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An Emancipation Proclamation for the Digital Age

The problematic relationship of Black people and the Internet persists

Still, Black people now have access to internet technology more than ever. But access in the Black community is not about who uses the internet but how they use it.

And that is the problem.

First, the trend is toward greater use of social media. Twitter and Facebook are undoubtedly the most popular internet functionalities among younger Black people. While nobody can question the importance and usefulness of these protocols, they are very limited in their ability to foster effective communication. Facebook's scrapbook presentation and Twitter's word limits make articles, papers and other longer written forms difficult to read and virtually impossible to post.

This is intellectually constraining for potential authors (which, in internet culture, is anyone with an idea in his or her head) but it's stultifying intellectually for those who might read this material. The Black presence in larger intellectual culture of the internet is very sparse as a result.

This is particularly true with the social struggle movements led by Black people such as Black Lives Matter. While this movement was organized primarily on the internet, it used Twitter extensively with network texting as a second, supportive technology. While these are powerful mobilizing tools, they don't allow for more in-depth analysis and collaborative thinking (one of the criticisms activists make of the Black Lives Matter movement). In this case, technology moved Black people forward in terms of the public spotlight but, due to the protocols used, limited their ability to develop and project a shared political analysis and strategy for addressing the systemic issues that gave rise to the movement.

There are, to be sure, websites that specialize in Black news and social/political analysis and they are well-known and prominent. But they are few and also highly ghettoized —seldom cited by other news organizations or analysis websites, infrequently mentioned by speakers talking about technology, and not visited much by anyone other than Black people.

Second, open and aggressive racism is alive and well on the internet. Even a cursory look at the comments sections of any of the news sites (like CNN or Fox) reveal a shocking racism that is more virulent and brazen than what was prevalent 40 years. The anonymity of the internet, combined with an increase in racist thinking and expression (as white people face more frightening prospects in their lives and are enabled to scapegoat people of color for that) have produced a culture of racist expression so overwhelming that it is difficult to publicly challenge.

It's daunting to be a person of color in public situations and debates on the internet and Black people take the brunt of that repressive beating. As a result, Black people tend to congregate and participate only on certain types of websites while not doing much more than "surfing” the rest of the Net.

As a result, much of the internet has no Black presence in its information and analysis.



story | by Dr. Radut