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Opinion

Facebook segregates students

November 10, 2006

Online social networks like Facebook and MySpace are the fastest growing new trend on the Web. They are a great way for people to interact, stay in touch with friends, and meet people with similar interests. People in the Facebook or MySpace community usually meet others with their same interests by joining or creating groups. This is usually a harmless way to bring together people with similar interests, but recently Facebook has been corrupted by groups that see the racist sentiment.

I came across a group called “THE BIGGEST (NONCOLORED) FACEBOOK GROUP EVER,” because I was invited to join it by a guy who I used to go to high school with. I was disgusted and turned his group invitation down. On his group site, it says he created it in response to someone who created a group called “THE BIGGEST (NON-WHITE) FACEBOOK GROUP EVER.” These two groups may seem harmless to some people, but ignorance like this is what keeps racism alive and well in the United States today. Neither one of these people were right in creating their respective groups. “This group is not meant to be racist, it is meant to simply prove a point,” the creator said of the “NONCOLORED” Facebook group.

The creator of this group may not think he is being racist, but anytime someone takes a step like this they are being overtly racist. The same is true for the creator of the other group. Both people probably believe that they are creating groups where people of their same ethnic background can get together and interact.

But that is the scary part about these two people and anyone who joins their groups — they think that racial segregation is OK. White people should only congregate with other white people, and nonwhites should only congregate with each other. This is starting to sound like an Internet version of Jim Crow. Before long there will be Facebook groups for “white” water fountains or bubblers (take your pick), and “non-white” ones.

Discrimination by ethnicity is not the only racial issue prevalent in social networks today. Sexual orientation discrimination has also nestled its way into the electronic medium. Anti-gay and lesbian groups are imbedded in Facebook and they usually get shut down by the administrators, but some of them just change their names, such as the “Random group since my anti-gay one got deleted” group. People who create and join groups such as these are just as ignorant as the people who create and join racist groups.

One of the biggest concerns I have with our society today is that people tend to be afraid of what they don’t understand. People in the “NONWHITE” Facebook group and people in the “NONCOLORED” group undoubtedly don’t take the time to get to know people out of their respective ethnic bubbles. The same is true for people who join anti-gay and lesbian groups. They may not think it’s a big deal to discriminate against gay people, but even discrimination on this small of a level can eventually lead to hate.

It is truly sad that discrimination and hate are starting to leak into electronic mediums such as Facebook and MySpace. People who spread hate and discrimination can be found in every walk of life, but with the aid of the Internet they can now be brought together like never before.

As college students, it is our duty to dispel the myths of discrimination, and this is definitely true for electronic mediums. We may live in a nation where the First Amendment gives us the right to free speech, but it does not protect hate speech. People who bring their racist sentiment to online social networks should know that those ideas are not welcome.

Derrick Knutson is a student at UW-River Falls.