I FOUGHT WITH PEOPLE ABOUT RACE (AND OTHER THINGS) ONLINE, AND HERE'S WHAT I LEARNED
FOR THE RECORD, at no point should you feel as though you need to uphold traditional values of communication when conversing with someone who is literally against your entire existence. The high road in not being racist is not being racist, so there’s no need for you to talk to a Nazi the same way you’d speak to your grandma. You are not Macklemore trying to ensure your potentially controversial new single can get some radio play; sometimes shit just needs to be slated.
With that being said, let’s move on to the actual issue at hand.
People love being racist online. It’s presumably easier than being racist to someone’s face, which would surely warrant you a kick in the jugular. And because being racist online is apparently remarkably easy, people are probably going to keep doing it. And because you’d think people would have better things to argue about than race underneath posts that probably have nothing to do with race in the first place, seeing these arguments will drive you insane.
Sometimes you’ll fight people. Sometimes you won’t. But you probably will, and that’s okay because, again, it’s totally okay to fight racists.
That doesn’t mean you need to go all Liam Neeson in Taken on everyone who’s said anything slightly out of line and you should know your limits. We’re working towards a better future, and preferably one where everyone isn’t in jail for murder.
Fighting about race is a waste of everyone’s time if it ends and the other side is still pretty intolerant. So, I scoured the depths of the internet, sometimes arguing, other times chilling back and deserving, hoping to find ways to make these incessant online spats more tolerable and productive.
Here’s some things fighting tips I picked up during several of my battles that kept me from ripping my eyes out.
PART I: FACEBOOK
Facebook has it’s own special section in hell, and then there’s a special section in that special section for people who argue in the comments section in other people’s posts.
One fateful day, I broke my general rule of never engaging in a fight on Facebook, and then I broke my emergency forgiveness rule by continuing to engage in a Facebook fight after accidentally engaging in the first place. There was no general way for this situation to get better (other than the world suddenly ending), but there were a milion ways for it to get worse.
And, oh, it did.
Anyway, I ended up spending the entirety of the Tolstoy lecture I had that day involving myself in internet guerrilla warfare with a girl I went to high school with (sorry for not paying attention literally at all that day, Dr. P). But I did manage to learn a few things from the unfortunate experience.
SOME PEOPLE CAN’T TAKE JOKES IF THE JOKE IS ABOUT THEM (ALSO, YOUR JOKE MAY BE IN POOR TASTE)
The post that started my untimely demise was some harmless social justice post that one of my friends posted. There was literally no need for anyone to comment on it, but that’s the thing about Facebook: logic doesn’t apply there. Someone posted, a different person didn’t like what she posted, and all hell broke loose.
After a couple rounds of literally no progress being made on either side, I got fed up and made a joke which, in retrospect, I probably shouldn’t have made.
Should I have said this?
No, probably not.
Do I regret saying it?
No, not really.
This girl literally had jokes about killing Black Lives Matter protesters on her Facebook page (which was kind of yikes when you factor in how close we lived to Ferguson, MO, which was at that point essentially Ground Zero for race-relations), so I figured sis would know when people were just ‘making fun.’
Needless to say, she wasn’t a fan of my joke, and (as a punishment, presumably) made me read her explanation of what racism, as if I, a racial minority with a non-Western first name, had never heard the term before.
This girl and I were somewhat-friends at an earlier point of time and I genuinely didn’t mean to hurt her feelings, so I legitimately apologized to her after I realized how deeply offended she was.
Except I was also still heavily annoyed with the entire conversation, so she may not have felt the sincerity of my apology.
This argument literally went on for another eight hours until the original thread was deleted.
DON’T SAY THINGS YOU WOULDN’T SAY IN PERSON
This is because there is a chance you could actually see your opponent in the flesh, and you don’t want to seem like a coward when you rapidly backtrack and try to say that you were misunderstood. Talk to people the same way you’d speak to them if they were standing right in front of you. It’s way easier.
In regards to the point above, I probably would make that KKK joke to someone’s face, which means I shouldn’t be surprised if I one day get punched in the mouth. Not everyone’s good with jokes.
CALL IN BACKUP
When all hell breaks loose and it suddenly becomes more of an ego thing instead of an actual Message thing, it’s important to save your ass from looking like a complete moron online. There are no martyrs on social media: you either win an argument or you lose it. In some cases, you’ve gotta bring in the rest of the team to ensure a W.
The distress call can be more like an educational Bat-Symbol so that your squad can assemble and teach the community a lesson or two, but most times this is purely a pride thing. You’ve gotta make your side look like you all have a clear handle on the situation, even if it means bringing in some reinforcements.
For instance, did my sister need to join this vapid hell-storm that was both consuming everyone’s Facebook feeds and preventing me from discussing Pierre’s multiple shortcomings in War and Peace? No. But did she?
Of course she did.
(Her comments aren’t pictured in here because not only is this post already long enough, but the eighth amendment protects us from cruel and unusual punishment and I’m already forcing you to read an abysmal amount of screenshots)
DUMB IT DOWN
Is this insulting to literally everyone’s intelligence? Yes, it is. But, sometimes, you have to treat everyone like five year olds in order to ensure all parties are on the same page.
During the aforementioned Facebook argument in which everything went wrong, I felt very strongly about making sure the girl who initiated the argument knew why she was in the wrong. In the process of trying to gauge whether or not she’d learn anything from our exchange, her FATHER got involved.
There are approximately 4.3 billion things I’d rather do than have to interact with my parents (or anyone’s parents) on social media, but he also wanted to insist that we lived in a post-racial society where skin color wasn’t an issue anymore.
I have minimal patience for things that annoy me, but I at least wanted for him to understand what people meant when they said white privilege, since I figured that if he understood the term then he’d have a better grasp on basic racial divisions in the United States. Maybe then it would prevent another argument like the one we were having from ever happening again.
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and the one (1) sociology class I took in college informed me how people aren’t always quick to change their ways. I had to look past all of the things that made me cringe in order to focus on the big picture at hand: people of color are still oppressed!
Throw them a bone, let them know they aren’t the antithesis of a helpful person, and then drop some simple examples on them before praying they at least slightly comprehend your point of view.
He went on to tell me how he agreed with my statement and that Ben Carson was a good role model, and I shoved my own fist down my throat to prevent myself from replying, but any progress is good progress, I guess.
PART II: THE COMMENTS SECTION AT FOX NEWS
A few months ago I decided that the impending mental breakdown that comes from being about to graduate college without any solid plans concerning the course of your future wasn’t providing enough emotional turmoil in my life, so I made an account on Fox News’ website.
I wasn’t there to troll people (because I’m not fourteen), but to instead gather intel as to why these people acted the way they did. My decision to make an account wasn’t a good idea, but society has indicated how I probably won’t make a solid decision until my mid-thirties, and I don’t want to disappoint them.
ASK PEOPLE TO EXPLAIN THEMSELVES TO YOU
My fourth grade teacher once said that for every one talk, there are two listens. Have I ever followed these guidelines? No; I quite like the sound of my own voice. However, in the case of devout Fox News viewers, I actually wanted to see what they had to say.
Everyone’s opinions, no matter how questionable they are, have to come from somewhere. Maybe they could slide me some insight as to how they got their viewpoints to where they were.
It turned out that people don’t like it when you ask why they think they way they do, and most responses I got looked a lot like this:
In fairness, after this, another person commented recommending a book I should read. I never read said book, but I appreciated how they wanted for me to have a deeper understanding of the issues at hand.
USE LEGITIMATE FACTS
My dad is really into conspiracy theories. That holds essentially no relevance in this conversation, other than how sometimes he’d be explaining this theories for something and have literally no solid evidence other than a gut-feeling.
Bringing feelings to a fight is counterproductive, but bringing facts isn’t.
In the following duel with one of Fox News’ finest, someone was suggesting that the United States halt all of it’s trade with Mexico and switch it all to trading with Cuba instead.
The closest I’ve ever come to taking an economics class was watching The Big Short, but I was pretty sure trading guidelines didn’t work like that. So I did some research on, like, actual government trade websites so I could see just how wrong this idea actually was.
There wasn’t much development in the conversation after that. Of course, there’s always a chance the person had better things to do than find facts to refute mine on a message board, but it’s still probably safe to say I’m an economist now.
IT’S OKAY TO BE LIKE ‘IDK DUDE’
In one comments section, I asked the general question of if anyone would be concerned that Trump has literally no prior political experience. A good, nice, barely controversial question that actually gained a non-controversial response.
There were two options here: for me to pretend like I was alive in the 1950s (unlikely), or for me to admit that the only thing I knew about Eisenhower was how his face is on the dime. Quite frankly, I didn’t care enough to become a Google History expert on a dude who was old when baby boomers were born, so I admitted defeat.
The wild thing here was that the other dude didn’t call me out for not knowing anything, and the conversation fell apart. No one tried to explain the historical significance of our 34th president within the context of our discussion. Why does no one want to talk about Ike? The dime thing is still the only fact I know about Eisenhower.
PART III: TWITTER
Similar to Facebook, I try to not engage in political arguments on Twitter, either, because I’m genuinely just there for a laugh.
But sometimes the president of your nation will make seemingly sympathetic statements towards Nazis, and you’ll suddenly feel compelled to go full-body dragon emoji on some unsuspecting Twitter user named Sharon, who is probably your neighbor in an alternate dimension.
Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on the level of your affinity towards drama), I’ve never blasted Sharon into the stratosphere. Have I considered it? Yes. But I always find a way to restrain myself.
PREPARE TO NEVER HAVE YOUR QUESTIONS ANSWERED
Even though I’ve never launched a formal attack against a Sharon before, I have #engaged in situations with the full intention of making the issue better
I like to ask the Sharons generally non-combative questions because 140 characters isn’t enough for an argument. It’s hard to call people names when you have restrictions on how many words you can type.
People who are entirely set in their ways are not capable of receiving constructive criticism that challenges their beliefs. Instead of providing a short, succinct explanation, I typically end up getting blocked.
Which reminds me --
YOU’RE GONNA GET BLOCKED
And you’re probably going to get blocked a lot, tbh.
Tell Virginia Senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner to protect the DREAMers.