Racist Facebook posts hide fear

What do you call a black president?

| December 27, 2012

In the days after the presidential election, I became intrigued by the racial backlash that permeated my Facebook newsfeed, which included statements such as, "Our way of life is being threatened" and "Obama only won because of 'gifts' he gave to minorities."

The media has reported more extreme Facebook post-election reactions, such as the young California woman fired from her job and under investigation by the Secret Service for calling the president the N-word and wishing for his assassination. That is some serious hateration, but it's not what I'm referring to in this column. Instead, what I am more concerned with are the subtler so-called political statements that barely conceal more ominous racial undertones like, "Taking our country back," which I believe really translates into, "We don't want the country back — we want it to ourselves."

These statements didn't come from strangers or from fringe groups; they were from my associates, maybe not close acquaintances, but certainly people I know. Even more surprising to me, many came from young people. Much of what I saw seemed innocuous until I visited the posters' walls, which contained more inflammatory rhetoric. I found that the seemingly benign statements were actually drone bees sent out from hives.

To get a read on this phenomenon, I turned to my good friend Jerry Miller, a Ph.D. of philosophy, who frequently writes on issues of race. He told me that the dominant culture's sense of superiority in this nation has created our societal and historical concepts of racism. The kind of post-colonialist racial hysteria I was observing on Facebook, he suggested, comes from a position of feeling under attack, or as some expressed on their walls, fearing extinction.

As a mentor, I have spoken to many young people about the difference between formal and informal voice. Many of us vacillate between the two very naturally; our speech and demeanor change when we are in a more familiar group versus one of mixed company. But for some people, Facebook has become the living room in their homes, where they feel at ease expressing their views. Some folks seem to forget or not care that Facebook is not only a public forum — it also archives our commentary.

I found everything from references to the president as the N-word to "retarded"; contemplations of leaving the country or secession; and my personal favorite, calls to action for whites to stick together to avoid extinction. The last reference is the most interesting because it calls into play the concept of being "the other."

If you are part of a marginalized group, then you are very accustomed to being "the other." Based on this Facebook fodder, some white folks seem braced to become "the other" overnight, moving rapidly from their historical place of privilege to acting as though they are victims. Sure, the demographic makeup of this country is shifting, but the historical hierarchy of power will not be redistributed just like that. Therefore, this irrational fear of becoming the other is unfounded or at least premature. Plus, trying to quickly become the other is like trying to join a fraternity without going through the ritual of pledging: You cannot truly appreciate the others' perspective unless you have endured a long period of marginalization.

Political analysts on CNN and MSNBC often speak of the minority populations that are changing the racial landscape in the U.S. I experienced this on a micro level growing up in a predominantly African-American neighborhood in Houston, where today both the elementary and middle schools I attended are predominantly Hispanic. For some of the Facebook posters, such radical change is a terrifying thought. Why?

The ugly truth is that some folks in this country have historically dealt with an unrealistic fear that after the middle passage and slavery, there would be some kind of uprising from the oppressed. Thomas Jefferson expressed such sentiment when he wrote, "I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that his justice cannot sleep forever: that considering numbers, nature and natural means only, a revolution of the wheel of fortune, an exchange of situation, is among possible events."

Well, news flash folks — between gangs, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity and consecutive seasons of Basketball Wives, minorities have more than enough on their plate to worry about than getting back at white people. Maybe for folks who cling to the nostalgia of how things were in this country, the fear is not motivated so much by a threat of extinction as by a guilty conscience.

Charles Easley is a seasoned educator with a background in communication studies and media production. He is a columnist who explores race, class, gender, sexuality and culture, occasionally tempered with humor and insight.


Comments (27)

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Great article! I have noticed some of the very same things you mentioned. I have been angry about some of the total disrespect the office of the POTUS has suffered these last four years. Never in our history have there been such brazen, blatant hatred and disrespect for that office. What's even more disturbing is the tolerance of these acts. Sad state of affairs.

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Posted by MelyndaG on 12/27/2012 at 12:58 PM

Insightful article. I hadn't really thought about how fear was a main reason this particular president has gotten such a disproportionate amount of hatred compared to what he has actually done as president (In my opinion he has done an exemplary job, although of course there are certain things I would still like to see him do.) I had just attributed it to, as you perhaps would call it, "living room" racism. But fear of the inevitable probably is the main cause of the hate. I think if being cultured was a more valuable trait to mainstream America, and taught more in primary ed, we wouldn't have this problem. We are a nation of immigrants and the indigenous, this is what has propelled our innovation and made it the special country it is. (Oh and in case y'all forgot white folks were NOT the indigenous...lol). These comments come from a mindset that is on the wrong side of history, and in that we can take solace. I think this fear permeates our culture in such negative ways...it also gives the NRA and gun owners such clout.

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Posted by Asher Webb on 12/27/2012 at 1:54 PM

@MelyndaG Thank you so much for your historical and continued support Diva!

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Posted by Charles Easley on 12/27/2012 at 7:01 PM

@AsherWebb You also share some valid points my friend. Thank you for reading and sharing your perspective on this topic!

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Posted by Charles Easley on 12/27/2012 at 7:02 PM

Well said! Thank you for sharing this insight with others, hopefully it will shine the light of understanding and change.

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Posted by Shannise Jackson-Ndiaye on 12/27/2012 at 9:12 PM

Now that you got the conversation started I am ready to take this to the living room with my glass of wine of'course and build on this with others like we use to do back in the day. I "got" that feeling. Well written Brother Charles. I am proud to know you and now have one more reason not to miss picking up my issue of Creative Loafing.

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Posted by Isis Reddick-Umoja on 12/27/2012 at 9:46 PM

This was an amazing article and I had to share it with friends. This hits the issue head on... Love it.

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Posted by aadd89 on 12/28/2012 at 9:01 AM

@Shannise Thank you for reading and I hope folks will begin to think a bit differently.

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Posted by Charles Easley on 12/28/2012 at 5:20 PM

@ Isis Thank you Diva...smile Let me know when you are going to have that living room conversation with a few glasses of wine...lol

Posted by Charles Easley on 12/28/2012 at 5:21 PM

@ aadd89 Thank you for reading and sharing! Hope to hear from you again...smile

Posted by Charles Easley on 12/28/2012 at 5:23 PM

I find it impossible to believe that many Obama voters voted for the President because of his policies. Do the Obama voters here support the Wall Street bailouts? Do you support Fast & Furious? Do you support drone strikes that have killed hundreds of children and multiple US citizens (including a 16-year-old boy) with no charges ever having been filed? Do you support the extension and expansion of George W Bush's PATRIOT Act? Do you support the Obama military budget which is larger than any of Bush's? Do you support warrantless wiretapping and indefinite detention of US citizens without charges ever having been filed? Do you support billions in foreign aid feeding the death and destruction wrought by both sides of the Palestinian-Israeli dispute? Do you support military aid to al-Qaeda allies in Syria and the positioning of 400 Patriot missiles on the Syrian-Turkish border? Do you support US troops remaining in Afghanistan and being sent back into Iraq? Do you like the prospect of your children and grandchildren being debt slaves to billionaire bankers and foreign governments who own our $16,000,000,000,000.00 debt?

All of these things are Obama's actual actions while in office. You got your "free" BCPs that cost a whole $9 at RiteAid, meanwhile your monthly premium goes up $25 and straight into the coffers of insurance company executives.

I challenge all the Obamatons who are going to click "dislike" three times a day to voice their support for the guy's policies as I articulated them above.

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Posted by Obama Is George W Bush Jr on 12/28/2012 at 5:24 PM

Whites are forced to hide their racism using the relative anonymity of the internet today because political correctness causes severe financial penalties when racists views are openly expressed. It also causes whites a lot of stress because they believe it should be covered by free speech but Jews have gotten all of it labeled as hate speech.

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Posted by Egregore on 12/30/2012 at 6:00 PM

Obama Is George W Bush Jr:

You have many valid points, but was the other team promising to end any of those programs, most of which were started on their watch? I seem to remember the Republican candidate promising to increase the military budget 10% a year and build 15 new Navy ships a year including 3 new nuclear submarines. I heard the Republican vice presidential candidate call for the total elimination of the capital gains tax. Capital gains is the primary source of income for people like Mr. Romney and other members of the 1%.

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Posted by DLP on 12/31/2012 at 8:25 AM

"Do you like the prospect of your children and grandchildren being debt slaves to billionaire bankers and foreign governments who own our $16,000,000,000,000.00 debt?"

Most of that debt is owed to the Federal Reserve and to the various federal trust funds. I bet Fox News told you that it is owed to China, didn't they?

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Posted by DLP on 12/31/2012 at 8:31 AM

@ DLP,

To your first post: There were more candidates than Obamney and Rombama on the ballot. So you're going to need more game than the third-grade-level "I know you are but what am I?" hyperpartisan claptrap. Can you bring it?

To your second post:

"The fact that we are here today to debate raising America’s debt limit is a sign of leadership failure. It is a sign that the U.S. Government can’t pay its own bills. It is a sign that we now depend on ongoing financial assistance from foreign countries to finance our Government’s reckless fiscal policies.

Over the past 5 years, our federal debt has increased by $3.5 trillion to $8.6 trillion.That is “trillion” with a “T.” That is money that we have borrowed from the Social Security trust fund, borrowed from China and Japan, borrowed from American taxpayers. And over the next 5 years, between now and 2011, the President’s budget will increase the debt by almost another $3.5 trillion.

Numbers that large are sometimes hard to understand. Some people may wonder why they matter. Here is why: This year, the Federal Government will spend $220 billion on interest. That is more money to pay interest on our national debt than we’ll spend on Medicaid and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program. That is more money to pay interest on our debt this year than we will spend on education, homeland security, transportation, and veterans benefits combined. It is more money in one year than we are likely to spend to rebuild the devastated gulf coast in a way that honors the best of America.

And the cost of our debt is one of the fastest growing expenses in the Federal budget. This rising debt is a hidden domestic enemy, robbing our cities and States of critical investments in infrastructure like bridges, ports, and levees; robbing our families and our children of critical investments in education and health care reform; robbing our seniors of the retirement and health security they have counted on.

Every dollar we pay in interest is a dollar that is not going to investment in America’s priorities."

Senator Barack Obama
Senate Floor Speech on Public Debt
March 16, 2006

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Posted by Obama Is George W Bush Jr on 12/31/2012 at 11:32 AM

Hey Mr. Easley,

You ever gonna thank ME for MY comments?

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Posted by Obama Is George W. Bush Jr. on 01/04/2013 at 10:29 AM

He probably won't, Mr. Obama-is-George-W.-Bush-Jr., because 1) you're an asshole, and 2) you're a troll who uses whatever topic is at hand to harp on about Obama and all the rest of the things YOU are angry about. If you had actually read Mr. Easley's column, you would know that it's only tangentially about President Obama. The real topic -- the one you don't address, because you're too busy spouting your talking points -- is racism in social media. If you have something intelligent to add to that discussion, Mr. It's-All-About-ME, I'd bet Mr. Easley would be glad to thank you.

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Posted by Brian, your savior on 01/04/2013 at 6:11 PM

Wow savior, I din't realize that a column that mentions "the presidential election" and Obama by name in its first paragraph is "only tangentially" about Obama.

As far as your ad hominem attacks, please provide the date, time and location this weekend that you'd like to deliver those in person. Other than 2-4 Saturday for the Tar Heels basketball game, I'm free anytime to receive your salvation, "savior".

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Posted by Obama Is George W. Bush Jr. on 01/08/2013 at 11:10 AM

@ DLP,

Your buddies at McClatchy seem to think the debt is held by China:


"Without a new debt ceiling, the government lacks the ability to borrow in order to pay the debt it already has incurred and owes. It could be forced to determine an order on who gets paid first, China or the elderly, in the event no deal is reached."

I'm sure you'll send them a correction since you are right that the Fed (i.e. Goldman and other Primary Dealers) own more debt than the Chinese. Feel free to cc me on that correction.

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Posted by Obama Is George W. Bush Jr. on 01/08/2013 at 12:54 PM

Wow, 4 years later still hiding behind the cowardice race card. So typical of you liberals. PS, President Libya Cover Up is 1/2 white.

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Posted by Mike Austin on 01/13/2013 at 8:30 AM

Wow, 50 years later still hiding behind the conservative card. So typical of you racists.

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Posted by Brian, your savior on 01/14/2013 at 5:19 PM

Yo Brian... missed ya this past weekend. In case you missed it, my invitation still stands:

As far as your ad hominem attacks, please provide the date, time and location this weekend that you'd like to deliver those in person. Other than 12-2 Saturday for the Tar Heels basketball game, I'm free anytime to receive your salvation, "savior".

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Posted by Obama Is George W. Bush Jr. on 01/15/2013 at 2:15 PM

@Mike Austin Thank you for reading but not sure about your reference.

Posted by Charles Easley on 01/23/2013 at 12:00 PM

@Obama Is George W. Bush Thank you for reading and you seem to have some definite opinions on politics.

Posted by Charles Easley on 01/23/2013 at 12:00 PM

@Egregore You bring up a valid point that I used to frequently discuss with students in class in how our demeanor changes when we think we can communicate in anonymity. Thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts.

Posted by Charles Easley on 01/23/2013 at 12:04 PM
Showing 1-25 of 27

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