RACISM | BLACK LIVES MATTER | SOCIAL MEDIA
Sometimes It’s Hard to be a Woman (on Social Media)
What’s the answer to the constant tone policing and gaslighting?
As a woman, and a Black woman, I’m used to a certain amount of tone policing. There’s always someone who wants women to express themselves in the way that men have deemed more appropriate. You only have to look at the superhuman effort Kamala Harris made to rein herself in the 2020 US vice-presidential debate despite the constant disrespect by Mike Pence. (Her face spoke volumes, though.) #imspeaking
But anyway, I didn’t realize how much the racists and trolls have it all their own way on social media. Here’s what I’ve seen on LinkedIn within the last week alone:
- A Black woman temporarily banned for highlighting anti-racism
- A white woman temporarily banned for highlighting anti-racism
- A Black woman report that she had received death threats because of her anti-racism content
- Differing treatment of the same content posted by Black and white LinkedIn members
- A shadow ban that hid a post calling out white supremacy
Meanwhile, as always, the posts (mostly, but not exclusively by white men) that gaslight lived experiences of racism get to stay up.
But these seem to be empty words, not supported by the lived experience of Black voices, and Black women’s voices in particular, on LinkedIn. If content by anti-racist voices is suppressed while content by racist voices is allowed to stand, something isn’t working.
The truth is, that if you pay lip service to supporting and promoting diverse voices but actually hide their content, you’re upholding the status quo and supporting racism.
And, let’s be clear, though I’m focusing on LinkedIn right now, this happens on other social media platforms, too. I’ve written before about my experience on Facebook, and I know many experience it on Instagram.
My personal experience is that I get more visibility for my content on LinkedIn than on other platforms, but even that has fallen from thousands of views to tens of views in some cases.
And you know what’s really messed up? Every time another Black person dies, my feed gets temporarily more diverse and visibility spikes. This might just be my perception, I admit, so I’d love to hear if anyone else has experienced the same thing.
For Black creators, LinkedIn and other social media algorithms work in a counter-intuitive way. You get most visibility when you don’t include hashtags or links (heaven forbid you should make anti-racism content easier to find, right?). Put in hashtags and links and your post might as well be in cold storage.
The suppression isn’t stopping people. It’s just making it harder.
#BlackLinkedIn is a real and growing thing. You can check out some of the voices worth listening to in this New York Times article:
The Stars of Black LinkedIn Have Had It With Corporate Racism
The tamest social network has become a thriving outlet for Black users to call out marginalization in the workplace …
So, what are Black, Indigenous and People of Color to do? And what are Black women to do? It’s becoming more apparent that Black people can’t rely on these largely white-owned and managed platforms to do the right thing.
My initial solution was to start my own newsletter to share my anti-racism content directly with people and amplify other voices that don’t get attention. That’s one approach, but it’s a slow one.
Maybe our Black millionaires and billionaires need to invest in a more diverse social media platform where our voices and opinions, and those of non-BIPOC antiracists are heard. That could be a quicker way to achieve critical mass and really focus attention on important issues.
Or maybe we need to start thinking about how to move beyond the confines of social media platforms, whatever that might look like.
Only then can we stop getting suppressed by algorithms and focus on the real, necessary work, and the good trouble of dismantling white supremacy and ending racism.
If you have thoughts on how we can achieve this, I’d love to hear them.
© Sharon Hurley Hall 2020