radical Feminists, is another site that aims to 'build the profile of radical feminist bloggers,' a group that would simultaneously uproot racism, sexism, and other forms of bigotry.

Chris Rabb of Afro-Netizen regards blogging as 'very low-hanging fruit' for minority voices. Racist commentary may abound on the internet, but it's also a place where informed conversations and rebuttals by minority voices can flourish. 'This is,' Rabb says, 'a great benefit to underrepresented groups.'

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