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To unplug or not to unplug...

August 5, 2017


Those who know me well are aware that I can be a tid bit self-righteous sometimes. I get on that high horse and ride it valiantly into the sunset.


The present dilemma? I am debating on deleting my Facebook account and page.


I have reported incidents of hate speech, racial slurs, physical threats of violence against people of color, and every time, Facebook sends me this little message saying that while they’ve reviewed my report, it doesn’t violate their community standards. The other day, Ijeoma Oluo, a black woman, posted a joke about being in a Cracker Barrel on Twitter, and the barrage of hate mail and death/rape threats was overwhelming. She reported every one of these incidents, and Facebook sent her the same message that they’ve sent me. She decided to take matters into her own hands, as Facebook wouldn’t help her manage the onslaught of abusive content, and posted screen shots of the worst of the comments and messages, which included the user’s name. After all, if you’re comfortable enough messaging a stranger unspeakable things because they look different than you, you should be comfortable enough with the world knowing how you really feel. As a result, she was suspended from Facebook for violating their community standards.


{Insert face palm here.}


This is ridiculous.


And this is not an isolated incident; some activists have even coined this suspension “Facebook Jail.” Facebook Jail is full of people of color who have posted about racist encounters while the racists in question are allowed to keep their Facebook profiles and pages active without any consequence. K.D. Senior, a writer and Navy veteran, put it this way: “Facebook is the cop in riot gear who shows up at KKK rallies to protect their ‘free speech,’ but will arrest you at a peaceful protest for expressing yours.”


I feel that Facebook is actively and deliberately silencing black folks. Is that the kind of company that I should freely give my artwork, providing them with loads of content, allowing them to represent me and my message? One of the problems in our country with race right now is that for folks in the white privilege club, like me, we are ignorant to the systems built on the backs of people of color that we benefit from. Often when I bring this up, I’m met with resistance and white folks are offended and upset; challenging white privilege is immensely uncomfortable. No one wants to feel ashamed or guilty for something that they did not choose and an ugly history that they cannot control or change. No one is saying that white folks asked to be born white and that all of the struggles and work in their lives are invalid because of this. It takes a while for us to realize that we have privilege and what that looks like, and no one is saying we are bad people because we were born into that club. But once we are aware of the club and we remain in it after the fact, continuing to benefit even in the smallest of ways, like with an easy, online platform to promote, say, your small business, like me...well I just don’t feel like that is okay.


I don’t want to provide awesome content to a crap corporation that doesn’t give a damn about its users, and moreover, intentionally silences black people.


I don’t want oppressive values representing my characters, like Phoebe the Fairy, who is all about kindness, love, and acceptance. My work is about discrimination and overcoming it. It seems counterintuitive to continue using this platform knowing that discrimination is an enormous problem that they are not addressing.


I would really miss the way I can easily connect with family and friends from all around the world. I would miss the instant gratification I gain from posting in a beloved group or page. I would lose an easy way to network and grow my business and my work.


But sometimes what is right isn’t easy, and if I’m going to talk the talk as an activist of radical kindness and acceptance, perhaps I best get walking, too.


One could argue, though, that remaining on the platform to help change it from the inside would do more good than leaving it altogether. One of my heroes in life, Fred Rogers, got into television because he hated television. He didn't like the violence that children were being exposed to, so he created his own show to give people access to fulfilling content. He wanted to give the power to the people by providing them with an alternative. Rather than leave their children to cartoons and graphic television violence, parents could actively choose better content because the option was there for them. 


So what is my goal? Is it to promote and profit off of Facebook? If so, it doesn't seem a very appropriate platform for my kind of work. Or, is my goal to provide people with fulfilling content, like Fred Rogers: rather than abandon the system, try to change it and give people an alternative to unfavorable content. If this is my goal, then keeping my Facebook and continuing my work would seem to be the way to go. 


With my kind of work and my business, I'm trying to achieve both. So to unplug or not to unplug...that is the question...




Web links to my research sources:


"Facebook's Complicity in the Silencing of Black Women" by Ijeoma Oluo, 2017


"A white man called her kids the n-word. Facebook stopped her from sharing it." by Tracy Jan and Elizabeth Dwoskin, 2017


"Facebook’s Secret Censorship Rules Protect White Men from Hate Speech But Not Black Children" by Julia Angwin, 2017


"No really, Facebook has black friends!" by K.D. Senior, 2016



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