Talking About Racism on Facebook

As a white working-class person, I was successful in eliminating many of the effects of racism on my mostly white working-class coworkers in the factory. I had to do this in order to unify us and make sure we could not be manipulated and distracted from our goals by racist patterns.

Lately, since I have retired and am no longer in the factory, much of my contact with people is on Facebook. My friends are from the very “right” to the very “left,” and I am committed to the re-emergence of all of them.

I never “client” on Facebook. I post positive things that I create myself and not, for the most part, “shared” messages.

I handle expressions of racist patterns in different ways, depending on the situation. I handle them one way when I’m face to face with the person and people of the target group aren’t present. With someone I have a long-term relationship with, I have time to strategize a position that will work for that person, so I think more long-term. When people of the target group are present, or on social media, I do something more direct in the moment, unless the person corrects the situation himself or herself.

Since Facebook is so public, I never do or say anything that would humiliate someone. Working-class people, perhaps all people, do not handle humiliation well.

I work hard to not sound like I think I am smarter than the other person. I almost never argue. If the thread of an online post goes back and forth more than once, I engage the person offline. I don’t think arguing works, and if it is public, it just forces a person into a more rigid position.

I often talk about my own understanding or struggle, rather than argue. For example, I say things like, “My grandfather was in the KKK. He was a good man, but I don’t think he looked at the big picture.” I say that we who are white have more in common with people targeted by racism than we have differences and that we should be uniting with them to combat the real economic issues rather than competing with them.

I put out good information. Fox News (right-leaning) recently did a good, short, factual online story explaining Ramadan. I thought that my right-wing friends would be more likely to read something from Fox News than from The New York Times, which they would see as “left.” I shared the Fox News information on Ramadan, and both “right” and “left” friends liked it.

To combat some posts my cousin shared that were racist against Muslims, I wrote a post saying that my Muslim friends were not the way the post described and that from what I knew, Muslims were as different from each other in their practice of religion as my Christian friends were. I got “likes” on Facebook from both my “left” and “right” friends.

I rarely post articles written by others that represent my views; only my friends who agree with me would read them. Instead I say what I want to say in my own words. My friends are more likely to read and be influenced by something I write, because they like me and respect me and it is not tied to any recognizable media bias.

I work hard to use the simplest explanation I can and to keep my posts short.

Posts are sometimes necessary not just to go up against those you disagree with but also to strengthen your base. Sometimes because racism is so scary people go quiet when confronted with strongly racist messages and need the encouragement of someone speaking out.

Dan Nickerson

Freeport, Maine, USA

Reprinted from the RC e-mail discussion list for leaders of wide world change

Last modified: 2022-12-25 10:17:04+00