Noting the shock over racist reactions to the interracial Cheerios commercial, Ebony‘s Jamilah Lemieux says it seems as if “the Internet just met the Internet” in recent weeks.
I’m not saying people shouldn’t take issue with the racist responses to what was a cute commercial for cereal; it’s certainly unfortunate that something so innocuous brings out the worst in people. However, it’s scarily naïve for people to fail to anticipate such a response in a world where Black boys can get shot down by self-appointed neighborhood watchmen who feel that they have a right — no, a responsibility — to protect the streets from our youth. Furthermore, it reveals a great lack of awareness about one of the Internet’s oldest institutions: trolling.
For those who aren’t hip to the concept (where y’all been???), trolling is the practice of saying awful things on the Internet for no other reason but to be hurtful, offensive, provocative. It’s an easy way for people of marginal importance in their offline lives to find themselves at the center of attention. However, that doesn’t mean that these agitators don’t believe the things that they say. And with the cloak of anonymity on the Internet, the guy who happily eats lunch with his diverse coworkers at 12:00 can become David Duke at 2:00. Because Obamacare stole his guns and he’s a real American, unlike the Kenyan.
We delete those comments here at EBONY.com because, well, you aren’t going to come to our Black website and call us n*ggers. Free speech does not mean you’re entitled to a space on someone else’s property for you to promote hatred. Sorry, not sorry. Personally, I wish that more websites took the same approach. While Internet comments did not create racism, they can stoke the flames and give a sense of connectedness among closeted bigots (and misogynists, LGBT-haters, etc.) who wouldn’t dare express these feelings in real life. Any doubts about the ability of the Internet to create community? Just look at Black Twitter, which has upgraded to $2,000 dates this week (perhaps we’re feeling fancy thanks to all the attention).
Read Jamilah Lemieux’s entire piece at Ebony.com.
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