In our ever-increasing Internet-involved society, people can get into serious hot water for making racist comments online — for good reason — but a new Tumblr blog called “Racists Getting Fired,” which aims to out them to employers for eventual dismissal, goes too far.
Forget for a second the myriad problems or minefield of possible mistakes that could end in a comment or idea being attributed to a person’s Twitter, Facebook or other social-media account. For example, if a hacked account or the rantings of a jealous or jilted lover come up in this scenario, consider if it could be an effective tool in raising awareness and combatting the history of racism in American society.
After grand juries in Staten Island, N.Y., and Ferguson, Mo., declined to indict white police officers involved in the deaths of two unarmed black men, the issues of power, race and equal justice have become lead stories again. But these are everyday issues in our society which mark the diurnal interactions and realities of many millions of people in the United States, not just something in passing headlines.
The “Racists” site on Tumblr — a microblogging and social-media site that allows users to post text, photos, quotes, links, music and videos from various platforms — does nothing to address issues of race and justice in a larger context. Race and racism are not isolated problems to one town, city or region. They are national, historical features of American society, and getting someone fired over individual comments does very little to address them broadly.
Any and all hate speech, off-color humor and jokes in poor taste have no place at all in the workplace, ever. However, the Tumblr account makes no goals apparent other than outing the person and getting them get fired — and leaves too much open for misinterpretation, opinion and just plain mistakes to make it a decent or even good idea.
“Racists Getting Fired” has already proved quite a success; as of today, there are nearly 40,000 followers and more than 60,000 notes on its page since it was created in late November. The blog only seeks to expose online racist behavior and post where the poster works in an attempt to shame a person’s employers and bring pressure to fire them. The blog followed a Twitter feed that already debuted called “Yes, You’re Racist,” which reposts hateful speech made online as well.
Should people just mind their own business? Probably not because hate should be exposed, but is this the right way to bring attention to a cause?
“Why aren’t you posting examples of racism against whites?” one poster recently asked on “Racists Getting Fired.” “Plenty of material out there. Apparently you only think white people can be racist. Racism is divisive regardless of the source.”
In response, a moderator who began the blog wrote: “lol, this was submitted anonymously by email@example.com. your ahistorical, willfully ignorant view of racism isn’t welcomed here.”
Other issues with the blog, such as privacy invasion, have also been raised by posters.
“I know racism is a huge problem and none of these peoples remarks are acceptable,” another poster wrote. “That being said, I certainly don’t think the way this blog and the people who submit to it try to ‘fix’ it does anything more than potentially ruin someone’s life by stripping them of their income, and make the blog submitters look like absolute creeps for stalking down someone’s personal and work information. These guys should be smarter than to publicly post their comments.”
“First off what a submitter does is not stalking,” a moderator shot back. “Stalking is a very serious issue and shouldn’t be equated to this or thrown around lightly. Checking a couple public sources to get information freely given to report racist public behavior to an employer is nowhere near the sort of criminal behavior of stalking. Demanding accountability for racist actions and words is not stalking.
“In the US people may have freedom of speech, but so do we and employers have every right to terminate an employee based on what they choose to say publicly. This isn’t “gettingracistsarrested” it’s “racistsgettingfired,” the moderator added.
In fact, if a person was found to have made hateful comments and was fired for them, I believe that could cause them to disengage even further, not open their mind or bring more awareness to their Stone Age views. It’s a ridiculous way to shame people online. What about the person’s children, of if they rely on their job to support an elderly family member who didn’t do anything wrong and shouldn’t be made to suffer for their relative’s bad judgment?
There is also a troubling vigilantism at work here. Why is it the job of untrained, anonymous people to out racists? As far as the blog states, or omits, the moderators aren’t specially trained or educated to handle these complex issues — they are just more angry people online.
Education and diverse experiences are the best and possibly only ways to combat racism, not faceless online hazing.
Noah Zuss is a reporter for TheBlot Magazine.