More on harassment on the internet

So, the Angry Black Woman posts about an experience she had with a troll who, when banned, continued to harass her. The post itself is worth a read, but (oh so predictably) another troll shows up in her comments to start telling her how bad and wrong she was for informing the guy’s company of his actions online.

Now, I’m not here to talk about that, but rather to highlight two of the comments that came out of it because I think that they make very important points about the kind of harassment that occurs on anti-oppression blogs and why it’s important to not lie down and accept it in the name of “free speech” or “tolerance” that shouldn’t be just a footnote of another post.

The first one is by Nora about the difference between a normal troll and the racist, sexist, etc trolls that come to harass us:

Here is the crux of the issue: I just don’t think that initiating arguments with a troll is actually helping the social problems-
Wait, wait, wait. ABW does not go to these people’s blogs and make anti-racism speeches. They come here and start shit. So please remember — she’s not “initiating arguments” by any means.

The thing you need to remember is that this blog does not operate in a vacuum. Look at the links along the right side sometime. ABW is part of a vast and growing network of anti-sexism, anti-racism, anti-other-oppression blog sites, and she’s only the latest in a long line of textual crusaders. There have been many others since the internet was popularized. Quite a few of the pioneering sites have died — enough that we’ve learned a few things about the tactics of racists on the ‘net. For example,
a) Racists are not ordinary trollers, any more than stalkers are ordinary annoyances. Racists aren’t just out to have some fun by pissing people off; harassment is not an end in itself for them. They’re trying to disempower others, using harassment as a weapon. This distinction is important, because it gives them great incentive to persist long past the time when a troll would’ve gotten bored and moved on.
b) Like harassment, persistence is also a racist weapon. Racists do not go away. When they realize they have free reign, they usually take encouragement from the silence. There are never as many of them as they want you to believe, but to make up for their small numbers, they never shut the fuck up.

c) Racists act out of fear. They fear the loss of their power; some fear the loss of their “racial purity”, some just fear change. Regardless, frightened people are irrational people, and irrational people are dangerous. Would you ignore an irrational person who was coming after you over and over again, and getting worse each time? I don’t care how Zen you are; that’s not smart.
d) All this has the side-effect of silencing the non-racists, who get tired/frightened by the ugliness.
And of course, d) is what kills blogs.

Then there’s ABW’s response, which talks about why taking steps to stop harassment is, you know, a good thing not a bad one:

One of the things we learn as children is that actions have consequences. the fewer consequences a child is subjected to in their early years, the more they get the impression that they can do whatever they want. Same works for adults. If a person spends their day being a racist troll and nothing comes of it, they learn that being a racist troll has no consequences and continue doing so. For minor trolls, the mere act of banning them is consequence enough. They go “Oh, no one likes it when I do that. Ah well, I’ll go away.” Hopefully they go away to be a better person, but my instinct says they go away to be a racist troll somewhere else. If so, my hope is that others will ban them and, finally, the consequences will mount up and either change that behavior or drive them into a small hole where they have no one to talk to but other racist assholes.

The bigger the entitlement, the harsher consequences must be. The guy who replied to my banning him with “I’ll just keep trying to harass her until I get to do it again” was obviously in need of harsher consequences. because he believed it was his right to continue being an asshole on my blog. Well, it wasn’t. This is why I took things to another level. not because I enjoy calling people’s workplaces and informing on them, but because otherwise, they won’t get the message that what they are doing is not okay. Consequences are important.
Sometimes the mere threat of consequences is enough to make people realize where they are in the wrong. or, at least, get them to back off. Michael sent me a note very soon after this post went up to say that he would not darken our doorstep again. He tried his own version of consequences by implying that I had threatened to expose his name and daughter’s name and address publicly (which I did not). He wanted me to take this post down. Maybe he was afraid his employers would see it. He was definitely afraid of me going to his HR department, that was clear.
In the end, I didn’t have to do any such thing. I just had to let him know that I meant business. Hopefully this post will serve as a similar deterrent to others. Now that they know the consequences, they won’t be so quick to think “I can just keep on doing what I’m doing.” That’s the problem with Internet trolling. people think they can do it without any consequences. I’m here to say: you can’t.

Not Michael, this may offend your Zen sensibilities and I’m sorry for that. But it’s not as if I’ve actually physically hurt someone here. Also, even MLK and Ghandi brought consequences. they didn’t just stand around and yell that they wanted equal rights or a free India. they *did* something about it. that something was not war, that something was not physically fighting, but that something was NOT just turning the other cheek. It was refusing to meet violence with violence but instead with protecting one’s self and showing the futility of violence.
I could respond to trolls by just being nasty back at them and that would be the equivalent of meeting violence with violence. Instead, I show them the consequences of their actions. for MLK, it was to bring hundreds or thousands of people to the government’s workplace and to show them that injustice would NOT be met with silence and would NOT be patiently endured. That they were prepared to take action 9though that action would not have been violent). I’m doing the same (though not comparing myself to MLK or anything). Harassment will NOT be met with silence. I won’t come to your house and beat you up or anything, but I will use the resources available to me.

If you’re expecting some deep and thoughtful commentary, I’ll have to disappoint. I’m still technically on blog break. But, really, I think the comments above speak for themselves. Harassment is not okay, and cyberstalking — what Micheal was starting to do — is a crime, people. You don’t have the right to systematically harass another human being, whether offline or on. One would think that this would be common sense, but the 84 responses that the original thread has gotten would say otherwise.

So, in summary, stay in school and don’t harass people because there will one day be consequences that you probably won’t like.

If you have to say "i'm not racist" chances are you are

A trend that you can’t help but notice if you follow any sort of racial issues is that when white people do something racist, they almost always include in their apology, “I’m not a racist”. Most of you should know the Michael Richards “but I’m not a racist!” protest in his apology after he was caught on tape being racist. But it’s not just the celebrities who pitch this line, it’s average people as well.

Case in point: a bunch of white people posted pictures and a video of them performing a reenactment of the Jenna 6 incident while in blackface. If that weren’t bad enough, when the woman who posted the media on her Facebook page got caught, this is what she had to say [emphasis mine]:

Smith, who did not respond to a TSG e-mail sent to her school address, apologized for the images in several recent Facebook postings. “We were just playin n the mud and it got out of hand. I promise i’m not racist. i have just as many black friends as i do white. And i love them to death,” she wrote. She added in a later message that her friends “were drinking” and things “got a lil out of hand.”

People who aren’t racist would own up to their racism in their apology, not try to erase the reality of the racist act with the “I didn’t mean it” plea. People who aren’t racist wouldn’t use excuses like “some of my friends are black”, “we were just playing”, and “we were drinking” in order to try and downplay the impact that such displays of racism have. People who aren’t racist would not have thought to do such a ‘reenactment’ in the first place, much less thought it was ‘funny’ enough to post on Facebook.

So, yes, Ms. Smith, you are racist. But, you know, that in of itself isn’t a damnable offense. I’ve said and done racist things before, as have all white people. It’s an unfortunate product of our culture, because — by virtue of our whiteness — we are both enabled and encouraged to enact out varying forms of racism in our everyday lives.

But what separates the allies from the racists is that, when the allies fuck up, we admit it. We don’t try to minimize what we did, but we own up to our own mistakes, fully and without reservation, and then we go educate ourselves in an effort to not fuck up again. We don’t insult the people who we’ve hurt by saying things like, “I’m not racist” because we realize that, especially after committing a racist act, we are the last people who have the authority to decide such a thing.

So, to Smith and all the other white people out there who think “I’m not racist” is an acceptable thing to come out of a white person’s mouth: if you have to say it, chances are you are, in fact, harboring a lot of unaddressed and unacknowledged racism. If you truly don’t want to be seen as racist, then the first thing you need to do is to take a hard look at yourself and the world around you, and then start educating yourself on what it takes to be anti-racist. The information is out there, but you’re the only one who can get yourself to take that step and use it.

Via stoneself’s LJ.

Luxury of Travel: Ariel's Trips to Canada & Nicaragua

I’m in Nicaragua right now and taking advantage of my American right to travel. I can move fairly freely in a country impoverished by my nation’s doing–and by extent my own. I certainly benefit from globalization and the United State’s imperialism, do too little enough to actively resist it.

Continue reading

Who's the one arguing in bad faith?

Blog against racism This week is International Blog Against Racism Week (hat tip to Oyce for the icon). I actually contributed to day one without meaning to, posting a quick rebuttal to the claim that the no one complained about the previous games in the Resident Evil series because it was white people killing white people. To kick off day 2, I’m going to devote another post to the great RE5 wank of 2007 (you can find the trailer that sparked the wank here and a link roundup within the comments over at Iris’ forums).

One of the things that struck me about the discussions on blogs that broached the subject of potential racism in Resident Evil 5 was the way that the same arguments were brought up over and over again, and many of them are iterations of arguments I’ve seen come up when people protest discussions on gender.

The “no one is saying/has said anything about [x thing] in [y] game” argument is the one I will be addressing here. The racist-apologist complainers who bring up that argument do so in bad faith; they aren’t arguing it because the presence of said critique would solve the problem, but rather because they see the argument as a tool to shut down discussion on the game in question. They are, sometimes literally, saying, “You didn’t say anything before, so you have lost the privilege of saying anything now or in the future!” Which is a problematic argument, to say the least. Behind the cut I will explore some of the specific problems with the argument in more detail. Continue reading

Resident Evil 5 Trailer

Can you spot what’s wrong with the trailer? Hint: it’s not the cg or the cinematography.

Via Iris forums.

ETA: For all the racist-apologist fanboys who are offended at the very thought of people engaging in criticism of their beloved Resident Evil series: criticism doesn’t equal “the only thing the game’s about is a white person killing hordes of black people!11eleven”. Criticizing the trailer doesn’t mean that we hate the game, or think that it couldn’t possibly have anything of merit in it. Nor does it mean that we won’t be buying the game. It just means that it’s being advertised in a highly problematic way that deserves criticism.

I’ve published the dissenting opinion in the comments. Further comments that say the same thing will not be published because there’s no need to rehash the same misreading of the criticism over and over again.

When you can use offensive terms and not be offensive

If you’re part of a privileged group, when can you use offensive terms without being offensive? Watch the video to find out. Personally, I think the last example using the white person cuts through all the crap about bigoted humour taking the power out of hate speech and highlights the underlying message that is sent when a person from a privilege group uses bigoted slurs from a group they’re not part of.

Via homasse.

Angry Black Woman on Political Correctness

Angry Black Woman has an excellent piece on “political correctness”. In Defense of Political Correctness explores the attitudes behind disparaging PC-ness and why we shouldn’t accept them.

An excerpt:

My guess is that, since I have never been clear on what exactly “Politically Correct” is and have never fought for my particular PC label, I have not properly cemented the concept in my mind. Therefore, my opinion of it is easily, if not sneakily, swayed. I wasn’t paying enough attention. When I sat down and thought about how I really felt about Political Correctness, I decided that it really is a good thing. A thing worth fighting for. It’s not negative, it’s not a curse word, and it’s not about suppressing free speech or policing anyone’s thoughts.

I think it’s time that people started defending Political Correctness. Articulating what it is, what it isn’t, and why it’s still important. Political Correctness is about language and the power language has. I’m a writer. I believe — no, I know — that language is a powerful weapon. Changing language is one of the key ways to change society for the better. Language is one of the key ways in which people in power maintain the status quo. Changing language, by itself, won’t solve the world’s problems. No one thing will. But there are always key factors. Language is one.

Go read the whole thing.

White "perks" versus white privilege

Kynn has a thought provoking post making the distinction between “perks” and “privilege”:

Let’s talk about how I use the term “white privilege.”

There are certain things which are gifted to every white person, which aren’t fully afforded to people of color. I don’t have to worry about being pulled over for “driving while white.” Other white people tend to trust me more than they would a person of color of the same age and socioeconomic status. I’ll make more money, in the long run, than I would if I were non-white.

These things I think of as white perks — benefits which society chooses to bestow on white people. Society does this because it is white-dominated and white-supremacist.

Then there is this thing which I call white privilege, which is not a set of perks at all — but rather a mindset. It is a subtle, quiet ideology, that is rarely taught directly any more, but which definitely exists and its effects can be seen all over.

I suggest reading the whole thing. I’m still chewing on it and thinking about how making the distinction could impact discussions of privilege.

On being an anti-racist white ally

Two separate instances on live journal have really had me thinking about my commitment to be anti-racist. The first is a series of posts by my LJ friend kynn, which I won’t link to here because there’s, um, quite a lot of them. I may use one in an upcoming Privilege in Action post, though. The latter is this post by a friend-of-a-friend where the original poster asks, “Could anyone give me an example of how I… am racist?” in response to Rosie O’Donnel saying, “Everybody has some racism in them; that can’t be denied”. Despite being an interloper into his journal, I struck up a dialogue with him which spawned the comment that this post is based on.

What does it mean to be an anti-racist ally? Well, I think part of it is that we need to acknowledge that living in a system that favours certain groups of people means that, especially if we are part of said privileged group, we cannot escape internalizing some of the oppression (such as racism).

I am staunchly anti-racist and I do my best to be an ally, but at the same time I recognize the racist things I have said and done in the past, and I acknowledge that racism is a part of who I am because I was raised in a world where “racist” is the default. It may not be the “let’s lynch those n-words” level of racism, but casual racism is still racism.

I hate that there’s a part of me that’s racist. My whole life is devoted to fighting for equality, the purpose I feel I have on this earth is to help bring about equality, and yet I am racist. My knee-jerk reaction to people of colour speaking out about their issues is to be defensive, and to be angry or jealous or dismissive. Do you have any idea what it feels like to be so staunchly anti-racist and yet to know that there is a part of you that will always be racist? Let me tell you, it feels like absolute shit.

But part of being an ally is acknowledging my privilege and not letting it get in my way. It would be so easy for me to throw up my hands and say, “Well, I’m racist so I may as well just revel in it!” or, more likely, to say, “Well, there’s nothing I can do about it, so I should just stop trying.” But being an ally means not taking the easy road. It means calling out others even if that means you get other racist white people leaving abusive comments (yes, that happened to me… just yesterday, actually). It means accepting that you may be implicated as racist, or be included in a sweeping statement that is anti-white, or any number of things that can hurt.

This isn’t a judgment on anyone else’s situation; I’m not in a place to judge that. This is me sharing my feelings and my story in the hopes of helping other white people gain understanding to what people who talk about “white privilege” and other related subjects may be thinking and feeling when they say/write those things.

And, I guess, the other thing I would like to say that, even if you accept the premise that all white people are a little racist because of the nature of being white, that doesn’t mean that white people are inherently bad.

In the end, what I think I’m trying to say in my longwinded way is that the most important thing about being an anti-racist ally is not whether or not you’re racist, but rather how well you can consider the situations and feelings of others such as people of colour, and whether or not you are willing to, at times, privilege their opinions and experiences over your own. Because if you find that you’re willing to do that (or continue to do that, if you do so already), then it doesn’t matter if you carry within you a part that’s racist or not, because the way you express yourself to the outside world will be anti-racist.

Harassment, silencing, and gaming communities: follow-up

I just wanted to do a quick follow-up on my Harassment, silencing, and gaming communities, posting some relevant links.

First up is Lake Desire with her thoughts on my piece. My favourite part is where she says this:

I want to be able to speak up in mainstream places without being ignored, having my character attacked, or called names. But I’m not willing to grow a thicker skin, to censor myself, to have to constantly, preemptively watch my back. I’m not asking for special treatment, just to be treated with respect owed to all human beings. Until the mainstream is ready for that, I’ll continue to blog from the margins where I can call some shots.

Next is something not related to gaming, but related to the incident that spawned my post. Apparently my reference to Something Awful was closer to the truth than I knew. Richie over at Criticisms has the scoop on Lowtax’s misogynistic and downright hateful response to the Kathy Sierra incident (warning: reading through that entire thread is downright depressing).

And so as not to end on too much of a downer, I just wanted to highlight a post by m of my grown-up life, i love being a woman, to remind us why it’s so darn important to not let women’s voices be silenced:

and in the end, i am happy to be a woman. i’m happy to know women who are happy being women. i’m happy to know men who really love women. but most of all, i’m happy that there are folks out there with voices, who can teach girls and women of all ages, my little girl included, that it is a beautiful thing to be born without a y chromosome.