Last week, the Supreme Court struck down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, stating that “things have changed dramatically” since 1965, which was ironic considering the flurry of news reports about alleged racist Paula Deen and her use of the “n” word. Many of Deen’s (mostly white) supporters defended her right to “make a mistake” and/or uphold the racist hallmarks of being a true Southern lady, while the rest of the country — and, notably, the Internet — asserted that racism is alive and well, pointing to Deen’s supporters as proof. It’s more than a coincidence that these two stories ran side-by-side on news sites and on TV, providing a shameful paradox worthy of mockery and criticism of the highest order. But one need not read the news or even step foot outside his/her home to know that racism is still a deep-seated problem in our society. All you’ve got to do to be reminded of that fact is check social media.
Aside from the countless websites and key word searches that will lead the average Googler to a bevy of racist Internet forums, hate sites, rants, and comics, there’s Facebook. And many people have quietly tolerated (or hidden, or de-friended) racist “friends” on that site for years.
During election season, I had to de-friend a few people myself. Why? Because I’m originally from the South, where having racist familial roots is about as common as having a love of sweet tea. Growing up in Georgia, it’s not unheard of for a grandparent to call something “niggerish” or to overhear someone being a racist fuck while casually shopping at the mall. It literally happens all the time, and a lot of people will write it off by saying, “Oh, you know how old people are,” or simply by rolling their eyes. Not that there isn’t a lurking outrage, or people willing to outright discuss the issues, but racism is far from “over.”
Of course, the South has much more to offer than narrow-minded or closet racism — just as Facebook has much more to offer than a platform that gives racists a place to be seen and heard. I’m not painting the subject (or the South) with a broad stroke. But I do think it’s worth pointing out that the Supreme Court decision was wrong, and shameful, and I can ascertain that much just by opening up my laptop.
Oftentimes I’m asked if I have submissions that I wouldn’t ever post, and the answer is yes, of course. I won’t go into the various categories that apply, but one such folder that I don’t tend to pull from is my “Racism” folder. The submissions are sad. They’re examples of the ways in which people justify their own racist intolerance because society has told them that it’s okay. Their Facebook friends — whether in agreement with them or sitting by as silent bystanders — demonstrate that it’s okay.
Even the Supreme Court has voted not to protect voters’ rights as stringently as the Voting Rights Act had previously outlined, taking a step back from protecting those who need it from racist city officials. Sure, the Voting Rights Act still stands, but it’s important to note that while things have changed for the better in myriad ways since 1965, racism is still woven into the fabric of American culture and will continue to be as long as we (or our Supreme Court Justices) deny that it exists.
Here are a few examples I’ve received of people displaying their ignorance on Facebook:
1. A New Word
Vanessa’s weirdly veiled racist status update is a little difficult to understand, but that didn’t stop Mario from telling her to STFU. You don’t need perfect grammar, punctuation, or even a coherent block of text to know when someone is being a bigoted moron.