Tech, Race, News, Social Justice

Facebook is making me hate my racist friends and relatives

So there’s this app you can get for your phone that tells you which one of your friends is racist. It's called Facebook.

Ahh, Facebook, I have such a love/hate relationship with you.

I love you for letting me keep in contact with old co-workers and friends, for allowing me to message someone I haven’t talked to in ages without looking creepy, and for letting me see into the lives of family members who live far away.

But I hate you for exposing the ignorance and sometimes bigotry of so many of my friends and family, and for making me question the morals of people I used to like.

Growing up in the most conservative province of Canada–some refer to us as the Canadian Texas–you’d think that I would have been exposed to or have been the victim of a lot of racism growing up, but this wasn’t the case. Yes, I had experienced a bit of racism, but the incidents were few and far between.

Most of what I experienced was ignorance, people being surprised I spoke English, that I was born in Canada, thinking that all brown people they saw were related to me etc. I don’t remember too many incidents of people saying anything extremely racist to my face, but these were the days before social media, and the days before the hateful rhetoric of Donald Trump and Stephen Harper

(Sidenote: I’ve experienced more racism in the past two years than I have in my entire life combined!)

Racists tended to be a bit more closeted when I was younger, or at least they would have the decency to make their racist comments among their mostly homogeneous companions, and not to the faces of those they were insulting.

Fast forward a few years, and while I was in University, Facebook was born. It took me a couple of years to get on the Facebook bandwagon, but once I did, I loved it! I remember adding old friends I hadn’t talked to in years, catching up with them via wall posts, and thinking it was such a great tool.

When Facebook first started, you couldn’t see what other people had “liked” or commented on unless you went to their page. All that showed up on your newsfeed was status updates or articles/pictures that had been posted.

Now my News Feed is filled with other people’s likes and comments… and it’s making me hate them. It mainly began when I noticed that an old high school friend had liked a page that supported Darren Wilson, the police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown.

I remember thinking it was weird since not too many of the facts about that shooting had come out yet, but I was pretty sure Michael Brown was unarmed.  I let it go since I didn’t know too much about the incident. Then, once more information came out about the killing, I saw that she posted a status asking “what’s the big deal?” about his death and saying there was obviously no racism involved in the incident.

Her comment got tons of likes. I couldn’t believe my eyes.

This was a girl whose birthday parties I used to go to, who I used to watch movies with. …what happened to her? Even if she believed there was no racism involved in the event–although the Justice Department report on the Ferguson police department would prove her wrong–how could she openly be so apathetic to a person’s death?

I couldn’t let this slide, so I commented that the big deal was that he was unarmed and that there’s a history of racism in the police force that often targets and kills black males disproportionately to their white counterparts.

She responded with the fact that Michael Brown had stolen something from a store right before the confrontation with the police officer, so it’s not like he was innocent. I responded, “SO THAT MEANS HE DESERVES TO DIE?!” The argument became more heated, eventually ending with her reluctantly agreeing that racism does still exist, but she doesn’t feel it was a factor in this particular incident. I let it go at that point but was so tempted to post that justice department report to her wall once it came out.

Since then, it’s been non-stop. From seeing a friend react “angry” now that the RCMP is allowing hijabs as part of their uniform, to seeing another friend post a video by notorious Islamophobe Pamella Gellar stating that 30% of all Muslims are violent ISIS supporters.

My husband is white, and a lot of his family live in or grew up in farming communities or small towns. They are pretty much exactly what you would expect of small-town farmers: kind, hospitable, and casually racist. One of his family members regularly posts memes from radical right-wing Facebook groups; these posts have been anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, anti-aboriginal, and anti-black.

I’ve challenged this person a few times (respectfully of course), and while she will never admit to being wrong, she will concede a little. Then, in a day or two, will post another offensive meme.

I can’t unfriend her. I would be the gossip of the family and it would cause all kinds of problems for my husband.

I know what you’re thinking, use the unfollow button, Saba! This wonderful button can help weed out these fools from your newsfeed! And while I would like to be less angry at my husband’s family, I also do not feel that ignorance is bliss.

When I’ve talked about this with my friends they ask me why I even bother trying to inform people like this. They say that people like the acquaintances mentioned and my husband’s family will never change, and I’m wasting my time. “Don’t feed the trolls” is a common saying.

But these aren’t your average ‘trying to start shit by saying controversial things’ trolls. These are people that I spent my childhood with, people I have Christmas dinner with; and sadly some of them have actual hate-filled and ignorant opinions.

Now I realize I’m not stopping a war or anything, but I think trying to change the minds of racist people is a worthwhile cause. I feel like it’s important to do your best to dispel any ignorance you see, especially if there’s even the tiniest chance that the ignorant person could change. Even if there’s no chance, at the very least you can say you tried.