“The internet is a crazy place”, “Don’t pay attention to the comments section, those are just trolls”. These are common phrases you here in reference to the internet especially when talking about something involving race, gender, sexual identity or politics. But, the fact of the matter is, the internet gives people a place to express their true feeling in anonymity and often without repercussion. Some of the most hateful things said in our society you can find in blogs, message boards, comment sections and social media. As someone who works in that space and often discusses the issues of the day, people are still very prejudice.
@ItsLikeTandy Black people don't have it bad, women do make the same as men and we have a minimum wage… You're just protruding ignorance.
— Sam Hiatt (@ShiattSBN) April 5, 2016
If you go on twitter on any given day at any given time you will see some topics that dominate discussion and you will also see how people feel about those topics when not pressed to give reasons, evidence or be held accountable. For example, today on twitter there was a large discussion about raising the federal minimum wage. The minimum wage debate has gone one for a long time now and people can make reasonable arguments on both sides. However, often on topics like these people devolve into race baiting, classism and name calling that really has not bearing on the topic unless you view said topic from a bigoted standpoint. Justifying the keeping the minimum wage where its at because “Black people need to pay attention in school” or “that’s why women belong in the kitchen” is just asinine and stupid. This would be fine if it was just a couple lone wolves or some contrarian troll who wanted to get under some people’s skin. But its not, these type of comments and views are commonplace on the internet and it creates a mob mentality on marginalized groups and proves that hate is still alive in well against all marginalized groups even in 2016.
The Internet Also Allows Us to Fight Back
An unforeseen result of these actions is what I would describe as a coalition of good people who often come together to either disprove those comments, expose those comments or expose the person. People have been arguing if this is a violation of freedom of speech but freedom of speech does not mean speech without consequences. As a result, people who are typically silenced and marginalized now have a voice and a voice that can do damage to prejudice people. Recently more and more people are loosing sponsorships, jobs, and respect because of their actions on the internet and social media and the offended groups exposing that. Separate from exposing bigots the internet gives marginalized groups a space to share their stories and their message in a hope to reach people who would not otherwise get that message. Black Lives Matter has made police brutality and mistreatment aware to a large part of the population who never experienced it and mostly through the internet and ability to congregate. This tool relatively new has been vital in the 2016 version of the civil rights fight.
— WV FREE (@WVFREE) April 14, 2016
With all that being said there is still work to do and improvements on both sides and as long as there are marginalized people looking to be equal there will be people to try and keep them down. But the internet continues to bring to light the struggles of different groups of people in our country specially in relation to race, gender, and sexual identity and its imperative that we continue to share those stories, connect with like minded people, address the bigots, promote positive images, and learn from each other in order to use this new tool for the good of all people and not to just show how far we have not come.