Many of us spend our daily lives never talking about race let alone interacting with another race. Not only is it very easy to hide a daily routine of segregation but also it is not even a behavior we attempt to curb. There seems to be a segregation mentality around the country that I only seem to have coincidentally realized when I enrolled in a school in one of the most segregated states in the country.
Of course this is rarely ever discussed out in the open. The mere mention of race is enough to draw questionable looks followed by a list of pre-planned phrases or sayings that ensure that the speaker is not viewed as racist. Different types of segregation, especially housing segregation, contribute to this purgatory state of race. Despite this segregation there is one thing that we all share in common, and that is the use of social networking sites. Yet housing segregation has begun to affect social media. By using social networking sites such as Twitter we can see how integrated an individual is with different races within the area.
The way Twitter is set up favors racial microcosms to form. The style is very elementary; your tweets relate to my life because you are near me, therefore I follow you. What ends up happening is that the individual using the site generally follows people who live in the same area and have the same values as they do. As expected due to housing segregation many of these people tend to belong the same race.
According to analysis of censuses from 1980 to 2000, the majority of minorities continue to live in communities that mostly consist of other minorities. Another study of the 2010 census concluded, “The average white person in metropolitan American lives in a neighborhood that is 75% white.”
Who an individual follows on social media may be a clear indicator of how willing or able an individual is to leave their racial comfort zone and therefore how integrated they are in their surroundings. The result of all this “online segregation” is a Twitter community that does not resemble a community but instead echoes a pre-civil rights movement U.S.
Online segregation is most noticeable when looking at trends or memes. The speed of information through the Internet leads to trends such as the Harlem Shake and memes. Online segregation plays a vital role in how these trends are perceived or even interpreted by the other race. For example, the Harlem shake phenomenon took off in the white Internet community while many in the black community looked on with disgust. A popular video on YouTube interviewed residents of Harlem, New York, and came to the same conclusion.
In the same fashion certain black trends are either viewed as idiotic/classless or generally ignored. An example of this would be how the rise of twerking on the Internet (brought on by Miley Cyrus) has been painted as a rude dance. One thing I’ve noticed is that one of the few times another race is mentioned on the white Internet community it is normally accompanied by feelings of animosity. Trends such as the famous Antoine Dodson news broadcast and the Sweet Brown video serve as a testament to the prior claim. These videos are a form of micro-aggressions and become popular for the wrong reasons. They are popular because of the stereotypical image they paint of African-Americans/Asians/Hispanics and not because they are genuinely funny.
Segregation in the real world has made it to the place where we were all supposed to be equal. The stark contrast between the races has never been so clear or so close. This newfound segregation increases the gap between equality and makes it harder for us to connect as people. To think that what brings us together could be used to segregate and display all our differences is as astonishing as it is uncanny.
Daniel Roque ([email protected]) is a sophomore majoring in neurobiology and political science.