So yesterday I was able to access my personal Facebook account again after receiving a 24 hour ban. I know what you’re thinking; it must have been something really offensive to get not only my comment removed but get banned from the social media platform for 24 hours. It was. Well, I guess if the term “white people” offends you it was.
You read that right; I got banned for the use of the phrase “white people”. Specifically, it was a comment in response to the prolific Facebook bans for the use of the phrase, the descriptor, a term that is most certainly not a racial slur.
There have been literally dozens of cases that I’ve seen and probably many more that I haven’t, of primarily People of Colour being banned and having their comments removed for use of the term “white people” and “cracker” (‘cracker’ is a term used in the US meaning racist white people – I guess because they’re white, fragile and salty). And before you start; reverse racism isn’t a thing. We’ve already been there and covered that.
Facebook groups dedicated to social justice and Inclusivity have been infiltrated by people opposed to the movement, and comments and posts have been reported en masse for the sole purpose of harassment, silencing and disruption. Moreover, troll accounts have been created on Instagram and Tumblr to troll social justice advocates. Facebook algorithms are such that posts and comments that recieve multiple reports are more likely to attract the ban-hammer. This was a targeted attempt to silence those speaking out in social justice spaces about race and privilege. I was the lucky one – many others have faced repeated bans for longer durations, one Woman of Colour for a one word status update: “cracker”
Why? What could these people possibly have against efforts to make spaces on the internet more inclusive to marginalised people; primarily People of Colour?! I’ll tell you why; it’s because discussions of race, racism and privilege make the dominant majority – white people – really uncomfortable. So uncomfortable they go to unusual lengths to circumvent it that discomfort.
A US academic coined the term “White Fragility”. Dr. Robin DiAngelo, a White racial and social justice educator who created the term “White Fragility,” breaks it down like this:
“White people in North America live in a social environment that protects and insulates them from race-based stress. This insulated environment of racial protection builds white expectations for racial comfort while at the same time lowering the ability to tolerate racial stress, leading to what I refer to as White Fragility. White Fragility is a state in which even a minimum amount of racial stress becomes intolerable, triggering a range of defensive moves. These moves include the outward display of emotions such as anger, fear, and guilt, and behaviours such as argumentation, silence, and leaving the stress-inducing situation. These behaviours, in turn, function to reinstate white racial equilibrium.”
White fragility is a frustrating dynamic that People of Colour encounter a lot when engaging with white people about race and privilege. It’s the “all lives matter” dogma. But here’s the kicker; all lives didn’t matter until the Black Lives Matter movement started. They couldn’t possibly understand that People of Colour were literally dying in the streets at the hands of those who swore to serve and protect. All lives matter is a blatant attempt to centre whiteness. To derail the discourse. White fragility is the #notallwhitepeople argument. The suggestion that “oh that might be the case, there might be *instances* of racism by neo-nazis, but that’s not me. I’m not doing anything to uphold white supremacy.”
But here’s the kicker; if you aren’t actively holding a mirror to your own privilege. If you aren’t actively working to dismantle systems of oppression that maintain the white equilibrium, if you aren’t talking about racism in frank and uncomfortable terms; you’re upholding white supremacy. And if you think this doesn’t apply here in Australia, you’re sorely mistaken.
I’m going to end with the words of a woman named Cleo Lebron. A dynamic, strong Woman of Colour from the US who has had her words removed and her account suspended, along with many others.
“How can Facebook ever be a place where people have a voice if the reporting system silences people expressing and bearing witness to the very things worth speaking against.”