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Impact of the Internet on Racism

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Criminology
Wordcount: 1814 words Published: 8th Feb 2020

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Racism has a part of history for a very long time. Society has moved on from blatant direct racism to a quieter secretive and hidden approach. Ridiculous laws such as the Jim Crow laws no longer exist. Racism is deeply rooted in the structure of society (Melican & Dixon, 2008; Keum & Miller, 2017; Simmons & Lecouteur, 2008). The dominant group has been conditioned to believe other racial groups will replace their existence. Us versus them mentality is born from this belief (Keum & Miller, 2018). Today people prefer not to talk about anything having to do with race is public. However, the topic of race is deeply engrained in our daily lives. Due to the advancement of technology racism has found a place on the internet (J. A. Steinfeldt, Foltz, Kaladow, Carlson, Pagano, Benton, M.C. Steinfeldt, 2010). The internet has become a powerful tool for recruiting, reaffirming beliefs, and communication between hate groups. Social media and news outlets.

Racism on the Internet

Keum and Miller (2018) state that individuals are more likely to come across racist content and racism on the internet. Racists use the internet to reinforce and promote their beliefs. The internet is an inexpensive way racist can broadcast their message to a wide audience (Bliuc, et al., 2018; Chau & Xu, 2007; Daniels, 2012; Melican & Dixon, 2008). Hughey and Daniels (2013) describe the internet as a nonconsensual racial fantasy and state that it is “a world in which minds are privileged over bodies” (p. 333). Messages often go viral rapidly using clever and creative ways. Once an image is uploaded it is repeatedly shared through the internet. There is plenty of racist material on the web (Keum & Miller, 2018). Racist material is not only limited to images and symbol. Users can download music, games, and videos (Bliuc, et al., 2018). It is impossible to escape racism online because of how the web functions as a third space for people who wish to have an intimate discussion while avoiding face to face interactions. It has shaped the internet in a drastic way by possibly creating new ways for racist behavior to appear (Back, 2002; Bliuc, et al., 2018; Daniels, 2012).

Online Anonymity

Two journal articles (Melican & Dixon, 2008; Keum & Miller, 2018) elaborated on the concept of online anonymity, which the user can stay anonymous and avoid face to face contact. Racists can hide behind a screen using a completely different persona. The ability to disguise themselves allows them to be able to speak freely without facing any consequences. Keum and Miller (2018) argue that racist take advantage of online anonymity by voicing their ideologies freely. The rules of the physical world do not apply to the internet. Therefore, what is believed to be social norms are not applied on the internet. Because of this user are more likely to not take interactions seriously. If during a discussion something inappropriate is said they can simply walk away from the computer versus a face to face discussion where the person must be held responsible for their actions (Keum & Miller, 2018). Back (2002) ties in the concept by stating using anonymity white nationalist can justify and propagandize their objectives openly.


Social media has now offered the opportunity for racist thoughts to be communicated anonymously online. Personal devices such as computers or cell phones have propelled the spread of old racist ideologies by having access as the tip of your fingertips. While surveying English football fans about 80% agreed that social media did propel racially. Racist material on social networking sites are not only driven by racist themselves but also by those who turn a blind eye to or even sometimes encourage their content biases (Cleland, 2014).


On February 26, 2012, Trayvon Martin was shot and killed by George Zimmerman. The news covered this shooting for an extended amount of time. Hodges (2015) discusses how racism affected the way Trayvon’s death was portrayed in the news. Trayvon’s race ultimately determined whether Zimmerman would be investigated or seen as an honorable citizen who was simply protecting themselves. Negative stereotypes are constantly being associated with people of color. A young black male walking around in a neighborhood is automatically seen as suspicious. (Daniels & Hughey 2013). Hodges (2015) examines how a racial slur used by Zimmerman held importance. If the term used was derogatory it would destroy Zimmerman’s character and automatically be labeled as a racist. Many argued in his defense stating that Zimmerman did not use a derogatory term. Several news excerpts were used to question what exactly he had said over the phone. CNN was determined to prove Zimmerman was a good non-racist person. Hodges (2015) states subtle forms of racism are ignore while obvious hate crimes are easily recognized.

 Online Hate Groups.

People who share common beliefs tend to come together and conjugate to online hate groups. Throughout time hate groups have increased in number. In 2001 over 405 hate sites appeared on the internet (Adams & Roscigno, 2005). According to Hale (2012) is there currently is anywhere between 25 to 350 hate groups across online communities. Adolescents are targeted as new members to online hate groups because they are easily influenced (Lee & Leets, 2002). A recruitment tact involves luring young children to bright vibrant colored websites that offer help with their homework (Chau & Xu, 2007; Hale, 2012).


The 21st century has seen the evolution of racism.  has taken the place of unlawful policies and overt racism. The internet has become a common ground for racist to interact and confirm their ideologies. Online anonymity allows them to share insensitive material without facing any real consequences. Racism is apparent in social media and the news. The groups are growing and recruiting younger people.

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People tend to get uncomfortable when discussing the reality of racial disparity. Avoiding face to face conversations about racism negatively affects society. In my opinion, the likelihood of having an honest conversation about racism will not occur any time soon. After analyzing articles online interactions and the media continue to only strengthen the views of white supremacists. Racism is not as obvious as it was before but does not mean it cease to exist. Society has been conditioned to believe the color of someone’s skin determines their worth. Hodges (2015) refers to the term social alexithymia which is defined as ‘the inability of a great many whites to understand where African Americans and other people of color are coming from and what their racialized are like experiences’. People of color are criminalized and treated as second-class citizen daily. Those who do not want to get out of their comfort zone and face the reality of racism in are causing to those around them. Morally speaking I do not understand how people look down at others.


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