How to Deal with Racist Facebookers
After the shooting of Keith Lamont Scott in Charlotte, I began to notice a racist trend in my Facebook newsfeed.
By Molly Flynn, University of North Carolina at Charlotte
I am a white girl.
As a result of the culture in which I live and the color of my skin, I have never had to deal with being the target of racism. Many people in my white family claim that racism doesn’t exist anymore. How could it when they don’t feel it everyday? I, however, do not ascribe to that belief. Especially after scrolling through my Facebook feed this past week.
Most days, my Facebook is filled with silly videos of cats and wine (or even better, Cat Wine) or stupid rants that I typically overlook. Most of my Facebook feed is from people I don’t really like or know and about things that annoy me. Honestly, Lynn, I don’t care about your 20 pound weight loss that took you from being 130 to now an astonishing 110! Thanks to good ole Facebook, I always know when it’s the season of PSL (Pumpkin Spiced Lattes) and PLL (Pretty Little Liars). And a big “Screw you,” Facebook, for when my feed is filled with spoilers from a TV show I’ve yet to Netflix binge-watch. I can’t blame Facebook, though, for the racism that was spewed across it this past week.
For the past few years, there has been increasing outrage in response to police brutality against the black community. From Ferguson to Tulsa, there have been outcries against injustice and protests against systemic racism in the police force. While I have watched it all unfold on the news and empathized for the far-away cause, it was hard to imagine it happening in my neighborhood. And then, it happened. On September 19th, Keith Lamont Scott was shot and killed by a police officer in Charlotte, NC, only a few miles from UNC Charlotte. That night and the following days, there were protests; most peaceful, some not. While the protestors were exercising their right to free speech, some of my Facebook friends took to the streets of social media to exercise theirs.
Facebook has a silly way of empowering people to give their irrelevant opinions. This past week, I saw more long rants than usual. Luckily, I have a good variety of friends on Facebook, which keeps my feed pretty balanced. I was able to scroll through posts from those who support the BLM movement, those that call it “terrorist” and those that continue posting Cat Wine videos (these friends are my real friends). I did expect to read a copious amount of posts related to this event—I mean, c’mon, it’s happening in our city! I did not, however, expect to see the overt racist comments and posts spread across my screen from people I actually knew.
I assumed my liberal friends would be preaching against the racist structure that is present in the United States, while my conservative friends would be picking apart the details of the case to dispel the idea of racism in America. I was pretty accurate. And then I came across a post from this little asshole: “Harambe didn’t die for this.”
Let me give you some context about, let’s call him “Cramerton.” I went to high school with this scrawny little white kid. When I was a senior, he was a freshman. I went to a very tiny high school in a very tiny town filled with very tiny-minded people, most of whom had never left town. It’s safe to say that the majority of these high school friends ended up liking and commenting on his overtly racist and offensive post. I genuinely could not believe what I was reading. Under the façade of being “humorous,” the guy just related Harambe to the people pained by the death of a black man in Charlotte.
At this point, I did not know what to do. I had written out a few different responses that ranged from my initial “HEY ASSHOLE, CHECK YOUR PRIVILEGE,” to “Good afternoon Cramerton, I would love to politely discuss with you how this silly little post of yours is quite offensive and…,” even the attempts at being nice seemed to get a little fiery, “I think you should NEVER TALK AGAIN FROM THAT DISGUSTING LITTLE RACIST HOLE YOU CALL A MOUTH.” Well, can’t say I didn’t try. After writing and rewriting over 30 different responses, I decided to go to some friends for help.
I reached out to one of my friends to see if she had ever experienced responding to this type of racism on social media. Apparently, she had. A few weeks prior, one of her FB friends posted a meme of Ferguson. It was a dystopian scene of the city in rubble. Yet, in the middle of it all stood an untouched KFC. She commented on it subtly calling out his racism. He explained to her that he “thought it was funny.” She decided to not engage and deleted him as a friend.
While I wanted to just delete Cramerton, I didn’t want him to get away with it! I began searching deeper into my Facebook feed. I quickly realized that cyber racists roamed rampant. In response to the protests, one UNC Charlotte student posted on social media, “They should have run over those n***ers because I would have.” He has since deleted his comment and his Facebook page. But while this individual has seemingly been shut down by my justice-seeking cohorts, many other racist FB users have not been. Case in point: Cramerton.
But does arguing with these jerks ever truly produce any change?
This is the question I have been battling with for a week. Is it worth me starting an argument with this frat boy over his racist status? Or will I simply be wasting my breath and further inciting his racist trolling?
I have not yet made a final decision about whether I should delete or not delete these “friends.” I wish I could be more like my husband who now only has about 100 Facebook friends after purging through his social media accounts. Maybe it’s the hoarder in me that likes to hold on to these connections. Maybe it’s a shallowness inside of me that identifies by how many “likes” I get. Or maybe it’s because I think one day I will build up the courage to truly speak my mind to these dirt bags and maybe, just maybe, if we all unite, their racist voices will be drowned out.