How Social Media Has Perpetuated Racism
Years ago I was married to a real loser, and I told him so. I told him early and I told him often. And guess what? He left the conversation to marry another woman.It takes two to have a conversation. And it takes some skill to have the difficult conversations.These days people have one-sided conversations by tapping into their cellphones and onto social media. The act of listening is disappearing. The art of conversation is being replaced by shouting.This is what I hear: “You are a racist. You suck. White people are the problem. Nothing you have done has made any difference whatsoever. You might be a good person, but you are actually a very bad person because you are white.”I even read this, and you know I can’t make this stuff up: “Not one white person has ever come to the defense of a person of color.” And all I can think is this well-intentioned person has never heard of Abraham Lincoln.Anyone can be an “activist,” and so, our media is filled with a steady diet of shouting justified racial outrage. But it takes two to have a conversation, and a lot of very good white people have left this one.Amherst and other universities are reporting that their alumni donations are lower than ever before in history. Alumna say this: “Today’s students say I’m nothing but an old racist, so I’ll keep my money.”They have left the conversation.There is a basket of “deplorables,” as Hillary Clinton have called the people who vote for Trump because of his racist rhetoric. They have left the conversation.My social media news feed (admittedly mostly my white-ish friends) is fairly silent after these horrendous, unjustified and unbearable shootings of black men. Why? We are told when we express our personal outrage that we are white and we have no right to this sorrow.I am trying very hard not to leave this conversation.The other thing that happens is you find yourself on the defensive. I am sure my ex-husband felt defensive after being picked on in our marriage. I felt justified. After all, he spent years unemployed, unfaithful and generally unproductive. I was hurt as hell.But being on the defensive creates really bad conversation. You find yourself saying things you don’t mean. My ex would say, “I never loved you.”In today’s parlance, I find myself in the awkward position of trying to defend that I’m not a racist just because of the color of my skin. When I’m told that no white person has ever done anything on behalf of a person of color, I find I am on the defensive. I list the instances in which I have tried to overcome my racial advantage by working in civil rights years ago. I list the things that white society have done over the century to repair the injustices starting with reparations (remember that from your history lesson?) to affirmative action.But here’s the thing: Not only does that sound racist, it sounds indifferent to today’s racial climate. And that is certainly not what I mean. Then, “activists” take my comments out of context and share them to show, “Yes, she’s really a racist. She thinks 40 acres and a mule make up for all of this.”I do not think that any act can make up for what is happening today. We, society, Americans and Europeans, all of us have been raised on a steady diet of one person being better than another. Whether it was native people, or black people, or old people, or fat people, or poor people, or homosexual people, or Jewish people, we have been fed a cultural diet that one type is inherently more advantaged than another.True activism exists to create change. Today, anyone with a cellphone can shout out blame and shame. That is not activism. That is “react”-ivism. They are not having a conversation at all. They are shouting blame to get likes on social media. They are causing many to leave the conversation. In anger and injury, some white people say, “Well, if I’m just an old racist, I’ll vote for one too. And I’ll leave this conversation because no one is listening to me or hearing my pain. I’m just being attacked.”This is how social media will elect Donald Trump. This is how today’s “activists” have perpetuated racism. The change they are creating is that many no longer care to be in this conversation.Thank you for reading to the end. It shows that you too, are willing to stay in the discussion on race even if it is difficult. We want to do the right thing. We want to learn about our inherited prejudices. We want to contribute to real change, no matter the chaos on social media.Michelle Marchildon is The Yogi Muse. She’s an award-winning journalist and the author of Finding More on the Mat: How I Grew Better, Wiser and Stronger through Yoga. She is also white, and is trying very hard to overcome her inherited racism.