Resistance to Institutional Rules and Regulation of Online Platforms

Segments of our society assume that our culture embraced a post-racial community after the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This monumental legislation marked the legal end to segregation and discrimination based on race, color, sex, religion or national origin. While overt discrimination became illegal as a result of this Act, it also ushered in a new type of racism that proved to be a pervasive and subtle type of discrimination took the lead and “enabled systems of oppression and disenfranchisement to remain intact while making public acknowledgement of race and prejudice a social taboo” (Noble, pg 244). This new style of discrimination and racism came in the form of linguistics codes with a “nod here, a wink there, and a subtle change in intonation all mark opinions and thoughts on race” (Joesy, 2010). Jump forward to the advent of the internet and the perception that it provided a “color-free” community and we soon see a new dynamic unfold that negatively impacts marginalized groups with misrepresentations and stereotypes amplified in a new medium.

Much of the content on the internet is driven my users that participate on platforms such as facebook, instagram, twitter and many more. These are simply platforms that give users a space to share their thoughts and images to the world and provides the opportunity to give users a space to expand their community and reach others that lie outside of their own. These platforms can be a great source of pedagogy and can connect users across the globe. However, the monitoring of these platforms for hate speech and deleterious misrepresentations is controlled within each company and their operating procedures while being weighted against profit maximizing decisions. Many of these companies outsource the monitoring and provide guidelines to recognize harmful images or speech. Even with guidelines in place, it leaves much of the discretion to the individual that has their own implicit bias that undoubtedly plays a role in their decision making process. What is clearly a harmful meme or picture to one person, can be shrugged off as just having fun to another. This has empowered some segments to step in where the companies have shirked their responsibilities.

Marginalized groups have been reclaiming identities on the internet by using the same mechanisms used against them to “critique and speak back to the (mis)represenations in the media” (Tanksley, pg 246). Black women and girls are notoriously presented in a negative manner in the media yet they have created a dialogue online that empowers and reclaims their identities. This is a significant movement that will hopefully insulate young black girls and women against “extensive exposure to raced and gendered stereotypes, or microaggressions” which can lower their self-esteem (Noble, pg 252).

The regulation over online spaces is in constant flux. Our political landscape continues to change and our online presence is shaped by these rules and regulations that seem invisible to the user or content provider. Hate speech, racist tropes and misrepresentations are abundant in online platforms and have been on the rise with the current political atmosphere. Where racists tropes were once suppressed to a wink or a nod, there are now full blown harmful stereotypical racists images and words in online platforms with the goal of taking us back in history. “The internet doesn’t reflect reality anymore, it creates reality” (Kakutani, pg 88).

Sources

Josey, Christopher. Hate speech and identity: An analysis of neo racism and the indexing of identity. Discourse & Society, 21(1) 27–39, 2010, Champagne, USA. https://journals-sagepub-com.ezproxy.proxy.library.oregonstate.edu/doi/pdf/10.1177/0957926509345071

Kakutani, Michiko. The Death of Truth. New York, Tim Duggan Books, 2018.

Noble, Safiya Umoja, and Brendesha M. Tynes, editors. The Intersectional Internet: Race, Sex, Class, and Culture Online. New edition edition, Peter Lang Inc., International Academic Publishers, 2016.

Wikipedia and Identity Safe Spaces

Gender reveal parties have been all the rage but they seem to be on the decline. With my niece expecting her second child, I was anticipating another one of these parties. This time around it was a simple announcement of “We’re having a girl!”. I kept my thoughts to myself that I was glad she chose a low-key event that did a little less gendering. But what was super impressive was when my brother sincerely pointed out that while we know the sex we don’t know the gender. This comment was from an ex Southern Baptist missionary. So how did someone like himself go from a strict literal-interpretation-of-the-bible guy to someone that is becoming educated in all things that have been dubbed as sinful from his community? He learned by talking with people and looking online in the privacy of his own home to find another viewpoint and educate himself.

The subtitles of what we read impact our implicit bias. ”Also known as implicit social cognition, implicit bias refers to the attitudes or stereotypes that affect our understanding, actions, and decisions in an unconscious manner” (OSU). The information that we take in silently and pervasively shapes our attitudes towards others and most often in favor of ourselves and our groups. But, our implicit bias can be modified which stresses the importance of written material.

Wikipedia provides a platform that incorporates policies that help minimize or possibly alter ones implicit bias by presenting gender neutral language. This helps readers by inviting them in to read material that is free from microaggression or as an introduction to more suitable verbiage that they may incorporate into their own dialogues. These policies also opens the door to editors and content providers to participate in a welcoming environment where they won’t have to push for equality.

Source:

The Round House

Indigenous people in the United States of American experience a unique style of systemic marginalization that dates as far back as the first treaty between them and the U.S. government. Treaty with the Delawares of 1778 was one of the first treaties signed and essentially recognized a nation-to-nation relationship that would theoretically set the framework for other tribes and recognize them as a sovereign state. Native American tribes viewed themselves as a sovereign state that is able “to manage their own affairs and exist as nations that are recognized as having control over their own destinies” (Lee). Conversely, the United States government viewed them as a U.S. tribal sovereignty which means they are “domestic dependent nations that exist within the boundaries of the U.S. and that they are wards of the U.S., even though they may operate and manage some internal tribal affairs” (Lee). To add further confusion in legal jurisdiction, there is no common practices defining the interactions between the federal government and individual tribes which leads to diverse rulings and outcomes.

In 1887, the Dawes Act was passed and offered tribal members the opportunity to acquire land in exchange for U.S. citizenship. The stated goal was to ease relations between the two entities but a more sinister calculation was embedded in this Act. “By granting citizenship to those who took the land, the hope was that they would be less communicative and accepting of tribal government — that exposing Natives to the “civilized” white culture would leave them more accepting of it and lead to better U.S. and tribal relations” (Picotte). The end result of this Act was to decimate indigenous culture, land, and language by recognizing individuals instead of tribes. It pitted tribes against each other, situated individuals on land that was not consistent with their tribe, sent children to boarding schools where they were assimilated in to white culture, and decreased the acreage that belonged to indigenous people. The devastation to tribal culture and longevity was documented in the 1928 Meriam Report and paved the way for government intervention to offset the disastrous impact of the Dawes Act.

The Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 was nicknamed the “Indian New Deal” and attempted to rectify many of the wrongs from 1887 and build upon the Indian Citizenship Act of 1924 which granted citizenship to the remaining indigenous people. “The act sought to reverse the government’s long-standing policy of forcing Indians to abandon their culture and assimilate into American society by allowing the tribes a greater degree of self-government and encouraging the retention of historic Indian culture and traditions” (Longley).

This convoluted path to current day Indigenous peoples’ representation within the US was on display in the 2018 elections. Just before the 2018 elections in North Dakota a new law was passed that would require Indigenous people to provide a street address on a government issued ID in order to cast a ballot. The new law impacted local, state and federal elections because the tribe followed federal election requirements. This disenfranchised Native Americans in this region, in part, because their housing is not situated in a similar manner of having a street name and number. Post office boxes are used for mailing purposes. Secondly, Native Americans overrepresent the homeless populations and do not have a physical mailing address (Domonoske). In the past, they have relied on tribal documents to verify their qualification to vote. Tribal leaders and youth activist rallied around their community to find temporary solutions.

It is easy to see that America’s Indigenous people are systematically marginalized, yet one area that continues to be overlooked is the violence against girls and women in this community. The complex history of sovereignty and jurisdiction complicates an underfunded and undervalued crisis. In 2016, there were 5,712 classes of missing or murdered women or girls but only 116 of these cases were logged in to the Department of Justice database (Lucchesi, pg 2). The danger to these girls and women is happening in real time and their erasure is perpetuated by the lack of media coverage and the lack of data gathering.

Currently, there are only seven states that have a task force to address the needs to make lives safer for Native Americans (Edwards). The majority of Indigenous women currently live in urban areas, off tribal land. When a crime is committed to one of them, it highlights the failings in past treaties as jurisdiction can be a grey area, data collection is complicated by non-tribal name changes from settler days, and media coverage is non-existent or at best scant and racially biased to place blame on the victim. Law enforcement’s lack of willingness to track data is indicative of larger institutional structural inequity. “The challenges and barriers in accessing data on this issue from law enforcement severely impede the ability of communities, tribal nations, and policy makers to make informed decisions on how best to address this violence.” (Lucchesi, pg 21). All these types of barriers contribute to their erasure and thus the level of violence is not truly reported or understood.

Louis Erdrich wrote a beautiful but gut wrenching story that displayed these dilemmas and educated the reader with the unfolding one family’s story. She provides the detail of their lives that are a mosaic of faulty treaties long ago, with current day clutter cropping up to muddy the picture of an all too true description facing many in Native American communities. Understanding the historical features that are woven in to this story makes it all the more enriching.

Sources

Domonoske, Camila. “Many Native IDs Won’t Be Accepted At North Dakota Polling Places”. October 13, 2018. www.NPR.org

Edwards, Melodie. 7 States Step Up Efforts To Fight Violence Against Indigenous Women. July 23, 2019. www.NPR.org

Lee, Murray. “What is Tribal Sovereignty?” Partnership with Native Americans, Sept 9 2014, www.nativepartnership.org

Longley, Robert. “Indian Reorganization Act: A ‘New Deal’ for American Indians” July 3, 2019, www.thoughtco.com

Lucchesi, Annita and Echo-Hawk, Abigail. Missing and murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. 2016, www.uihi.org

“The Meriam Report”. July 7, 2010, www.NativeAmericanRoots.net

Picotte, Tristan. “The True Impact of the Dawes Act of 1887”. Partnership with Native Americans, February 7, 2017, www.nativepartnership.org

Doing Gender

We all “do” gender. This was a nuanced concept that has taken me a while to dissect and embrace the idea that we are “born sexed but not gendered” (Lorber, pg 322) and the subsequent years of socialization in our culture will develop our identity along gendered lines. When it is really broken down into smaller segments, then we realize that it is not so nuanced but actually overwhelmingly in our lives to the point of not seeing the forest for the trees.

It is not uncommon for baby girls to come home from the hospital in a pink outfit with a huge bow on her head signaling everyone in sight that this is in fact a girl. She goes home to her carefully decorated room that is emblazoned with sugar and spice and everything nice. It is quite the opposite experience for the boy that goes home to his room that boldly advertises a sports team or big wheeled trucks to represent the presumed rough and tumble nature of the little boy. The reality is that all these characterizations are not for the child, but for those around them to help categorize how this new person will fit in to the world around them.

It is our human need to categorize and label people that thrusts our social constructions of gender upon the baby from the start and then follows them as they grow into an adult. “Gendered social arrangements are justified by religion and cultural productions and backed by law, but the most powerful means of sustaining the moral hegemony of the dominant gender ideology is that the process is made invisible” (Lorber, pg 323). It is these invisible social constraints that attempt to keep us in our acceptable lanes of how we dress, how we act, who we date, what we study, and if we have a career. But the lines between these lanes are becoming worn and vague as more people blur the lanes by living outside of socially constructed gendered norms.

Karen Ross is one of these people. She is currently the Secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture. The field that she has excelled at is one that is dominated by men and continues to be “a good old boys network” that has relied on the socially constructed gender norms to perpetuate male power in this field and resist female contributions. Her page on Wikipedia is rated as a stub article that is of low importance and is lacking links to her credentials. Representation matters and it is important to keep her information current in order to accurately reflect women that successfully moved in to male dominated careers. The information that I would add is a link to her current appointment in 2019 as the Secretary of the California Food and Agriculture. I would also propose an addition to her article that expands on programs that she has developed while in office.

Sources:
Adams, Maurianne, Warren J. Blumenfeld, Carmelita R. Castañeda, Heather W. Hackman, Madeline L. Peters, and Ximena Zúñiga. Readings for Diversity and Social Justice. New York: Routledge, 2010. (pg 321-326)

Karen Ross, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:Karen_Ross

Karen Ross 2019 appointment, https://www.cdfa.ca.gov/SecretaryBio.html

Karen Ross program, http://agnetwest.com/cdfa-new-one-stop-shop-farmer-resource-portal/

Online Spaces and Lateral Violence

Whiteness is a socially constructed category, just like any other racial category. However, the deconstruction of whiteness in the US does not follow the same dissection as that of other races. Instead, whiteness is used as a standard of normalization and characteristics of whiteness are considered to be representative of the typical human, void of racial constraints. This normalization skews the narrative from white activists in applying their world view across other races or segments that are marginalized as opposed to providing space for them to tell their story and their world view.

The online platform has given rise to the theoretical opportunity for marginalized groups to equally broadcast their stories. But there is a difference between theory and reality. The reality is the continued perpetuation of white supremacy as the standard, omissions of the voices and stories from women of color, and the backlash towards women of color to suppress their voices. In “The Trouble With White Feminism: Whiteness, Digital Feminism, and the Intersectional Internet”, Daniels gives three examples to illustrate the online world is not an equal opportunity forum. What is astounding is the aggressors in these instances come from liberal progressives. Dr. Robin DiAngelo states in the video “White Fragility” that this segment is probably the most dangerous in subverting the dialogue about racism. It is this lateral violence of harassment, discrimination and bullying from white feminists that emboldens white supremacy and diminishes the voice of color.

Lean In is an online movement and self-help book that was the brainchild of Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer of Facebook. Her assessment of the equality disparity for women is because of women and their individual choices. This is the old trope of victim blaming and pulling one’s self up by their bootstraps. She erases all responsibility to the systems in place that perpetuate the disparity and firmly places the blame on the individual woman. In order to combat this failing, Sandberg joined up with Girl Scouts to launch a campaign that would reframe the word “bossy” to mean “leader” so that young girls would have a positive self image and thus be in a position to assert themselves and create their own successful path. This issue with this campaign is that it mostly speaks to white girls as this segment of society is less likely to see themselves as leaders. This is a prime example of using whiteness as the standard and ignore the systemic problems that prevent girls of color to rise in their future careers.

One Billion Rising (OBR) is a campaign to bring awareness to the massive number of women and girls that are subjected to violence across the globe. It was started in 2013 by playwright Eve Ensler of The Vagina Monologues. The objection to this campaign is not its inception, but rather the date picked to hosts the campaign actions. February 14 has been the day of recognition for Indigenous and First Nations women in Canada since 1990. By occupying this date, OBR is talking over the voices and platform of the indigenous women. This is a common move in white feminism that again upholds the platform of white supremacy that elevates their causes and diminishes the voices of color. When confronted with the conflict of the dates, OBR spokesperson invoked a common white fragility response of defensiveness and victimhood and shed her share of “white tears”.

In 2013, two white feminists created a report about the online revolution in feminism and presented the material as intersectional and inclusive. The goal was to create a model for collective change in feminism through a shared vision of change. But White feminism was inserted into and throughout this piece of work by assuming the normalization of white women as the basis while ignoring the voices by women of color. The result is a study that essentially looks at white feminism online and misses the mark on a shared vision for change (Daniels, pg 53).

Online platforms can be instrumental in creating the shared vision of change for feminism. But, the onerous is on White feminist to recognize and confront their racism and biases, as well as those around them. DiAngelo lays out a list of assumptions that white feminists should adopt in order to interrupt their own racism. While this may put white people in a place of uncomfortableness, it is an important step in dismantling one’s own apathy and creating a pathway towards a shared vision of change.

Sources

Daniels, Jessie . “The Trouble With White Feminism: Whiteness, Digital Feminism, and the Intersectional Internet.” The Intersectional Internet: Race, Sex, Class, and Culture Online. New edition edition, Peter Lang Inc., International Academic Publishers, 2016.

DiAngelo, Robin. White Fragility. Boston : Beacon Press, 2018

DiAngelo, Robin. White Fragility. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=45ey4jgoxeU&feature=youtu.be

Summary: The Social Construction of Difference

The social construction of difference is a categorical system used to artificially define people. There is a baseline of “normal” in the US. This typically includes categories such as white, male, able bodied, heterosexual, Christian. Anyone that identifies differently from any of these normal groups is considered outside of the norm and labeled as “other”. The reason this distinction matters is because these categories and normalizations are created to support power dynamics. People benefit from identifying as normal because of how society reacts to them. This benefit is referred to as privilege. 

Privilege allows “normal” people to go through life with general acceptance from society based on socially constructed categories. The “normal” segment of society is able to present their authentic self and use their identify as proof of their credibility. https://everydayfeminism.com/2014/09/what-is-privilege/

Oppression is the opposite of privilege and occurs to those that fall outside of “norm”. Oppressed people are denied access to opportunities that are granted to those in power simply due to socially constructed labels such as race, gender, sexual orientation, class, age, ability. It is easier to identify oppression than privilege. Oppression is the exclusion or conditional acceptance. People are more apt to identify when they are kept from opportunities but not when they are included unconditionally.

Wheel of Privilege and Oppression

It is clear that the social construction of differences is used to divide people between privileged and oppressed. Differences between people is easy to identify. The conflict is when we choose to use these differences to perpetuate power dynamics that benefit some and hinder others.