Cyberspace and Race

Cyberspace and Race

November 9, 2018 0 By Sanisa Chirasavinuprapand

“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin” – Nelson Mandela, a South African anti-apartheid revolutionary. This quote can reflect a lot of perspectives and one of them is no matter what our looks are, we have nothing more special than others and we do not have to fight or hate others who do not look the same as us. Nowadays, we are in the world of web 2.0 in which cyberspace playsan important role in our lives. We all use the cyberspace to study, work, communicate, receive information, and many more. Despite the fact thatthe innovation and the development of the technology cannot help us with the racism problem, it seems to be an open gateway to let people have more chance to express their ideas including the racist vocabularies and terms coined to express hatred. Our group has been researching the problem of race and cyberspace using many methods to gather information which will be discussed in details below.

First of all, before exploring any further information, you all should understand the meaning of the word RACE” and CYBERSPACE. Race means the fact or any condition that makes people belong to a racial division or have the similarity in culture, history, language, ethnicity, and others. The fact or any condition of belonging to the same group no matter howtheir physical appearances are.  A group of people who have the common feature or features.

What about cyberspace, what kind of space is that? Is it big, is it comfy? Do we need to pay any rent? Does it belong to someone? Any food, water, or oxygen? And who does it belong to?

According to John Perry Barlow in a declaration of independence of cyberspace, the first one adapting the cyberspace in the internet, “ours is a world that is both everywhere and nowhere, but it is not where bodies live”. With his words “ours”, is it including us? And he said that it’s everywhere but no one has ever seen or been able to walk in and take a photo of the cyberspace. He alsosaid that it is not where bodies live, so maybe we can access it through our souls?The terms of cyberspace are not first invented by John Perry Barlow but instead William Gibson in his novel of Neuromancer since 1984. Gibson says that cyberspace is a consensual hallucination creating another world, it is not a place or space but it is a notional space, or the space inside our mind. For example, when people sending email or texting each other, what kind of space do they use? how exactly does it goes? In all of the example neither time nor space act as a barrier.

Cyberspace has many different names depending on which period we are in:information superhighway to WWW or World Wide Web to hyperspace and then now the Web 2.0. However, this powerful metaphor or the cyberspace that we can express everything by do not need to show any name, face, or our detail, we cannot deny the fact that it has many factors causing many problems and one of them is “RACISM”.

“Racism” has been around for about eighteen years, as the world and society keep developing. People find a way to put their thoughts and opinions out there to be discovered. The best way of doing this is through the cyberspace where people nowadays are attached to it. Which leads to the problem on social media, as we would say “Racism through Cyberspace”. We can see racism throughout cyberspace in many form such as comments, songs, videos, or even in the advertisement by world-famous brands. After everyone understands the terms of Cyberspace and Race already, let’s focus more on the details that we can see the racism problem in the social world and what the ideas and thoughts from some groups of people towards this topic are as we have already conducted a research using both online and offline platforms to gather all of the information.

Racial Stereotyping in Advertising

Advertisement has been one of the tools for racism. It seems like some companies might be using racist ads to get more attention from the audience or consumers in order to make profits out of it. Here are some examples of racial discrimination in the form of online advertisement.

 

Heineken Lighter Is Better’ 2018

Heineken was promoting a commercial of light beer with a slogan “sometimes, lighter is better,”.  In the advertise a bartender spots a female looking disappointed in a wine glass from a distance. After that he quickly opens a Heineken beer bottle and slides it down the bar. The beer bottle slide past two black women and a black man and finally stopping at the wine glass.  The phrase “sometimes, lighter is better” is shown on the screen before the woman, who has lighter skin, took the bottle. A majority of people think that this advertisement is terribly racist as it is promoting fair skin over darker complexion.

 

H&M’s ‘coolest monkey’ hoodie 2018

H&M have faced with racism issue for posting an ad on the website for a child’s sweater. The picture depicted a black child modelling a green sweater bearing the phrase “coolest monkey in the jungle.” Many people see this ad as racism especially South African people. This is because of a few black models were featured in the advertisements.

 

Dove body wash 2017

Dove has come up with a Facebook ad for Dove body wash which turns out to be one of themost controversial ads. The ad was a GIF showing a black woman removing her brown shirt and underneath is a white woman in a light shirt. A majority of people believe that there were racist implications in this ad. Many people said that it seems like they want to suggests that black skin is dirty and white skin is clean.

 

Hashtags about Race on Twitter

Twitter, an online news and social networking service that relies on micro-blogging for communication in which you could write any of your thoughts freely in limited space of 140 characters and is enough to create a provoking message that prompted the creation of hashtags. Hashtags are used to categorize Tweets by keyword and the tweet would get viral and appear on trending. However, with the freedom of speech, it reveals the truth about racial discrimination that has occurred in real life for centuries, and now Twitter is one of the tools to inform users who have never heard of the word ‘Racism’. This report is going to focus on Black Twitter as an example of racial discussion on social media. Black Twitteris a word used to identify the black users on Twitter, so that they could express their feelings and experiences about what it is like to be black and these black twitter users usually tweet about race which includes many hashtags about race.

Here are some examples;

 

#BlackLivesMatter

 

Picture from https://blacklivesmatter.com

According to Forbes, In 2014, a group of academics taking part in Utah State University’sDigital Folklore Project has chosen #BlackLivesMatter as “the most impactful and cultural trend” of the year. “Itis a hashtag that moved out onto the streets,” USU project co-directorJeannie Thomas told the Herald Journal newspaper. “It shows you how important digital culture has become, where they’re saying, ‘Hey, come back to the conversation online.'”

Across social media like Facebook, Twitter and on the signs carried by the protesters, #BlackLivesMatter is a phase that has been organized to influence people, especially the Caucasian, to give the equality to civil rights of African Americans in every timeline, both online and offline, and is created in 2013 by activists Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullorsand Opal Tometi from The Black Lives Matter Global Network, an organization whose mission is to build local power and to intervene in violence inflicted on Black communities by the state and vigilantes, they felt that the African Americans have been treated unequally by law enforcement.

For example, in 2015 more than 1,000 innocent African Americans were killed by US police officers without being guilty. Most of them were children while some were young teenagers who did not possess weapon at that time. Many were abused and died during the investigation and many were executed just only because they had been suspected to be committing a crime, all this just because they have a different skin color.

Example

#OscarsSoWhite

#OscarsSoWhite also known as Oscars So Whiteor Oscar Whitewash, is a hashtag created to protest the marginalization of the African Americans in the 87th Academy Award nominations. The hashtag was originally created in 2015 and was used during the award cycle and re-appeared in 2016 when no actors of color were nominated. The hashtag was shot up to the trending rank again.

Example

Official Response

On January 19th, Cheryl Boone Isaacs, the President of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, has responded by releasing this statement via The Academy’s official Twitteraccount to confront with the contention about the lack of diversity on the list on nominees.

Other

Racism in cyberspace is not seen through only advertisement or big campaign or the hashtag but also through the song, comment, likes and shares of some content as well. For the song, one of the best examples could be the song called “อิสลาม” (Islam) by illslick. It is a Thai song containing rude words and bad perspectives towards Islamic and Allah or Islam God. In the comments, we can also see people make comments or crack jokes that can be considered racist. We can see people fight and rail about their religion and beliefs. However, about more than 60% of them used a fake name and the display picture that does not represent their true identity such as those of animals, cartoons, cars, or sceneries. We can see in all Picture 1.1-1.3 that these are people who use their nicknames and fake names. Moreover, in the comment we can see that people talk badly about the looks of Islamic people and towards their religions. In the picture 1.1, a comment said that “Stop hanging out with Islamic people you and your family lives will be safe”. In picture 1.2 said “Islamic people do not eat pork meat because it is dirty, but when I walk pass Islamic people their body are very smelly like shit”. Picture 1.3 is the comments of the second photo in which most of them laughed and agreed with the content in picture 1.2 and many other very rude worlds. All of the pictures below are just a very few examples of how people make jokes and disrespect others through racist language and messages in cyberspace.

Picture 1.1

 

Picture 1.2

 

 

Picture 1.3

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We are doing a lot of research not only to find information from online or from educational articles but also gather the information from offline sources by asking people face-to-face about their opinions towards the race in cyberspace to see how well they know about the race and cyberspace and if they have seen or been a victim of racism in cyberspace. We gather our research through the online social and official media and created a google form which was distributed to a hundred people. We also went and asked sixty people face to face if they have ever seen or been a victim of racism in social media and if they think that online racism is a serious problem. The results are shown as follows;

The result from google form

Picture 2.1

Picture 2.2

Picture 2.3

Picture 2.4

Picture 2.5

Picture 2.6

Picture 2.7

 

All the pictures above are the results from the google form that we have sent to our friends and to complete. It is all anonymous as we want them to express their real feelings and be honestwith their answers. In picture 2.1 Have you ever heard about the Cyberspace and Race?(from 100 responses) 87% have heard about it, and 13% have not heard about it.

Picture 2.2 Have you ever been victim racist on media?(from 100 responses) 80% answer Yes, 20% answer no.

Picture 2.3 Do you think that racist on social media is funny?(from 100 responses) 61% answer no and 16% answer yes and 23% answer sometime.

Picture 2.4 Are there any of your friends that be racist to others on social media?(from 79 responses) 54% say Yes and 46% say no.

Picture 2.5 What does cyberspace and race mean to youMost of people around 20%(from 40 responses) said that they had no idea what cyberspace means but all of them know what race means. For those who know the meaning of cyberspace, they all answered that cyberspace means social media, online space, and internet. As for the answer for race, all of the answers are very similar which is the physical appearance of people, their ethnicity, and most of all the skin color.

Picture 2.6What is the solution of racist on cyberspace?(from 44 responses) Most of the answers said there is no solution and it cannot be fixed.

Picture 2.7 What does you feel when people racist to others by comment on social media?(from 44 responses) around 60% said it is bad, sad, and not good. While the rest said that it can be seen as one of the jokes and some of them said that it’s nothing.

You can see that from the google form, people know about the problem of online racism but they do not know how to fix it.

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Moreover, we also completed an offline research by asking 60 people about their opinions.

“Have you ever seen a racist joke on cyberspace?”

47 people say yes, and 13 people say no.

Most of them have seen online jokes that are racist while no one answered that it is funny. Moreover, some of them also told their experiences that they also have seen or been the victim in both cyberspace and real-world situation.

This is the link of our research Video:

We also made an infographic video that informs the simple definition of what cyberspace and race areso that people will be able to understand these important termsandhow cyberspace and race are linked together.

Cyberrace info

 

All in all, Race and Cyberspace can be combined together as a serious online problem about racial discrimination. We can see many examples and many waysracism is projected in cyberspace such as comments, videos, songs, advertisements, and hashtags. However, we also are able to see that people acknowledge its seriousness by creating a campaign to make people more aware of the issue. We have conducted a research and published this article to make people understand about cyberspace and race correctly. Also, we want people to know about the current situation of racism in cyberspace, and that it is happening everywhere online.