Saturday, January 15, 2011

It Is What It Is

I'm not exactly sure when I discovered I know it was back in the days before it was the site it is today. I think it was in my days of randomly typing stuff into my internet browser and what made me type I'll never know, but what I got was a picture of a very anotomically correct squirrel with his "nuts" hanging low.

It made me laugh and every now and again, I'd go back to it. And then I forgot about it. Until one day, there wasn't just a picture anymore. There were funny news headlines. And I lol'd.

I'm going to get back to the FARK story in a minute but for a second I'd like to talk about an old reality television show called Starting Over. Several women moved into a house and two life coaches helped them work on their life issues. I really liked this show and I would frequent the message board community that sprung up around the show.

It became apparent after a few weeks that many of the white women on the boards had no idea that black women- A) watched Starting Over and B) were frequenting the message boards. Some of the bigoted claptrap that they typed was appalling. Even moreso because they weren't bothering to censor themselves. They saw no need to.

At first most of the black women stayed silent. Then we tried politely pointing out that there was no need for the bigotry. The show was about "women" - couldn't we all focus on that? But eventually there was a full-scale backlash. The racist comments and stereotypes were challenged and with much grumbling about "I don't know why I can't say what I want" from the white women, they eventually learned to censor themselves and for the most part stick to just commenting on the show and being what they felt was "politically correct".

The story about the Starting Over message boards reminds me of another online community I participated in not so long ago - "Stuff White People Do". The website is chock full of the every day puzzle that is the subtle and not-so-subtle bigotry of white people. Many white people get angry or confused by the title and also called the website racist. However mostly they were sent to learn Racism 101 and the grown-ups in the room would continue the conversation.

After a couple of years, Macon D, the sole host and moderator of the forum became tired of censoring what, I know, had to be some pretty atrocious stuff just to let the sincere comments get through. But even those posters who were white and sincere about trying to learn and change some of their more subtle racist tendencies could be pretty thick-headed. Many times they simply challenged or refused to believe that what many black folks said was racism, really was racism.

A few of the black posters refused to let Macon D off the hook for his own bias. A lot of the poster's were angry because Macon D's site got a lot of traffic and they took it out on Macon that, although many of them had been posting the same anti-racism topics for years, it took Macon, a white man, to get white people to pay attention. They also felt that too many black folks gave Macon far too much credit for "trying" not to be racist instead of just simply "not being racist".

Personally, I felt this over-simplified the point. The whole point of the site was how Macon D, as a white man was trying to not only realize and correct his own biases and prejudices, but also to point out to other white people the underlying behaviors that get them shot down. Macon had this idea, it seems, that white people sometimes simply don't know that they're being racist and how some of their every day behaviors could be changed if they were only told.

In the end, Macon D went on "hiatus" and, except for a couple of interviews I've seen online, hasn't been heard from since in his online persona. In his post where he announces that he's going on hiatus someone brought up a point becasue, despite Macon D's intentions, they felt that the site was counterproductive. Rather than pointing out to white people how to correct their biases, what the site was really doing was giving white people just a bit more information on how to appear non-racist without actually changing their views. Far from allowing white people to acknowledge and change, it was simply giving them more tools in subverting their own racism and giving them the word keys to anti-racist language.

While I felt the site had been helpful to me in pointing out exactly why some of the things even the most well-meaning white folks do that drive me nuts, I also had to concede that as time had passed, many of the white posters had simply learned to modify their language, without really modifying their thinking. That was disheartening, although my disappointment was mitigated by the hope that some white people may have taken the lessons of Racism 101 to heart.

So there's FARK, and Stuff White People Do and then there's Yahoo Hearts. A game I love to play and I'm a fairly decent player. Yahoo Players have the option of using various icons to represent themselves. This is the icon I use:

Not a week goes by that I don't get derogatory racial slurs directed my way. If I make a play another player doesn't like, or make a mistake or just plain get distracted, it begins:

Typical black - slow players and stupid.
Dumb nigger.
Stupid nigger.
Stupid nigger bitch.
Dumb black

Every table has a host and before a game begins and after a game begins, the host has the option of "booting" players from a table that they don't like or for whatever reason, they don't want to play. It's usually inexperienced players with low ratings that get booted. But every so often, I'll get a response like "no niggers allowed" and get booted. Or some will let me play thinking, I'm sure, that I'm just a "dumb nigger" so it's an easy win, right? But then I'll win the game and they'll boot me after a comment like, "I guess you think you're some smart nigger, huh?"

So back to FARK.

FARK is yet another space that I enjoy online that can be racist as hell. FARK is one of those places that constantly writes off racist stereotyping as humor and as a part of the politcally incorrect whimsy that defines FARK.

FARK users submit headlines for current news events but makes them funny. Or thoughtful. Or just plain weird. For example, a few years back when one of the space shuttles was having a hard time finding a window to get home and their re-entry kept being pushed back the headline on FARK was Space Shuttle Explosion Rescheduled for Tuesday.

Brutal, I know. And a lot of people posted how heartless that is, but posting that something on FARK is heartless or crude will only get you this picture in response:

Just like with the white women on the "Starting Over" message board, it became apparent that most white people on FARK didn't realize that black people were even online, let alone, reading or actually members of FARK.

In the way of a lot of white people, it just never occured to them that black folks would actually be there. And once they did know, they made it plain they didn't care. It seems being racist is always protected by "free speech" although protesting against racism is somehow just for thin-skinned people who are "looking" for racism where none exists. Not really. Right?

A few months back, I had some time to myself and went shopping. With no particular place to go, I drove though downtown Cincinnati. It was the very beginning of our first snowfall and it was so beautiful I thought my heart would stop. It was like driving through a snowglobe - the tall, majestic buildings, the stadiums, the river, the bridges.

The lights of Newport on the Levy beckoned and in a dreamlike haze, enthralled by the snow, I drove across the bridge and treated myself to dinner while white people treated me to some of the most incredulous looks of surprise and objectified curiosity I've ever received. One family simply could not stop staring at me until finally, I had no choice but to stare back and they finally attended to their own meal.

I know black people go to Newport on the Levy all the time. I think white people have become willing to accept us in certain places such as the AMC Movie Theater or TheNewport Aquarium. But in this particular restaurant, I was one of only two black people in the whole place. The other guy was clearly with his college friends so he "fit" in a way, or at least, he was being properly monitored by a group of white people so it was ok. But why, was I, a black woman, dining alone in this establishment that was obviously populated by mostly white people?

How often we forget that a lot of human communication is silent. There's more than one way to let people know they're "out of place" and unwelcome. I'm sure a lot of those people don't think of themselves as racist. After all, no one threw me out of the place or said anything. They just stared at me. They were probably just....thrown for a loop?

Kind of like America was thrown for a loop by the suicide of Bill Zellers. As a tech geek, I was in awe of people like Zellers. Both being victims of sexual abuse, sadly we had a lot more in common than I would have ever thought. But while many are focusing on the sexual abuse he endured, what no one is discussing is another type of abuse he endured.


Bill Zeller asked that his suicide note only be published in it's entirety so I will not dishonor him by excerpting it here. You can read it via the above link at Huffington Post. The sexual abuse he endured is horrifying. However what a lot of stories have glossed over that Zeller takes a great deal of effort in explaining how his parents racism was part of his disillusionment with life and part of his reasons for ending his own.

I will never forget Bill Zeller if for no other reason than as a constant reminder of how much pain racism causes white people, even if they don't know it. That the emotions of anger and hate must constantly be stoked by fear is a hell all it's own. And that white children are constantly oppressed by what they see and must also learn to not see if they are to fit into their own communities and families.

And so again, back to FARK.

Some threads on FARK descend into such viscious racial stereotyping that it would boggle my mind that it was 2010 not 1910. One such topic, started out thus. It was about a woman stabbing her boyfriend due to a petty argument over his Facebook page.

Because it was FARK, it wasn't merely a story about two very insipid human beings endangering their lives over something trivial. It became a story about how stupid and ignorant black people are. Here's some parts of the thread which you can read entirely here:

vgss 2011-01-03 11:20:59 PM
Oh, black people...
You sho' do keep it real!

SithLord 2011-01-03 11:23:56 PM
It's not being racist, it's called being realistic.

Kaoilia 2011-01-03 11:32:44 PM
She didn't think of looking over his shoulder when he logged on? Not a bright woman, fo sho.

drewsky52 2011-01-03 11:34:15 PM
Shemika don't stab him no mo

CJHardin 2011-01-03 11:34:21 PM
Why was I not surprised when her name was Shemika?

Gyrfalcon 2011-01-03 11:53:53 PM
That is so stupid, they both deserved what they got.
In spades.
Yeah, I went there.

Hermione_Granger 2011-01-03 11:54:20 PM
SithLord 2011-01-03 11:23:56 PM
It's not being racist, it's called being realistic.

It is racist when it's all "she stabbed him just cuz that's what black people do" like there haven't been a million stabity stab stab stories about white folks on FARK and for reasons just as dumb.

I have a dream, that one day on FARK people will be judged by the content of their character not the color of their skin.

These two dumbfarks can be judged solely by their behavior - color of skin has nothing to do with it - they are two farking idiots who just happen to be black. Not two farking idiots because they are black.

The former is not racist. The latter is racist as hell.

Gordon Bennett 2011-01-04 12:05:59 AM
Oh, I'm sorry. I hadn't realised that I'd stumbled into a Fark KKK meeting. I'll be on my way out now.

You racist farks.

I Am The Egg Matt Drudge Smears Upon His Body
2011-01-04 12:02:40 AM

Hermione_Granger: SithLord 2011-01-03 11:23:56 PM
It's not being racist, it's called being realistic.

It is racist when it's all "she stabbed him just cuz that's what black people do" like there haven't been a million stabity stab stab stories about white folks on FARK and for reasons just as dumb.

I have a dream, that one day on FARK people will be judged by the content of their character not the color of their skin.

These two dumbfarks can be judged solely by their behavior - color of skin has nothing to do with it - they are two farking idiots who just happen to be black. Not two farking idiots because they are black.

The former is not racist. The latter is racist as hell.

Don't act so nubianrdly... you need to tell us exactly how you feel.

And then.....finally out of the darkness, there was the tiniest beacon of light.

Freak 2011-01-04 12:04:37 AM
It's not being racist, it's called being realistic.

It is racist when it's all "she stabbed him just cuz that's what black people do" like there haven't been a million stabity stab stab stories about white folks on FARK and for reasons just as dumb.

I have a dream, that one day on FARK people will be judged by the content of their character not the color of their skin.

These two dumbfarks can be judged solely by their behavior - color of skin has nothing to do with it - they are two farking idiots who just happen to be black. Not two farking idiots because they are black.

The former is not racist. The latter is racist as hell.

Exactly. All the Florida tagged articles seem to involve rednecks doing some incredibly stupid shiat yet you would never see the kind of racist comments in those threads that you see here. A little disappointed in Fark. This isn't freeperland or stormfront. We should be able to make fun of stupid people without making it about race.

One more person agreed with Freak and Hermione and then the thread continued on with a few more racist comments but petered out far more quickly than threads like this usually do.

Now the FARK mods control a lot of what gets on screen. They can modify or outright delete posts. I have been been temporarily banned for saying pointing out racist things that white people say or do on FARK, meanwhile watching white folks being allowed to post the most racist insipid tripe you'd could possibly imagine

And I called Drew Curtis, the founder of FARK out for being an outright racist. I also was pissed because joke headlines about rape were starting to become a defacto joke around FARK. People started comparing them to Family Guy and it seems white women FARKers got up at arms about that and I haven't seen a rape headline at FARK for a good long while so I think that era is over.

However the racism persisted.

And then there was "Shemika Stabs her Man" thread and then there was one thread where a couple of white people got all stabby and Hermione makes a comment "Typical white people" but that's the only reference to the other thread. And as you can see, the thread about white people doesn't so much as engender once comment about the race of the couple outside of Hermione's sarcastic post.

But then, there was another thread where a black woman set her boyfriend's balls on fire and in what I think must be a sign of the apocalypse - akin to dead birds falling from the sky, massive fish kills, flooding and earthquakes - the thread only got 31 posts and only one of them could be construed as racist.

Consider this: Posts at FARK rarely get that few comments. Compare this count of 31 posts to the other stab threads - the ablack folks stab story got 88 comments and the white folks stab story got 67. Even those are very low comment counts by FARK standards where the average post gets between 100 to 200 comments. More popular stories get hundreds and breaking news stories like the recent Arizona shooting can generate thousands of comments and multiple threads with follow up posts just to handle the traffic.

Given the history of FARK and the comments to the stab posts just a few weeks earlier, I can't surmise that in two weeks FARK suddenly became less racist.

What I can surmise is that somebody, somewhere took to heart the comparison of FARK dangerously mimicking sites like Free Republic (freeperland) and Stormfront and modded out a hell of a lot of racist comments.

Obviously, I like the change.

I suppose at this point, if you're white, you may be asking this question: Why does she keep going back? Why does she keep playing Yahoo Hearts or going back to FARK if she knows she's going to get insulted. Why would I continue to go places where white people are going to rudely stare me out of coutenance until the only way you can enjoy a meal is to finally ignore them completely by reading Anne of Green Gables on your cell phone while you eat?

And my answer is this:

If I never went anywhere I wouldn't get insulted by white people I'd never leave the house. I wouldn't be able to keep a job or go to school. I wouldn't be able to drive. I like to eat dinner out alone sometimes and knowing I'm probably gonna get stared down by white people isn't enough to ruin my enjoyment. It does make me feel weird, but I know it's their problem, not mine.

I like to play Yahoo Hearts. . The racist comments don't happen often enough to keep from playing but they are hurtful when they do happen. I shouldn't have to leave or stop doing something I like because some people are racist fucktards.

And I like FARK. The overall website is witty, funny and just off enough to make me remember what real life is all about. Whenever I want to know what white people really think about something, that's where I go. The honesty is as refreshing as it is hurtful sometimes.

But the stereotyping and racism had become too much. FARK, which is known for it's critical thinking as much as it's crassness had become lazy. It was far too easy to fall back on stereotypes than actually think things through.

It was becoming a parody of itself by letting racism take over and not keeping it in check. And it was punishing those who pointed out the racism, rather than those perpetuating it. Any steps Drew Curtis is taking to change that are welcome

But I guess my biggest questions is: Why would you ask why I keep going back? I don't think it ever occrus to white people to ask: Why would white people be so nasty to someone they've never even seen online? And why, with all the possible insults they could make do they stoop to racial slurs? They must be "just white trash", right?

But these are white people who are wealthy and smart enough to have a computer, internet access. The are smart enough to navigate online and play a fairly involved and strategic game or post to FARK. A lot of them indicate that they are playing or posting from work which implies an office of some sort and time to play a game which is fairly lengthy without a boss looking over their shoulder - at least a cubicle.

Maybe the white guy in the office or cubicle next to you.

So I keep going back because honestly, while the racism I face in my every day life isn't at blatant as the racism I face online, it's no less real.

And every now again, something happens to challenge the status quo and it makes it worthwhile to go back and fight the good fight for yet another day. Sometimes someone like MaconD or Freak or hell, even someone like Drew Curtis who previously pissed you off and who you though wasn't even paying attention can change.

And change is good.

The problem is, these kind of slow, incremental changes that white people seem to relish in don't mollify me. "We'll change but in our own good time if we change at all" is a maddening attitude to deal with. It seems to me that far too many white people want to amble along and enjoy the view on the way to "change" instead of taking an active part in changing not only themselves, but the people around them.

I don't know what to title this post, and I'm not sure how to end it either. Because my experiences with racism didn't start where this post began and they sure aren't going to end when it's over.

It just is what it is.

1 comment:

  1. This is the single most racist thing I have read in a long time.

    I'm sure you'll never approve this comment, same as I'm sure you'll assume I'm white, because apparently anybody who says anything you don't like on the internet is white.


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