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When the Hood Comes Off: Racism and Resistance in the Digital Age by Rob Eschmann

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Racism is “an ideology of racial domination or exploitation that (1) incorporates beliefs in a particular race’s cultural and or inherent biological inferiority and (2) uses such beliefs to justify and prescribe inferior treatment for that group”.

A common argument is “I don’t see colour”, therefore I am not racist, however this is colourblind racism. This ideology frames issues of racial inequality in individual terms, rather than racial terms. How is this racist? Because it ignores racial inequality and legitimates racist systems that perpetuate inequality.

he book title hood comes off refers to the Ku Klux Klan hood being taken off but racism is ongoing, just in a different way – no longer behind a physical mask. This is written by Rob Eschmann, a black person who was shocked by how prevalent racism was in online computer games. He went on to investigate this for his PhD and performed grounded theory research interviews, mainly on students and quantitative analysis focusing on Twitter data. 

Interview assumptions were that in current society overtly racist statements are frowned upon. The interviews sought to explore how racism occurs online and what impact odes this have on students of colour. Interestingly this noted that black feminist groups try to analyse the interconnectedness of white straight men groups who are in the mainstream and frequently Islamophobic, homophobic as well as racist. Online explicit racism appeared to be becoming more prevalent but notably involved were politicians.

Over time racism has changed – in 1930s people admitted they had racist views. For example, in a survey of US restaurant owners said they wouldn’t serve Chinese people, however when tested large majority did. Now, there is a shift people say they aren’t racist but are.  For example refusing black people entry into a night club stating their attire is banned, the attire being heavily associated with the black community.

It is harder to spot subtle racism (referred to as masked racism). Racism was previously apparent with a capital R. Propelled by hard extreme groups with strong racist views it made it easier for people to say I am not racist as I am not one of the extremists.  Now there is a view if you don’t say you are racist you aren’t, unless you are caught to be racist. Masked racist attitudes are apparent, think about health inequalities and differences in funding.

Twitter (now X) was studied in this research.  People have multiple Twitter accounts; one with
their name attached, and one with a fake name they switch to when they don’t want
to be identified at times to spread racist information.  Mentions a mistake that occurred in 2020, when in 2020 when a White man who worked as a college professor posed as an immigrant woman of Colour.  He used this account to argue against feminist and antiracist policies and ideas.  Note I have summarised a book about Invisible women which relates to some of the inequalities women face. 

Online chat in general is increasingly hostile.  This isn’t always about race; it’s a general characteristic of online discussions. The lack of eye contact between individuals, the inability to see a person’s face, to really recognize that it is another human being in front of you, decreases the level of empathy internet users feel for one another.  Without the non-verbal elements of communication, like voice tone or body language, it can be easy to misinterpret other users’ intentions and more difficult to make a point without being offensive.

Remember, those who wish to preserve the racial status quo want to keep racism secret, or under the hood. By outlawing the ability to look for racism you are keeping racism ongoing, there is even a claim occurs that investigating racism is itself racist.  One of the legacies of slavery is that it hurts many White people’s ability to talk about race, as they attempt to deflect blame away from themselves. 

Students of Colour who were studied believe that their White peers operate according to the nice, PC rules of racial discourse, not saying anything offensive, and saying the right, smart thing, in order to maintain innocence in racial matters and avoid deeper conversations.

It is trendy for white people to be antiracist – some will use terms such as “privilege,” “structural racism,” and “recognizing my own bias” to show that they are informed.  You may hear the term “woke” or aware of and beyond racism. The problem with this language is that sometimes people believe that once they
understand these concepts, at least at a basic level, their work is done.

When White students make assumptions or generalizations about race these may well go unquestioned in a classroom. Students of Colour are stuck in a perpetual bind; speak up and risk offending their peers, or remain silent and suffer abuse.

White people tend to want to avoid being called racist, and the idea that one does not “see race” has become the pre-eminent defensive strategy; if one does not acknowledge racial difference, how can one be racist? Mica Pollock uses the term colormute to describe settings where individuals are unwilling to
discuss race even when dealing with phenomena that are clearly racialized in nature.

This book has lots of information about Obama as president and Trump replacing him, with a suggestion that US is becoming more racist.

An anonymous online campus board was studied that included lots of racism.  A massive incongruence between a post racial campus and the overt racist messages on this board was noted.  This suggests that apparently friendly campus interactions may well have hidden underlying racist attitudes. Dismissing some as “an angry black woman”.

Interestingly mentioned about an organised march in University to stand against racism, this was mainly attended by white students; the black students attended the classes, in part as fearful to get punished for attending. Racism for many students of Colour is more than just a theoretical or symbolic threat. It has an unavoidable and damaging presence in their lives. But for White students who identify as antiracist yet are not harmed by racism, highly visible racist symbols may prompt them to march and not be concerned about the consequence.  This is an example of white privilege, whereas what may be more loathsome than the invisible machinations of racism. Racism online isn’t going away – it is trending.

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