Black Women and Internet Harassment: Why I Am Leaving the Internet

 

I am choosing to leave the internet because the amount of harassment and bullying that I endure as a Black woman is taking a toll on my emotional/mental wellbeing.

In 2009, when I was researching for a college paper, I inadvertently  encountered some Youtube videos by a user (who has since renounced bashing Black women) who had literally hundreds of videos demeaning Black women. I was so shocked by what I heard that I continued to listen to his videos (against the advice of my mother) and this was my first taste of online/racial harassment. Since then, many more people of all backgrounds have created YouTube accounts to specifically harass African-American women.

The negativity became an addiction, like porn or something. At times, I would try to avoid sites that bashed Black women, but sometimes I wouldn’t have to even look for them, they would find me and there is an abundance of negativity directed against African-American women on the internet.

The harassment does not end on YouTube, the harassment exists on blogs, forums and on social media sites like twitter and Facebook.  You might say that everyone gets harassed online, but no, I am positive that Black women are disproportionately targeted for online harassment. There was a study that showed that African-Americans were more likely to experience online harassment. There have been no studies that I am aware of that focus on African-American women, online harassment and the impact that it has on our mental health/wellbeing, but I am certain that if you digest this negativity there is no way that it will not impact you negatively on a mental/emotional level. If any professors or psychologist are reading this, it might be something worth studying.

Personally, I struggled with depression and anxiety and even my college grades were  negatively affected by this culture of online harassment and degradation against Black women.

The internet can be a barbarous place. People will say and write things online unfiltered, so the depths of human depravity and cruelness can be explored without consequence. I’ve been called a black ho, bed wench, n-gger, sh-t-skin, I’ve been threatened with lynching. I’ve been on multiple blogs where I’ve encountered men demeaning Black women and referring to black women as ugly monkeys and no most of these were NOT white supremacist websites in case you are wondering. I have tried multiple means to combat this discrimination, including starting a blog to specifically track internet attacks against Black women, but the job was too big. There was way too much harassment for me to track and it would not have been mentally healthy for me to do so. Most infamously, Psychology Today, a supposed reputable online magazine, published an article in 2011 that claimed that Black women were scientifically and objectively the least attractive people.

I know that I am not the only Black woman who is aware of the harassment and special brand racism that we deal with online.

See article by Terrell Jermaine Starr on Black women and harassment on twitter

I no longer want to deal with it. I choose not to deal with it online. Not only has this harassment affected my self esteem and mental health, but the most devastating impact it has had has been on my offline life. Encountering nothing but negativity online for about 7 years has made me short-tempered, paranoid and irritable with the people that I love most, I’m not able to socialize and bond with people the way  that I used to, I have even lower self esteem. I feel like I am wasting my life on here and missing out on good times with people who actually care about me and don’t judge me based off of my skin color, i.e my family and my friends.

The sad thing is, getting offline won’t make racism go away, no it certainly won’t. All I have to do is recall the incident where I inquired about a job with a manager at a local pharmacy,only to be told that he wasn’t hiring, only to witness him hire countless white friends of mine shortly thereafter, to know that racism extends beyond the internet.

But, I can’t spend my life trying to make people see me as human being and an individual when they have blinders on. Someone told me “if someone judges you just based off of your being an African-American woman, then they are the ignorant ones and that is their problem, not yours. Don’t let them ruin your life.” Tis true, all you can do in life is worry about those who matter and make sure that you’re doing what you need to do to live right and make sure that you are treating others with respect and be an example of kindness.

Forgiveness is something that I’ll need to practice and pray for to live well.

This is not to say that nothing good has come out of my time on the internet, I’ve made some real friends, I’ve learned a lot, especially a lot about the different cultures across Africa and the history of African-Americans. The negativity forced me to research more to find out the root of all these stereotypes. Books like Ain’t I a Woman by Debra Gray White and Sister Citizen by Melissa Harris Perry have helped.

But, I have to move on.  This negativity online has become too much and the only way I can improve my life is to get away from the internet altogether because it’s impossible to avoid the negativity no matter where I go as a Black woman online.

My game plan is to avoid the internet, unless it is for work-realted or school-related research etc.  and to surround myself with friends and family who care about me, become more social and avoid people who mistreat me, get my life back on track and that pretty much sums up all you can do in this life. As Dr. Seuss says, “those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”

I am hoping that once my health care get straightened out, I’ll be able to see a therapist at least twice.

My plan is to only sign onto the internet for leisure 1-2 times per month and for no more than 1-3 hours at a time. During those times, I will do a post on this blog, but I will not be venturing onto YouTube, unless it’s for educational purposes and I am avoiding blogs that are not safe spaces for Black women. Other than that, I am getting off of here.

I am considering installing software to block off the internet on my non-work computer during blots of time to avoid temptation.

I encourage Black women to be careful about the negativity that you take in on the internet. I am not saying that getting off the internet will end your experience with racism, please…but it is one aspect of racism that you can control in your life and avoid.

If you can, I would limit my time on the internet altogether.

It is funny because  you wouldn’t think that words on a computer screen matter and it seems so silly and stupid, but words can hurt…they really can hurt and violence often starts with words…after this weekend, i’ll be starting my game plan.

The internet can be a good thing, in small doses, but beware.

“Those who live out more of their lives online—whether for work, pleasure, or both—are more likely to experience harassment.”

source

Black Women and Internet Harassment: Why I Am Leaving the Internet

10 thoughts on “Black Women and Internet Harassment: Why I Am Leaving the Internet

  1. OriginalWoman13 says:

    I’m glad that you are finally going to stop watching videos and being in internet spaces that demean and degrade black women. I don’t understand why you continued to expose yourself to this all of these years. There are many videos on youtube that is uplifting to black women’s mind and spirit. Why can’t you find those? I told my cousin to stop watching these videos that degrade and demean black women and watch the videos uplifting black women. We have to watch and read things that uplift our spirit to help us build up an emotional wall against anti-black woman misogyny/hatred.

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  2. OriginalWoman13 says:

    I’m getting ready to start a blog in which I will be discussing the man, many, many TREMENDOUS contributions and achievements of black women from ancient times until now. The black woman is the original woman/standard of beauty (remember that, please). Could I have your e-mail address if you don’t mind so that I can inform you when I get it up and running? This blog is for you, sis.

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  3. I’m very sorry that you feel the need to withdraw from the net, Pumpkin. Your voice, and those of women of colour like the people whose comments I read at Abagond’s, are necessary – sorely needed.

    The problem is an intersectional one, a combination of racism and sexism. As a white man I am unspeakably pissed off to be a part of two groups who are overwhelmingly privileged, prejudiced and oppressive. Oh, and I’m straight and cis… make that four groups.

    Every last voice is clearly needed. There are white voices as well as those of POC raised against the way things are. Of course, mine, and those of a lot of other people, are raised from positions of privilege and comfort, but they are no less sincere for that.

    I value your writing here and your comments at Abagond’s and would be very sorry to see you withdraw. But, of course, it is you who has to put up with sh*t that I will never have to face, so I completely respect your decision about when you’ve taken enough of it. I wish it were so easy for you to avoid it in the real world.

    I wish you the very best in everything. I wish you relief from the crap. I wish I could convince stupid people how stupid it all is.

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  4. Rhonda says:

    Reading your post brought tears to my eyes. There is definitely a disproportional amount of hatred directed towards Black women. It’s especially sad when these videos and comments are made by Black men. I don’t have a solution for you but I would suggest that any time you spend on the internet is spent on positive sites and try to pursue some interests in the real world where you have more control of who gets to be in your life and who doesn’t.
    Maybe you could write a book one day…I’ll definitely read it.
    Take care.

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  5. Andy Chow says:

    Hello Peanuts, Pumpkin, Windy,

    I can definitely tell it’s you because I remember your pharmacy experience.

    I’ve wanted to write to you so many times. I actually wrote a short story explaining why I didn’t write to you sooner. Yup, I wrote a 5000 word thingy that explained why I never wrote you back.

    Basically, I didn’t read the blog reference you sent me, which I had already read but not freshly remembered, and you suggested I read that before the donald sterling thingy, and I never got around to it because, well, it’s a long story.

    I want to say hello. I’m doing well. I’m starting a new relationship now. With a woman from Montreal but with Haitian roots. She’s super cool, except when she’s not. I mean, we have our bumps.

    As for the negativity online, or even offline, I think you’re over-reacting. You’re being affected by words and thoughts. Whatever happened to “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me”? Come on baby, we have to fight for what is right until we die. Or at least until we are physically intimidated. I know things said over and over can put you down, but don’t let words hurt you.

    You wrote: “The internet can be a barbarous place. People will say and write things online unfiltered, so the depths of human depravity and cruelness can be explored without consequence.” For me, that is one of the greatest assets of the internet. Free flow without consequence.

    Reading your post again, I want to encourage you. Doing an internet “diet”, controlling when you are online and what you interact with is a very self-actualizing way to get to know yourself by limiting external input.

    That being said, you’ve always seemed to put too much pressure on yourself. You want to change the world. You can’t be expected to remove racism and sexism from the world by yourself.

    I admire your new challenge to control your internet input. But I think that you are making a difference with your blog. I’m a white french canadian male, and I think I learn from your blog. It makes me think. It makes a difference.

    Go on your internet diet. But please don’t abandon your blog. Don’t let the stupid people win.

    Anyway, happy new year!

    That troll, Andy Chow, aka Sébastien, wishing you the best.

    P.S. I want to talk to you again. Maybe we can skype or something like that. Maybe with my girlfriend, she’s a feminist and has a lot of interesting ideas.

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  6. I’m not even black or female (instead being a white male), yet I understand how you feel. If I had a penny for every anti-black racist troll comment or article I’ve stumbled upon the Internet, I could buy myself a penthouse on my own Caribbean island. Even blogs and other websites you’d think would be safe spaces for black women aren’t immune from this shit. There have been multiple instances when I visited a blog ostensibly targeted at black women interested in interracial dating, only to see the commentators or even the admins bashing or distancing themselves from other black women. One of these blogs was run by an Afro-Caribbean lady who exuded this latent bias against African-Americans in general, apparently believing the culture her family immigrated from is inherently superior to “black culture” grown in the US.

    Unfortunately I’ve learned almost impossible to completely avoid Internet racism. For example, when I’m browsing for African-themed art on DeviantArt, I’ll occasionally stumble upon some racist nutjob ranting about how much they hate black people. You can take certain steps to minimize your exposure to online fuckwaddery, but there’s no foolproof shield against it anymore than there is all the other irritating or offensive crap in life.

    All I can really say is good luck to you.

    Like

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