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Opinion

Social networking encourages racism

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September 26, 2013

Following the recent victory of Nina Davuluri as Miss America, social networking sites erupted.

Commenters posted bitter and racially derogatory remarks about Davuluri. Others defended her diverse, Hindu background. While negative comments were criticized and labeled prejudiced on news stations and Internet news sites, many reporters failed to dissect the deeper issue of social networking’s effect on racism.

According to a 2006 CNN article, “Most Americans see lingering racism – in others,” one in eight Americans considers himself/herself racist. Judging by progressive leanings since 2006, the number of self-acknowledging racist Americans has most likely decreased. Unfortunately, recent articles, including the news of Davuluri’s victory, suggest increasing racism.

Psychologists suggest that the majority of people do harbor subconscious racist opinions. However, with social networking sites, subconscious and implicit racism is not kept subconscious or implicit.

On Sept. 23, the Associated Press published an article titled, “Abercrombie settles California suits over head scarves.” The article covered the story of a Muslim woman fired from her Abercrombie & Fitch job. She was dismissed because she wore a hijab (headscarf). As a result, Abercrombie paid the woman $48,000 and revised the company policy regarding religious accommodations. Overall, the article was impartial and informative, however the comments were not.

Among web commenters of the article, racism is not only permitted, but encouraged. Among the religious and cultural debates of the article, one reader states, “this is not a religious deal nor is it a racist deal. This is a American deal…Why is it a racist idea to want to keep America a English first, country? Why is it racist to want to keep America the way it is. If you wish to become an American you should want to become a American not a Mexican-, Arab- or Muslim-American.”

Upon scrolling below the comment, one will see numerous others with related messages. Some even stereotype and accuse all Muslims of being terrorists or trying to impose Islamic views on American society. Each racist comment is reinforced with multiple “thumbs ups” or “likes” and almost no dislikes. In contrast, any commenters who try to support America’s cultural diversity are either marked as spammers, “thumbed down”/“disliked” or ironically criticized as narrow-minded liberal bigots.

Many of these racist commenters fail to understand the concept of America. Built on diversity, the United States does not even have a national language.
Unless every single one of the commenters is of Native American descent, they come from similar backgrounds as many of the Americans now considered “culturally diverse.” The majority of Americans descend from immigrants. Why do so many “Americans” hypocritically demand that other immigrants return to their countries?

Additionally, the numerous stereotypical comments fail to account for an entire culture. Since Sept. 11, many are quick to label any Arab as a terrorist. Yet, only 68 years ago, America attacked two cities, Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Similar to the Sept. 11 events, the 1945 attacks murdered innocent civilians and left lasting physical and emotional damage on the country.

Americans had no voice in deciding whether or not to attack the Japanese just as Islamic people outside of al-Qaeda had no voice in the terrorist attacks.

Is it fair to consider every American a ruthless murderer because of a government decision? Should Americans consider every Islamic citizen a terrorist because of a small faction’s actions?

While most social networking commenters do not have the credibility to publish their racist opinions, their statements still represent an American problem. Through the anonymity of social networking, Americans display their true narrow-minded and racist views on cultural, racial and religious diversity.

In a country where diversity is supposedly welcomed, I am disheartened and disgusted from reading Americans’ true opinions.

Patriotic songs boast of America’s accepting nature. Land of the pilgrims’ pride? Crown thy good with brotherhood? Land of the free? Not in today’s society. After reading my fellow citizen’s responses to diversity, I am not very proud to be an American.

Hannah Timm is a sophomore majoring in professional writing and minoring in creative writing. When she graduates from UWRF, she intends to work as an editor.