By Nour Kazbour, contributing writer from the TMO development program
According to a Demographics Pro study, 35% of Trump supporters also follow White supremacists on Twitter, a social media platform. In the aftermath of the release of the movie American Sniper, Twitter became a hotbed for Americans to share how they really felt about their fellow citizens. White supremacists tweeted things like:
“American Sniper made me appreciate soldiers 100x more and hate Muslims 100,000x more.”
According to a Business Insider article from 2015, there are 1.3 Billion registered Twitter users, this includes individuals, organizations, and entire communities. As a common platform, Twitter can be used to display our thoughts and reveal who we are as individuals. According to researchers that conducted a Pew Institute study on the popular platform, “Twitter is used as a micro-blogging outlet where individuals can express more of their thoughts than other basic social media platforms.” Due to more liberal communication, social media has become harmful to racial dialogue because of its tendency to bring out the worst followers.
Sites like Twitter have been known for segregation. An avid Twitter user, Maiya Felan, said, “There is Black Twitter, White Twitter, everyone else, and a lot of categories underneath them. Black Twitter is constantly fighting White Twitter.” These two communities segregating Twitter are perfect examples of racial schisms on social media.
“They are always trying to set themselves apart from the other, comparing dialect and skin color,” Maiya continued.
Instead of being a platform for building communication between these two groups, they are trying to further themselves apart. With hashtags like #shutupbecky and #whitepower, exhibit some of the underlying racism that exists in America today.
According to a report by the British Think Tank in 2015, on average everyday 10,000 racist or derogatory tweets are sent out. A prime example of that was the derogatory term, nigger, the sixth-most-common slur in the study, appearing in about 3.2 percent of tweets. According to an American Psychology Association study over three years, using a sample of 340 African-American, Latino, Asian and biracial adolescents (from a larger group of 1048), online survey data from the study revealed that 58 percent of minority youth indicated that they had experienced at least one direct discriminatory incident, and 68 percent of minority youth that they had experienced at least one by the third year. The most common discriminatory incident across the three waves was to “have witnessed people saying mean or rude things about another person’s ethnic group online.” Although individuals are being targeted, others still feel it as a direct comment towards their ethnic group. Looking back at the numbers, one can conclude that they increase each year. As time goes on, it is possible to say virtual race relations are increasingly polarized.
It is our responsibility as Muslims, as women and men, as youth, and as Americans to turn this around. Twitter is the most prime example of hate groups coming together to pit race against race with revivals of multiple White supremacy groups. The Neo Nazi account is famous for coining the term refugee and posting things like:
“The #goyim are starting to stand up for themselves after decades of oppression. Better shut them down!,” promoting others to shut down individuals who are activists.
Despite reactionaries invading peaceful protests, social media has still been used to organize alliances across minorities organizations. Black Lives Matter has cooperated with local police departments to do the mannequin challenge posting it to Twitter to reveal the moments before African-Americans from famous brutality cases were murdered. With over 26,000 retweets in less than 22 hours, a popular social media craze was used to present perspective. In the past year multiple Black Lives Matter organizations across the United States have formed alliances with different mosques who were being attacked by the same hate groups online. The same groups seeing violent backlash are using it to become more powerful becoming allies recognizing that they will be stronger together. These are the exact examples that we should amplify to our communities and follow–it is up to us to stop spreading hate and instead, spread acceptance.