Throughout COMRT 340: Digital & Screen Cultures: The Power of Digital Culture we learned a lot about race and social movements and how they affect and impact society in a number of ways. What’s so great about social media and and these digital networks (I.e. Facebook & Twitter) is that people are free to express their feelings and say whatever they want, while also being able to communicate with one another much more easily. Digital networks have enabled us and granted us with endless possibilities and is now what a lot of people use in order to start a social movement. While this topic that I am going to cover does not necessarily define one single movement, or even have a name, it is a movement that everybody is now paying close attention to and has gotten a number of individuals to to speak out, from your everyday Twitter user, to a number of well known athletes and celebrities. The question that my topic hopes to answer is: how does the internet impact social change movements? Through the examination of the racist comments recently made by Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling and through the use of scholarly sources, I will explain how exactly the comments by a number of individuals on digital media sites such as Facebook and Twitter have quickly begun to create a social movement by speaking out against Sterling and his racist comments.
Before getting into the actual examination of how the internet impacts social movements, I felt as if I should provide a little background information about the topic. A few days ago, a recording was released of Clippers owner Donald Sterling arguing with his girlfriend about her hanging out with “black guys”. He then issued her to take down the pictures she had posted on Instagram with former NBA star and Los Angeles Dodgers owner Magic Johnson, as well as the picture with LA Dodgers All-Star outfielder Matt Kemp. He later went on to tell her to not bring minorities to his games anymore and that in other countries like Israel, African Americans are treated like ‘dogs’. Instead of explaining it all, posted below is the link the recording of the conversation that Sterling and his girlfriend had last week. If you don’t feel like listening to the audio, below the video is the dialogue of the majority of the conversation.
One of the issues that individuals have had pertaining to race on the internet is that African Americans do not have access or do not use the internet as much as white people tend to. In Mejias book Off the Network:Disrupting the Digital World, in Chapter 4: Acting Inside and Outside the Network, he mentions how those not participating on the network can be viewed as an inequality. “This permeable limit is crucial in unmapping the network, in theorizing how participation not only results in inclusion but also simultaneously results in the exclusion of those who cannot or will not participate and therefore generates inequality.” A lot of people believed that African Americans did not have as much access to the internet or network as whites did. In Mejias case, they would be seen as excluded and would be the ones who generate this inequality. While many believe that this still does hold true, according to Aaron Smith in his work, African Americans and Technology Use, this is notion is rather inaccurate. Smith states that, “The black/white “digital divide” continues to persist, but is not consistent across technology platforms or demographic groups.” In fact, according to his numbers, Overall, 73% of African American internet users—and 96% of those ages 18-29—use a social networking site of some kind. African Americans have exhibited relatively high levels of Twitter use since we began tracking the service as a stand-alone platform, and this continues to be the case—22% of online blacks are Twitter users, compared with 16% of online whites.” (CITE) Additionally, “Younger African Americans in particular have especially high rates of Twitter use. Fully 40% of 18-29 year old African Americans who use the internet say that they use Twitter. That is 12 percentage points higher than the comparable figure for young whites (28% of whom are Twitter users).” (CITE) Because the whole controversy surrounding Sterling deals with race and mostly African Americans, Smith’s work shows that African Americans are now more present than ever on social media sites. In Mejias book, off the network, he was quoted saying that, “The dual processuality of networks means they can enable both more freedom (more opportunities for participation and expression) and, paradoxically, more repression (new ways of circumscribing, commoditizing, and monitoring or otherwise controlling the parameters for those new opportunities of action). Now with more freedom, participation, and expression on the network, people decided to express how they felt and weren’t afraid to say it either. One person even decided to present a video message to Sterling, which was posted on Facebook by thousands of individuals including himself and can be seen below.
Here are some of the other responses that people had: