How it works
The world has changed considerably in the past decades. Those remarkable revolutions stem from communication, jobs/occupations, and technology. For the better, many things have adapted, but some have remained the same. And yes, some stay the same for the good of it, but some still don’t, and we must find a way to stop it and keep trying to make a difference. That very thing is something called racism. We all probably know what racism is, or at least the concept of racism.
The idea of racism is not new to the face of the earth. According to Merriam-Webster (2022), racism is “a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race” (“Racism | Definition of Racism by Merriam-Webster”).
So racism is not just discriminating against another person because of their skin, heritage, appearance, etc. The actual reason why people do that is that they think that they or their race is superior to another person’s race. This causes a lot of conflict between many people and enforces people’s ideologies and opinions. Racism has affected many people. Some examples would be Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, etc. These famous icons have fallen victim to racism and stepped out of that darkness to become something more significant. These prominent figures share the same goal; to protect other innocent people from what happened to them. But as always, racism always finds a way to evolve and remain persistent. 21 st century technological developments and the increasing internet adoption have opened up many opportunities for online racism.
The progression of the internet has made communication between people from all over the world more accessible. People can instantly talk to someone from another continent and get to know each other as long you have a communication device and the internet (Bliuc, 2019). This form of communication can be considered very effective and efficient because it takes little time and effort. Though it may seem very effective, it also has its downfalls. These downfalls are usually in the form of cyberbullying. Cyberbullying is very easy because it only requires an individual to type their abuse and press the enter button (Australian Human Rights Commission, 2019). People take it too far commenting on somebody else. On the internet, individuals can become anonymous (Australian Human Rights Commission, 2019). They have free licenses to say anything as details such as their name, age, and geographic location are hidden. They strive to make incognito social media accounts and then disparage others based on race, heritage, and appearance (Eschmann, 2019).
The racism present in the 50s-60s comes back as online racism. Both traces of racism in the past and today’s modern world are significant in different ways. The unique cases of racism before and cases of racism now (online racism) can be implemented into a sociology theory of “gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft.” This theory by Ferdinand Tonnies, a german sociologist, stated that the world works in 2 ways or can be classified in 2 ways, which are gemeinschaft (community) and Gesellschaft (society). Gemeinschaft entails personal, up close, face-to-face, and traditional social rules (Encyclopedia Britannica, n.d.). In contrast, Gesellschaft is professional, distant, modern, and industrial (Encyclopedia Britannica, n.d.). One side handles things personally, while the other handles them professionally. Past cases of racism lean towards more to gemeinschaft because they discriminate against people right in front of their faces and do it very loudly and physically violently (Encyclopedia Britannica, n.d.). Online racism can be classified as Gesellschaft because they discriminate and verbally abuse people in an online way, so that means they don’t have to meet one another.
As mentioned before, the current situation with online racism has passed its limit. It has gone out of hand given how many people have done such a thing. Online racism has its many forms, and people may not even realize it, but they have done something ethically wrong, which offends people (Bliuc, 2019). That’s what makes it very controversial. An example of it would be on Facebook. On Facebook, there was a meme page full of memes of indigenous people that had racial captions. The thing that made it controversial is that Facebook classified the meme page as “controversial humor.”
Although the actual meme page deleted the posts, Facebook decided not to take down the page. Because of this, we can see that the algorithms of social media sites are ultimately not the most reliable and trustworthy. They can take down a comment that has no racial intent but decides to ignore a meme that targets someone or someone’s race. The dangers of manipulation and hate speech on the internet have worsened without people’s notice (Eschmann, 2019). It so happens that online racism also has its types; individual cyber-racism and collective cyber-racism. Individual cyber-racism has the intention to hurt someone, while collective cyber-racism wants to make the group stronger and spread racist propaganda. Individual cyber-racism uses the strategy of using power and privilege, and collective cyber-racism use “advocating inherent intergroup conflict” (Bliuc, 2019).
The use of anonymous accounts and network ubiquity make it challenging to identify the perpetrators of online racism (“It is hard to trace the perpetrator of cyber attacks”). The anonymous accounts make it hard to track the actual profile of a perpetrator, and the ubiquity of the network makes it hard even to track the exact source/account that was racist because of the usage of “sharing” (Course Hero, n.d.). However, it can still stick out like a sore thumb. A person can directly abuse another person through a direct message and make it very clear that they have racial intentions. An example would be Renee Hector. Hector is a Tottenham defender in soccer for Tottenham and was abused by Sophie Jones, a soccer player for Sheffield United. Jones initially abused her directly by making monkey noises which she later denied (Gornall & Magowan, 2019). She then escalated to message her online and abuse her, sending images of baby gorillas and discriminating against her of her weight (Gornall & Magowan, 2019). She still then denied those allegations again. She was banned for five games and fined £200 for the monkey noises (Gornall & Magowan, 2019). But since then, Jones has stopped being a soccer player. It shows that online racism significantly and negatively impacts the victim and the perpetrator.
The actual issue of online racism has many causes. The first exact cause was the development of racism, technology, and the internet. This first cause is what started it all. The first concepts of racism from the 50s-60s branch on towards the new wave of racism that goes along with the development of technology and the internet. The second cause is to enforce dominance and superiority of one’s self towards others. This type of dominance is known as white supremacy, and the traits associated with it include white privilege and a higher economic stance. The third cause would be the spread racial propaganda.
The doers of racism still exist in the world and keep on spreading. Those very doers always try to find a way of spreading their ideology and beliefs. Because of the internet, they have a chance to lurk around it and spread awareness of their toxic ideas of hatred and separation of races worldwide. Yet, of course, these causes must also have effects. These effects can range from depression to becoming vulnerable and could eventually lead to something like committing suicide. Just like Renee Hector, she was said to fall into a deep depression because of the verbal abuse towards her from Sophie Jones (Gornall & Magowan, 2019). Though there are not many known cases of someone committing suicide because of online racism, the possibility of one may still likely happen or has already happened. Still, not many people know of or about it.
Online racism does not have a specific place where it happens. Anyone from the world can do online racism. There is no limit to where it can go worldwide and even more on the internet. This is one of the factors why online racism can go way too far. The targeted audience or person can be anyone in the whole wide world, from your mom, dad, sibling, friend, coworker, or even you. You may never know the chances that even you would eventually be a victim of online racism.
This whole situation where online racism takes place reverts back to the previous subject of discussion on the ubiquity of the internet. The ubiquity of the internet plays an essential role in online racism. Internet ubiquity implies that racism is present and can be found anywhere and everywhere. This indicates that there is no pinpointed place where online racism takes place. The most straightforward answer is “the internet.”
Online racism occurs for several reasons. There is also a need to discuss appropriate steps to prevent it. There is a need for urgent action to reduce or eliminate it (Jakubowicz, 2019). We must look at previous solutions or things that have been done to prevent or halt online racism. Although most people think that racism is a problem of the past, the government of Australia has done the most it can to help stop online racism. They have written down as to what are the things that can be done to do such a thing.
There are four things that you can do, either complain, flag it (depending on video/file), click the “report” tab, or you can report the comment/post or the user (Australian Human Rights Commission, 2017). These past solutions have been proven effective, but newer solutions can be more effective. Jakubowicz (2019)asserts that the answer is to create an application that can identify and report an offensive comment/post to the human rights commission of the website or government. This solution can be effective because it takes little effort, and you can be given instant feedback and help from that said human rights commission.
From all the data and facts given, there is no hesitation that racism is something unethical or even online racism. Why must we always divide and separate ourselves? Humans always find ways to cause trouble. Though this modern world has always kept on moving forward in improving, again and again, it still lacks unity. But that is something natural. In the new age of technology and the internet, we must reflect on ourselves and ask ourselves whether or not we have become an ideal digital citizens. A citizen of the internet that not only finds peace among each other but does something great to help improve the world using the ways of the internet. We’ve been given the privilege of these devices not to destroy but to reunite.
- Australian Human Rights Commission. (2017). Racism. It stops with me. Humanrights.Gov.Au. https://itstopswithme.humanrights.gov.au/what-can-you-do/speak/cyber-racism
- Australian Human Rights Commission. (2019). 5 current issues of ‘Internet censorship’: Bullying, discrimination, harassment and freedom of expression. Humanrights.Gov.Au. https://docs.google.com/document/d/1rZqkr91tPmfcu5X6Me4h-cvtH-rWOYUCns8C6i_V4yw/edit
- Bliuc, A. M. (2019, August 27). This is how racism is being spread across the internet. Weforum. World Economic Forum. https://docs.google.com/document/d/1rZqkr91tPmfcu5X6Me4h-cvtH-rWOYUCns8C6i_V4yw/edit
- Course Hero. (n.d.). It is hard to trace the perpetrator of cyber attacks. https://www.coursehero.com/file/p777vme/It-is-hard-to-trace-the-perpetrator-of-cyber-attacks-since-the-real-identities/.
- Encyclopedia Britannica. (n.d.). Gemeinschaft and gesellschaft | social theory. https://www.britannica.com/topic/Gemeinschaft-and-Gesellschaft
- Eschmann, R. (2019, July 30). Racism on the internet: Young people of color react. The Brink. https://www.bu.edu/articles/2019/internet-racism/
- Gornall, K., & Magowan, A. (2019, August 14). Renee Hector “sank into depression” after online abuse following racism case. BBC Sport. https://www.bbc.com/sport/football/49345402
- Jakubowicz, A. (2019, June 13). 6 actions Australia’s government can take right now to target online racism. The Conversation. https://theconversation.com/6-actions-australias-government-can-take-right-now-to-target-online-racism-118401
- Merriam-Webster.com. (2022). Racism. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/racism
- Tynes, B. M. (2015). Online racial discrimination: A growing problem for adolescents. American Psychological Association. https://www.apa.org/science/about/psa/2015/12/online-racial-discrimination