Week 7: Anti-Social Media

It’s kind of funny how the Internet was once considered a great “equalizer,” as it has ironically progressed to create the infamous “digital divide” and technology gap that many societies struggle to close. Senft and Noble reference in Race and Social Media that although society associates racial stereotyping with a negative connotation and fears being labeled as “racist,” our communities are ultimately uninterested in abandoning racial groups because it’s our social reality. Not only is this true in public environments and social settings, but it is also found true online. Racial stereotyping, segregation and targeting are found even more abundantly online. Although part of the intention of the Internet was created to close the gap between cultures with different socioeconomic statuses, it has evidently created a larger gap between racial groups because of its anonymity. Some may consider this a form of empowerment – the act of providing people with technology to spread ideas – however, not all online activity promotes well-being and positive racial interaction.

A newly categorized term of racist commenting and promotion online has been dubbed “anti-social media” for its obvious reasons to detract from normative online conversations and interactions and instead create unnecessary messages and hype about race and profiling. This article by DiversityInc concludes that over 10,000 racist and derogatory tweets are posted per day, with 30% of them being directed towards a specific individual or a group. As social media platforms have grown, so has room for new perspectives and opinions on the appropriate usage of these various media. Who are we to limit the free speech of an individual online? However, what does it say about us if we don’t do anything? This sticky situation is one that many online users find themselves in on a daily basis. According to the concept of interpellation, individuals categorize themselves based upon others’ reactions to their specific racial group. Although this is more of a subconscious thought, how is that fair or equal to assume the stereotype others have put on you? For me, the best thing I would suggest is to stay out of it, but for you brave hearts, maybe you can take the chance and make a change to let people decide for themselves which group they want to belong to, aside from others’ beliefs for once.

 

Week Seven: Kara Walker’s A Subtlety

This week’s reading kept reminding me of the artist Kara Walker’s “A Subtlety or the Marvelous Sugar Baby” , which is “a Homage to the unpaid and overworked Artisans who have refined our Sweet tastes from the cane fields to the Kitchens of the New World on the Occasion of the demolition of the Domino Sugar Refining Plant.” Consisting of a massive, sugar-coated sphinx-like woman and a number of figures of small boys made of molasses holding heavy baskets, the work has provoked much discussion about selfie culture, race, and sexism.

Many art critic’s have praised the work for it’s powerful message which Cait Munro says, “meant to serve as a commentary on the sugar cane trade, and a cultural critique of slavery and perceptions of black women throughout history, the work is part Sphinx, part racist Mammy stereotype, and is coated in sugar. It features exaggerated features including breasts, a bottom, and a vagina. As Walker told artnet News, ‘Nudity is a thing, apparently, that people have a problem with; not slavery, or racism, but female bodies, or bottoms.’” This can be seen from the incredible number of tasteless Instagram photos that can be found under the hashtag #KaraWalkerDomino. Many critics were deeply offended by the inappropriate selfies, and as Yesha Callahan of The Root writes, “History has shown us time and time again how a black woman’s body was (and sometimes still is) objectified. From the days of the slave trade to even having black butts on display in music videos, the black woman’s body seems to easily garner laughs and mockery, even if it’s made out of sugar.” While many people agreed that these Instagram photos could be seen as such, Alyssa Rosenberg of The Washington Post writes, “If we reveal ourselves to be corrupted, immature or unprepared at ‘A Subtlety,’ the exhibit itself reaches back to corrupt us, too. You can get very close, and even touch the statues, but you do so at cost. To look inside a basket, to pose with a small figure or to try to ascertain the outline of an eye or mouth under dripping, molding sugar, you have to step in the zone of the statues’ ruin.” I feel like the discussion surrounding Walker’s work, especially due to it’s popularity on social media, definitely highlights many aspects of this week’s readings in regards to race, and starts a crucial online and offline discussion.

Check here for more interesting reactions to the work:

https://indypendent.org/2014/06/30/why-i-yelled-kara-walker-exhibit

http://www.theroot.com/blogs/the_grapevine/2014/05/reactions_to_kara_walker_s_a_subtlety_proves_even_in_art_a_black_woman_will.html?wpisrc=topstories

http://flavorwire.com/482585/kara-walker-knew-people-would-take-dumb-selfies-with-a-subtlety-and-that-shouldnt-surprise-us