Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Foursquare, Tumblr, Vine, Pinterest; isn’t the list of social media exhausting? Yet, it is such a prominent part of our society today, that’s probably why they call it social media. We are bombarded with chances to check our sites on our phones, computers, and tablets at all times of the day seeing content from friends, pages, and websites. It is no wonder that race makes an appearance on this stage.
While scrolling through my News Feed on Facebook one day I came across a BuzzFeed article that caught my attention. The title? 21 Questions Asian People are Sick of Answering (Check it out here )
At the time I read this article, I laughed, and as I was reading an article about microaggressions this week, well, let’s say it all fell into place. I’ve gotten the “Where are you really from?” question more times than I can count and as a 5th generation Japanese American, sometimes I just want to scream, “I AM FROM HERE! THE US! JUST LIKE YOU!” Then they often ask if I speak Japanese, and well, I hate this question because I really wish I did, but my family has been here for over a hundred years and we immigrated to Hawaii. So long story short, I know just as many Hawaiian words as I do Japanese. The point is, I’ve never went up to one of my friends that are not Asian and asked them these questions upon meeting them for the first time. It seems a little ridiculous. This BuzzFeed article is just the tip of the microaggression iceberg. It seems that these jabs that happen against people of all races and backgrounds are really a thing, and a serious one at that. Check out this article on microaggressions by Tori DeAngelis. The catch-22 aspect she is describing is something that is very real, often times these microaggressions are micro, people don’t know they are causing harm to another person, so even if confronted, nothing changes and no apology is made.
In a round about way I am relating this all back to social media and in a little bit I will bring it back to education, since this was the place that I first saw the BuzzFeed article, but perhaps the vast majority of you reading this post can remember times when you have seen people acting out these microaggressions of race on social media. Pictures, memes (those pictures with words on them that are everywhere), and sometimes the words people post can qualify as microaggresions.
In society, racial inequality is a struggle in our schools, in government, and in everyday life, but the struggle is also very present on social media and that is why it needs to be noticed. So many youth have social media and have been targeted through it or they may see these microaggressions and start to think of them as normal and acceptable. In this way, it can come back into our schools almost as a deadly virus. Check out this article on why some people are letting racial bullying slide on social media. I encourage you to read this article completely because it will open your eyes, but here is an excerpt to get you hooked.
“A recently deleted Twitter account, for example, was not trolling. We’ll call the tweeter “Becky.” After she dropped some truly classic white privilege nonsense onto Twitter bemoaning the restraints of her whiteness and how the reverse racism of Black Twitter kept her from being “included,” she deleted her Twitter account. But Becky was not a troll. Becky, however misguided and ridiculous, was just a young woman with a severe case of white privilege and a deep lack of education on racism and intersectionality. When she tweeted about how unfair it was that Black Twitter excluded her from their conversations, she wasn’t stirring the pot and waiting gleefully for outraged replies to fill her mentions. She was just tweeting the regular stuff that I’ve heard many white people who are uneducated about racism and privilege say: “I have something I want to say about the way I think racism works, but because I’m white, black people don’t listen to me! It’s not fair. That’s reverse racism.”
“I write a lot about white privilege, race, and racism, and I — like everyone else who writes about these issues — get a lot of hate mail, although certainly less than writers of color who write about the same topics. Daily I receive ignorant tweet after ignorant tweet, book-length emails telling me what an idiot I am, comments on my blog calling me a race traitor (yawn) and an ugly bitch (sigh), and messages to my fan page on Facebook calling me names that would make a pirate blush. It used to bother me. It doesn’t anymore. My block hand is strong (pow!) and my “Report As Spam” reflex is cat-like. But something else does bother me, and it’s that vast number of people who dismiss this online racist behavior with slightly exasperated statements such as “It’s the Internet,” or (the most common, given my favorite social platform), “It’s just Twitter.”
No, it’s not. This is the world.”
So the big questions. How do we fight this? And how can we bring this knowledge back to education?
1. Learn about microaggressions for yourself and be on the lookout for them. They’ll pop up on your social media, without a doubt.
For real life examples, check out The Microaggressions Project and their tumblr. Check out their facebook here.
Here’s this cool buzzfeed article about it too.
And one more article for good measure.
2. Speak up! Use that block button, don’t let these microaggressions pass you by. Share these articles with your friends, family, co-workers. I didn’t know that getting asked “Where am I really from?” is called a microaggression. Learn and then tell others what you have learned.
3. Get involved. This is where the school aspect comes in. Cyberbullying and bullying in general is still a huge issue in our schools today. Not only bullying, but just providing education about cultures, ethnicities, privilege, and inclusion need to be prominent aspects of what we teach in our education system.That exerpt from the article about letting racial comments slide on social media talked about a girl who simply wasn’t educated about privilege and didn’t know what it meant. If we teach these lessons in our schools we can avoid these situations.
Stop Bullying is the government’s website against bullying
PPS has a page on their policies and resources about bullying
Stand for Courage is a local bullying advocacy group here in the PDX area
Check out Stand for Children, an organization dedicated to having all children succeed, regardless of their background.
I firmly believe that the first step to change is knowledge and have that knowledge spread across our schools, neighborhoods, cities, counties, the nation, and the world. We can’t afford to be passive about it or think that someone else is going to do it. You need to do it.