In this weekend’s Colorlines reader forum, we asked how white people perceive racism in 2011; one point that emerged from the discussion was that white people see racism the way the media tells them to, i.e. strictly interpersonal. And since ‘actual racists’ have gone the way of the dinosaur, it’s up to us as racial justice advocates to show people that racist systems continue on without them.
Except, well… it turns out the racists are still here. The good news? They’re on Facebook, and they don’t understand how to work the privacy settings.
Enter NotRacistBut.com, a new Tumblr that’s ingenious in its simplicity: the anonymous proprietor searches public Facebook statuses for the phrase ‘not racist but,’ grabs the best finds, blurs out the names and posts them. The result? Eighteen solid pages of old-school bigotry with a 2011 sheen on it. The collection is, perhaps, most impressive for its diversity of subject; name a group of people who aren’t white, and someone on Facebook has broadcast an ill-informed thought about them to the the entire world, under their full name. Progress!
The idea of making a themed blog out of social media screengrabs isn’t new; Lamebook has been around for an eon in internet time, and just last week, Literally Unbelievable swept my circle of friends with its grabs of people who don’t realize that articles from the Onion aren’t real. (How dare the state of Kansas build that $8 billion Abortionplex!)
But Not Racist But, along with its partner blog Not Sexist But, occupy an interesting space in modern social media; they’re making use of publicly accessible resources to illustrate an inconvenient point about modern society. Knowing that racists are on Facebook means knowing that racists hold our same internet-citizenship card; racists went to your elementary school, and racists love your favorite Thursday night sitcom. And some unknown number of said racists are bosses, or parents, or future city council members. Do your own search at Openbook, browse through a few open profiles, and think about it; the worst of us are just as much a product and a producer of our culture as the rest of us.
The problem, then, isn’t "the racists" — it’s that despite our claims that we haven’t seen it around lately, regular ol’ interpersonal anti-POC racism is neither dead nor past. The fight against systemic racism continues, of course, but let’s remember that we’re not all on the same page.