Can black people do anything without running into racism?
Imagine social distancing to protect yourself from coronavirus exposure as per government orders and still finding yourself in environments where bigots have access to you. Like...you can avoid a global pandemic, but you can’t avoid white supremacy.
Such is the case for a number of people of color who use Zoom, a remote online conferencing service.
BuzzFeed News reports that Tiara Moore became one of many victims of online harassment and racism when she founded WOC Space, a virtual chat room for professional women of color to build together in a safe space. Women were supposed to be able to socialize, share resources and generally support each other while the world remains in crisis mode.
So on Monday, she logged onto the video conferencing app and continued working on her computer, waiting for the handful of members to join her.
“I wasn’t even looking at my screen and I hear a girl and she’s like, ‘I saw this on Twitter,” Moore told BuzzFeed News. “I said, ‘Oh, hey girl!’ and she said, ‘Yeah, but you should be careful because you can get hacked.’”
The virtual room instantly filled with what seemed like 100 people, Moore said, with multiple people yelling racist slurs at the same time. It was chaos — but the n-word, being repeatedly yelled in the middle of it, could be heard distinctly.
“I immediately closed it down like, what just happened,” she said.
It’s called “Zoombombing” and Moore is far from the only person dealing with it.
UCLA student Jessica Jackson told BuzzFeed that she had a similar issue not once, but twice while using the online platform.
“[The professor] gave them the space to ask their question and then was bombarded by someone repeatedly referring to him as the n-word,” Jackson said. “Having to leave our universities abruptly because of the pandemic has been taxing enough as it is. It’s wild to think that now we have to worry about virtual harassment when we’re all just trying to learn and get our degree.”
Some of what Jackson experienced was recorded and posted to Twitter.
These are not isolated instances. In fact, things have gotten so bad that the FBI got involved on Monday asking any users who have experienced these attacks to report them to the Internet Crime Complaint Center.
“As large numbers of people turn to video-teleconferencing (VTC) platforms to stay connected in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, reports of VTC hijacking (also called “Zoom-bombing”) are emerging nationwide,” the agency said. “The FBI has received multiple reports of conferences being disrupted by pornographic and/or hate images and threatening language.”
People using Zoom aren’t the only ones having this problem online. According to U.S. News, on Tuesday the first online city council meeting for Chattanooga, Tenn., was disrupted by attendees sending dozens of slur-laced messages to black council members and staff. Once again, black people are minding their own business while trying to comply with social distancing orders but can’t seem to distance themselves from racist assholes.
From U.S. News:
Multiple council members responded with shock, imploring that someone curb the “extremely offensive” messages that were visible to the more than 80 online attendees. The messages only stopped after Councilman Ken Smith changed the chat settings so that only officials could see the messages, making them invisible to the general public.
Chat was disabled before the council voted on a resolution formally recognizing Juneteenth, the holiday which celebrates the abolition of slavery and emancipation of slaves in formerly Confederate U.S. states. The council approved the resolution unanimously.
All we want is for racist white people to leave us alone as we tend to our own affairs. Apparently that’s too much to ask in private, just as it is in public.