By Nita Jalivay.
Like many teachers, I enjoy using technology as a tool to boost my students' level of understanding and engagement in class. I admit I am not the most computer savvy instructor, but I navigate just fine through the myriad websites that offer teachers portals to other worlds, ones through which we voyage with our students. The internet has enabled my kids - many of whom have rarely had the opportunity to leave
Sometimes, though, I am loath to search my favorite sites for certain types of content-specific material. For instance, when I recently showed my summer school class some YouTube footage on American slavery (the film having been written, directed and produced by a black artist), at the bottom of this very intelligent story were the sickest, most racist comments that one could conjure up. Line after line, my students - all of them minorities and between the ages of 12 and 15 - were subjected to repeated assertions that blacks are "niggers", "apes", "animals", and "savage criminals". The posters argued that slavery was justified to keep blacks under control, to force them into roles of subservience and submission to white people. (Just the information I need to build the character and confidence of a room full of young black minds!)
One could argue that abusive YouTube comments don't represent the populace at large, and are instead the work of immature young people with too much time on their hands and no significant goals. I thought that at first, too, until I started checking a variety of other clips on the site, ones I assumed would draw the interest of intelligent, introspective people. I clicked on footage of the black expatriate writer, James Baldwin, and scrolled down. Sure enough, the "comment barbarians" - as I have come to think of them - were posting in full force, denouncing
Tragically, like a quickly mutating virus, a hardcore strain of racism still thrives in our so-called "post-racial" society. Whenever I read local news at philly.com, I am taken aback at the number of comments from everyday Philadelphians who malign the black community for seemingly every societal ill there is. The statements range from offensive to flat-out destructive. I have read calls for blacks "to go back to
Many of my friends, also educators, point out that the behind-the-scenes internet hatred in
The expressions on my students' faces as they read internet comments are enough to rock any sentient person's soul. First the kids emit nervous giggles, a defense mechanism. Then, as all children are wont to do, when the gravity of the words set in, their features crash down like an avalanche, their joy and youthful innocence imploding at the idea of people depicting them and their communities as "animals". "Racial stuff like that was only supposed to take place in history," they tell me, drawing from our discussions of civil rights activism in