Saturday, July 27, 2013

When to comment about racists via social media ... the case of the no-brainer.

In thinking about whether to use social media to comment about racists, I've offered that do to the problem of giving racists a platform, the issue of whether to respond to garden variety racists is an open question worthy of additional discussion. In the case of elected officials, however, there is no dilemma

For instance, I would not hesitate to say Congressman Steve King is a stereotyping ass and should be widely acknowledged as such among Democrats and Republicans alike, and especially among those Republicans who don't want to be seen as sharing his heartless and twisted views.

U.S. Congressman Steve King has been an elected official since 1996, and in Congress since 2003. He doesn't like the Dream Act and wants you to know why. So what exactly does he have to say about Hispanic youth? 

 Here is the Congressman: “For every one who’s a valedictorian, there’s another 100 out there that weigh 130 pounds and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert.” 

Of course, in his defense, King has followed up by saying that what he is interested in is "the most logical, rational policy." 

Even viewed charitably, his utterance is callous and heartless. At best, you could point out that King is referring to an actual phenomenon - that where Mexican youth end up as "drug mules" carrying illegal narcotics into the United States. But he is glibly describing a situation where kids are put into positions of extreme danger and exploited to the extreme. Kids involved are victims, plain and simple. Yet, there is no indication that King is interested in shedding light on human trafficking, the exploitation of children (especially brown ones) or anything like that. He wants to demean hispanic youth in order to reframe a debate that he sees as to charitable to kids he generally thinks lowly of.  

So, here is Steve King, an upstanding an upstanding elected Republican official. To get back to the main topic, my sense is that calling out elected officials like this is a no-brainer. 

Dealing with garden variety racists on social media

In thinking through and attempting to stay on top of things for the Black Studies in the Age of Social Media class I'll teach this fall, I've encountered instances where, after some national event, a few dozen racists will broadcast racist tweets. A cute Hispanic kid in a mariachi outfit beautifully sings the national anthem and a bunch of people go nuts with the name calling. Same thing when a New York born Hispanic sings the national anthem at another national sorting event. Xenophobes come out of the woodworks with idiotic expressions of racism.

I've tried to think of this in context though. There are 400 MILLION mundane tweets every day, coupled with DOZENS (or sometimes HUNDREDS) of publicly shared racist tweets. How should one respond? If you ignore racism, it can take root and grow like an all-consuming weed. On the other hand, when you point out the kooks, you give them free publicity and the opportunity to convince others of their warped perspectives. Working through this conundrum will be one of our class tasks for our Black Studies in the Age of Social Media.

Now, all that having been said, next up, Part 2 (the one where I go ahead and call out a racist asshole since he is an elected official of influence) ...