For My Birthday, Help Me Make Facebook A Little Less Racist
<![CDATA[Okay, that sounds bad. It sounds like I'm saying that Facebook is a racist place, which is bad because Facebook is filled with all manner of people, many of whom are not racist, and plus… it's not even a place.
Although that makes me think of this R-rated Chappelle’s Show sketch imagining if the internet were a real place.
I’m sorry, where was I?
Perhaps I should start over.
Yesterday, as I was cleaning out my email inbox, I got around to reading an email that I had been putting off. It was an email forward, from one of my friends from church. Being an email forward, I was already inclined to ignore it, but it was the last unread email of the day, so I figured what the hey… it can’t be THAT bad, can it?
Oh, was I wrong. Yes, it could be that bad. It could, and it was.
It was a foul racist diatribe, purportedly written by an old black veteran, written ostensibly in response to the Michael Brown shooting controversy in Ferguson, but really just an excuse to trot out every half-baked, thoroughly-debunked stereotype about the pathology of black America.
This, all by itself, would be thoroughly and irredeemably racist, and the fact that there were therein a few small nuggets of truth about responsibility and self-reliance only made the lies and half-truths that much more despicable, because let’s be honest, all great lies contain a kernel of truth in there somewhere.
But what really made it over-the-top, unbelievably racist was the liberal sprinkling of the word “nigger,” throughout, as if the idea that this came from a black man rendered the verboten word not only accessible but downright folksy and charming.
It looked like some ridiculous piece of Uncle Ruckus fan fiction.
It was an awful, awful collection of words, and the wretchedness of their meaning stunned me.
After I hastily cranked out a sternly-worded response, I found out that this friend’s phone had been compromised, probably over the weekend she left it at the Apple store. She had not sent the email herself.
I was relieved.
And then I got angry, all over again. Because it occurred to me, this had to be a recent thing. The inclusion of Michael Brown into the narrative meant that someone had recently conceived this abhorrent piece of racist trash and was intentionally propagating it into the atmosphere of public ideas.
I wanted to see how many places this thing would pop up, but I didn’t want all manner of racial slurs showing up in my Google search history, so instead I Googled a phrase that occurred toward the bottom, “while my mind is still sharp and my aim is still good.”
And there it was, all over the internet.
Now, under normal circumstances, I don’t tend to pay these kinds of things mind, but I don’t why, on this particular day, I’d just had it. I was tired of the lies, tired of having the same damn arguments all over again, tired of the smug faces of people who were posting it, and most of all, tired of seeing this ridiculous bull$#!+ on display on the website where I spend most of my time. It was like staring at a turd in the middle of the food court at the mall — except this turd was multiplying.
And then I remembered something!
This qualifies as hate speech, and it’s a violation of the Facebook Terms of Service.
So all I did was flag it for review, and within an hour or so, I was notified by whatever Facebook mechanism that handles this stuff that it had been taken down.
No argument, no recitation of facts or statistics, no ridiculous pandering or explaining, just cold hard VICTORY. And it only took me a few mouse clicks.
Does this mean that I believe in censorship? Well, not in every scenario… but in this one? You’re damn skippy I believe in censorship.
So if you want to do something different for my birthday this year, if you’re tired of just typing “happy birthday” into the pre-aggregated comment field where my name shows up next to five or six other people who all have birthdays on September 20th, if you’re tired of doing the rote, by-the-numbers Facebook birthday ritual, then take the following steps:
- In the Facebook search window, type the following phrase: “while my mind is still sharp and my aim is still good”.
- If any of the hits below have a descriptor like “An old black veteran speaks his mind,” and ESPECIALLY if it’s preceded by a warning like “strong language, but I agree with what he’s saying here!” then for God’s sake, DO NOT READ IT. Simply flag it by taking the following steps:
- Click the top right corner of the post.
- Select “Report This Post.”
- Select “I think it shouldn’t be on Facebook.”
- Select “It’s hurtful, threatening or suicidal.”
- Select “It offends a race, sex, gender, orientation or ability
- IMPORTANT — click the bottom choice, “Submit to Facebook for review.”
If you follow my steps in order, in time, you’ll get a notification that the post was taken down.
That’s how you get proactive about curbing hate speech, and that’s one way you can wish me a happy birthday.
Now if you see this post somewhere else where a takedown effort will not be successful, feel free to attach the following note:
Hi, you don’t know me, but I don’t need to know you to know that what you posted was undeniably, immorally and irredeemably racist. You might’ve thought you were helping by posting that, but you were not. The fact that it purports to be the words of an older black veteran do not change the horrid racism at the heart of these sentiments. The fact that there were a few small kernels of truth about personal responsibility, rather than redeeming the effort as a whole, only served to make the lies all the more despicable, because every good lie contains a kernel of truth.
If this piece of propaganda trash writing was supposed to represent contemporary black conservative thought, it was a complete and utter failure. None of the black conservatives I’ve ever seen, met or heard of would ever be caught using this kind of language, which leads me to believe that this is a gross caricature of a black man created by a white person to affirm their own racist thoughts and tendencies.
If you really stand by these words, if you really think this is how things should be, if you’re really glad someone had the nerve to stand up to the “PC police” and say what they really think, then try emailing these words with your work email account, or try saying them in person to someone on the street — perhaps a real live, non-fictional old black veteran — and see how well that goes for you. Because in the real world, where people have to account for the things they say in public, there are actual black people who think those words are horrific, despicable and deplorable, because of the actual history of racial injustice in America.
If you don’t want to be labeled as a racist, stop saying racist crap like this.
EDIT (9/19/2014, 9am):
My friend Krys Van Slyke also had a good tip — if you search Facebook and don’t come up with anything, try searching Google for the previously mentioned phrase, but add the modifier “site:facebook.com” before or after the phrase.
Also… it seems like this post has worked! As of right now, there are no more instances of the “old black vet” post showing up.
But stay vigilant!]]>
Thanks for this call to action, Jelani. I’m SO happy to report that the post did not show up at all on my FB feed. I’m really sorry you had to read it, but I’m thankful to you for writing about it. This crap just shouldn’t be okay–much less viral. Happy birthday!