By Guest Contributor Danah Boyd, cross-posted from BlogHer
Every time I dare to talk about race or class and MySpace & Facebook in the same breath, a public explosion happens. This is the current state of things. Unfortunately, most folks who enter the fray prefer to reject the notion that race/class shape social media or that social media reflects bigoted attitudes than seriously address what’s at stake. Yet, look around. Twitter is flush with racist language in response to the active participation of blacks on the site. Comments on YouTube expose deep-seated bigotry in uncountable ways. The n-word is everyday vernacular in MMORPGs. In short, racism and classism permeates every genre of social media out there, reflecting the everyday attitudes of people that go well beyond social media. So why can’t we talk about it?
Let me back up and explain the context for this piece … three years ago, I wrote a controversial blog post highlighting the cultural division taking shape. Since then, I’ve worked diligently to try to make sense of what I first observed and ground it in empirical data. In 2009, I built on my analysis in “The Not-So-Hidden Politics of Class Online”, a talk I gave at the Personal Democracy Forum. Slowly, I worked to write an academic article called “White Flight in Networked Publics? How Race and Class Shaped American Teen Engagement with MySpace and Facebook” (to be published in a book called Digital Race Anthology, edited by Lisa Nakamura and Peter Chow-White). I published a draft of this article on my website in December. Then, on July 14, Christoper Mims posted a guest blog post at Technology Review entitled “Did Whites Flee the ‘Digital Ghetto’ of MySpace?” using my article as his hook. I’m not sure why Mims wrote this piece now or why he didn’t contact me, but so it goes.