SXSW Panel Summary

by Latoya Peterson


Joined by Phil Yu (Angry Asian Man), Jay Smooth (Ill Doctrine), and Kety Esquivel (NCLR and Cross Left), I moderated a panel at SXSW called “Can Social Media End Racism.”

We organized the panel over email (and one lively dinner discussion) and came up with the main outline for the session.

We began by playing part of the trailer of abUSed: The Postville Raid while people were walking in, to the pull them into the moment and get people thinking about how videos and documentaries help to spread the word about current issues in social justice.

Then we introduced the ourselves.

The panel opened with me explaining what the panel was not. The panel was marked intermediate, which means we were not going to spend time on racism 101. (Jay added that racism 101 has a role and a purpose – just not a role in this session.) We wanted to outline some common experiences with racism online, tackle the question “Can Social Media End Racism,” and ways in which to take action.

The questions posed to the panel were:

    1. What are your experiences with racism online? (And why did you get started using social media)?

    2. Can Social Media End Racism?

We then entered into a discussion about using social media to fight racism.

There are three ways to leverage social media in combating racism in your communities:

1. Spread Knowledge

We talked about podcasting (like we do with Addicted to Race), using a blog as an information resource (Angry Asian Man), and using short videos to explain a point (Ill Doctrine).

We also featured this favorite from Jay Smooth on How to Tell People They Sound Racist:

2. Creating a Refuge

We talked about the need for creating a refuge as sometimes, anti-racists need a place to regroup, or a place to have a conversation without being dragged back into the same five fights about race and racism. I spoke a little bit about Racialicious and our moderation policy here. Kety talked about creating the Sanctuary with other bloggers and protecting that space from assault.

3. Mobilizing the Base

At this point we started running out of time, so we had to condense this section. I briefly covered how social media helped to push issues like Jena 6 and the ICE Raids into public discussion, and how the current controversy around Avatar, the Last Airbender is following those same principles to build a stronger voice to let Hollywood know whitewashing is not acceptable.

Jay and Phil also talked about the ability for cross-regional and interracial organizing that was spurred on by Hot 97’s Tsunami Song.

When then opened the floor to questions and got some amazing ones that will actually become other posts. Some to look out for:

ericajoy: Dear folks at #racesxsw: How do you approach those who swear that racism doesn’t exist anymore and use the “only a few crazy people” argument ?

DocDre: can you defeat racism from a defensive posture? #racesxsw

swirlspice: RT @HopeChat: but don’t we have 2 face the reverse is true. social media can B used as a tool of racism as well. #racesxsw

BlackWeb20: Great question from Dana Boyd about racism across countries and how to combat it/how to deal with the broad geographic context of race conversations? there aren’t agreed about norms, what’s race? what’s racism? #racesxsw

Also, there was an intriguing question which was essentially “how do we deal with real racism, i.e. economic racism?” I’ll tackle both the question and the way it was phrased in another post.

(as determined by the Twitter Feed)

@jsmooth995: “Each racist moment online is like a snowflake, unique and beautiful, and every YouTube comment is like a blizzard.”

@racialicious “A comment said, ‘You’re so angry because you have a BIG VAGINA.’ @newdemographic replied ‘That’s why I keep my LAPTOP IN IT'””That’s why I carry my laptop in it.”#racesxsw (This is the big vagina story).

8asians: Angry Asian Man: “I say fuck comments; I don’t have the time to deal with it. anonymous [comments] emboldens people.” #racesxsw

allaboutgeorge: #racesxsw Peterson: “There’s no ‘end racism’ app or we would’ve pushed that button a long time ago.”

racialicious: @jsmooth995 – “Fighting racism is like brushing your teeth. You can never do enough teeth brushing in your lifetime.” #sxsw #racesxsw

allaboutgeorge: #racesxsw @jsmooth995: “Most of my videos come from watching something on television and feeling infuriated and yelling back at the screen.”

And Nezua, who was not at the conference, for the win: @racialicious actually you can do too much tooth brushing, which erodes the gums….of racism.

(Many thanks to all the tweeps, but especially @allaboutgeorge who made whole quotes for me to copy and paste.)

More Detailed Write-Ups:

Liz Henry – SXSWi: Ending Racism with Social Media

MockRiot – SxSWi Notes: Can Social Media End Racism?

Justin Ellis for the Press Herald – NXT: The Next Generation: Can Social Networks Fix Racism?

I’ll also be summarizing some of the amazing panels I attended at SXSW and talk a bit about the people we met in later posts.

[Tiny Programing note – Y’all I am dying. I have not been home since 3/12. Last week was SXSWi, this week I’m a Poynter Sense-Making Fellow which means I am in Florida this week having amazing conversations with interesting people and after that I am flying to Boston for WAM!2009. Posting schedule is going to be a little off this week and I am late with all my write ups, but bear with me – we’ll be back on schedule starting next week. – LDP]

About This Blog

Racialicious is a blog about the intersection of race and pop culture. Check out our daily updates on the latest celebrity gaffes, our no-holds-barred critique of questionable media representations, and of course, the inevitable Keanu Reeves John Cho newsflashes.

Latoya Peterson (DC) is the Owner and Editor (not the Founder!) of Racialicious, Arturo García (San Diego) is the Managing Editor, Andrea Plaid (NYC) is the Associate Editor. You can email us at

The founders of Racialicious are Carmen Sognonvi and Jen Chau. They are no longer with the blog. Carmen now runs Urban Martial Arts with her husband and blogs about local business. Jen can still be found at Swirl or on her personal blog. Please do not send them emails here, they are no longer affiliated with this blog.

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