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Facebook Endangers Black People

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I think I’m living in a Facebook page sometimes. After engaging, I blame myself for being so accommodating. And, as much I try and “take a deep breath,” I experience a rise in my blood pressure. Given the efforts of the chaos-promoters, Mitch McConnell, Joe Manchin, Krysten Sinema and others, it’s no wonder encounters with fellow Americans leave me questioning why I’m here…

In the US. Still.

Why haven’t I beaten a path to live in an Ontario town near friends?! Here, when I run into a neighbors, yes, “conservatives,” I seem to be the only one who recognizes the presidency was won by Joe Biden! When I bump into them I often suddenly remember I have something urgent to do.

The emotional toll we carry, living in a racially illiterate country, is made worse by social media.

Otherwise, there’s the odd awkward one-on-one. Beyond the initial greeting, what follows is a series of rapid-fire questions. Do you put milk in your coffee? (What?) I supply the answers and then listen to a five-minute description of what transpired when she (it’s usually a woman) purchased of a rug recently.

Apples versus oranges!

What?

Which ones do you like to eat? How about watermelon?

Just when I’m preparing to claim I have that urgent business to tend to, I hear, How do you braid your hair? And, finally, there it is. Always there. I have dreads, I answer back. Or is it “talk back”?

Do you wash it?

No, this isn’t an example of hate speech. Ignorance, yes. But in 2021, what is contributing to this stagnation in race relations in the US? I heard these comments 20 years ago! What is providing the framework for old stereotypes and the sort of misinformation that forces encounters between Blacks and whites to become so stressful—for the Black American?

This spring, I received a set of free veggie vouchers, from a program free to any and all seniors. The coupons were worth $25. To be honest, I imagined myself going out of my way to find a farmers’ market only to be looked at as if a freak. In 2021. I didn’t want to feel uncomfortable! So I offered the coupons to a senior in my building. A male.

There are people selling food stamps! I think I threw my head back. Did I forget, this is America! I explained that the coupons were neither “food stamps” nor part of any “welfare” program. Why should I have explained, anyway. Black Americans toiled in the cotton industry and our free labor is what contributed to the growth of America’s hegemony in the world. But neighbor continued on about what he hadn’t witnessed himself, but what he read online. On the Internet!

So he imagines, as his source intends for him to do, people he has never actually seen “taking” money away from him. The neighbor disseminates what he perceives to be a fact. 

The next day, in a conversation with a woman, when I try to discuss race, I hear this: Are you Black! I don’t see color! Besides, she doesn’t want to hear about “racism” anyway. Tired of it!

Except, when the subject of violence prompts a conversation about crime, of course! In 2021, thanks to Facebook’s business model, Black is a deviation from the norm.

To the white gaze, Black Americans have become a series of algorithms, linking familiar narratives in which Black Americans are depicted as “inferior” or “violent.” So it’s no wonder that a few months after the Insurrection of January 6, 2021 when whites, some armed with flag poles and guns, tried to overthrow democracy by preventing the certification of the 2020 Presidential election, I heard from a neighbor to remember Farrakhan.

What about Farrakhan!

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Who wasn’t present at the Capitol on January 6th. But I don’t respond out loud. What do I know?

In the momentary silence. I see the way I’m eyed. The one before me is an all-knowing American! I see the chin tilt ever so slightly upward. I look again at the outfit, expecting to see a brown shirt…

No, I wasn’t in fear of violence that day. No, not that day.

Violence isn’t something out there. Violence is within me, self-censored, as it should be, by the civilizing effects of whiteness. For whatever is read on Facebook must be truthful. The algorithms never lie. The invisibility of my blackness, that is, my affinity with violence, is invisible to white American eyes, so long as those eyes perceive me as one who remains within the confines of my second-class citizenship. If the algorithms permit Black Americans even to be second-class citizens.

Let there be gaslighting. A cranking out of misinformation. Let there be chaos and confusion. The “Big Lie” has more than 70% of Republicans believing 45 won the 2020 presidency, but Democrats stole it. Black people stole it! People of color in America stole it! It’s a white country, how dare these people take it away from white people!

There had to have been fraud. The whole thing is a violence against white Americans!

An admission: I’m not a Facebook user. Back in 2009 or 2010, OpEdNews suggested that I have a Facebook page. I did for two seconds. I don’t have Whats App or Instagram.

I lost a very good friend months after the 2020 presidential election to a Facebook narrative that claimed the Clintons were killing people. The leaders of Black Lives Matter were lesbians. A Black woman, yes, but she couldn’t support BLM, if its leadership disgraced Black Americans!

In a democracy, a business model favoring the dissemination of misinformation shouldn’t be allowed to exist, let along, allowed to enrich Mark Zuckerberg and circle of shareholders at Facebook. But then this is America and in America, capitalism supports the very chaos Facebook honors.

In a 60-Minute interview, Facebook whistleblower Francis Haugen reported on the business model that has become a danger to our democracy. Facebook, she claims, chooses “profit over safety.” On the one hand, Facebook's mission, Haugen continues, “is to connect people all around the world.” I call the Occupy Movement and the role of the social media giant in linking young people in the awareness of the 99% versus the 1%.

But there’s a downside to Facebook as Haugen points out. “When you have a system that you know can be hacked with anger, it's easier to provoke people into anger. And publishers are saying, ‘Oh, if I do more angry, polarizing, divisive content, I get more money.’ Facebook has set up a system of incentives that is pulling people apart.” The downside is the business model that allows for algorithms to generate hate speech. For profit. How can you generate profits and, at the same time, generate a system that spews hate and ignorance, and believe that the targets of this hate speech should feel safe? No worry.

But we are worried because we don’t feel safe. If we ever did in this country! The number of police shootings alone is alarming. https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2015/05/police-shootings-caught-on-tape-video/. Black people. Indigenous people. Latinx people. We don’t believe this is the way a democracy should be; instead, we live in a nation that is walking, talking, and thinking like a fascist state. We are once again seen as second-class citizens. So seriously, we expect to see the brown shirts, indistinguishable from law enforcement, stomping boldly through American streets. Already militia groups consisting of former police and military personnel are donning the camouflage and amazing weapons for a second civil war.

Connect the dots! It’s not a stretch to imagine pick up trucks of white men with guns, patrolling neighborhoods where predominantly people of color reside. Remember history. Remember the flames engulfing homes, businesses, people. American history. It’s not a stretch to imagine people of color being terrorized. Lynched. It’s not a stretch to see how misinformation normalizes the carrying out of atrocities, here—just as the American-backed Pinochet regime ultimately gathered people to be “disappeared.”

Given this nation’s history of violence against people of color, it doesn’t take much. Then disseminate a narrative in which the “bad” guys are Black people—who committed fraud—by voting and then voting for Biden!

Whenever the Congressional spotlight falls on Zuckerberg, he’s always sorry. He always declares he will do better. Just like America itself when caught in a spotlight. No matter how damaging the wrong, it’s never really America, after all! Zuckerberg, too, claims, it’s not really Facebook, after all! As Haugen states, “Facebook isn’t just his job; it’s his identity.” How do you, then, argue with someone who “depends upon not understanding” what all the fuss is about?

I don’t expect Zuckerberg to recognize his connection to humanity. He’s on the side of the algorithms.

According to Sara Collins, policy counsel at Public Knowledge, one of the 40 organizations in the How to Stop Facebook campaign, “The harms described by Ms. Haugen are fueled by unrestrained data collection and data use” (Commondreams). Another member organization, Fight for the Future, explains that Facebook uses “surveillance-driven algorithms to pick and choose what content goes viral and what content no one sees, in order to keep us all on the platform.”

Who believes these surveillance-driven algorithms will ever speak to the safety of Black Americans? 

blacks

“Facebook's surveillance capitalist business model,” states Myaisha Hayes, director of Media Justice, “is fundamentally incompatible with basic human rights, and disproportionately harms Black and brown communities by silencing our voices while artificially amplifying racist and harmful content.”

In the end, no one is safe in a Fascist state. So, yes, another fight to add to the struggle for democracy in America.

Lenore Daniels