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Speaker addresses cyberracism and hashtag activism

Lisa Nakamura gave a lecture on cyberracism, hashtag activism and the challenges of social media on Thursday afternoon.

Nakamura is an American Culture Studies and Screen Arts professor at the University of Michigan.

She said social media is like a playground.

“Social media is like the playground when you were a kid,” Nakamura said. “There are the strong bullying the weak. The algorithm of social media is the yard duty.”

Nakamura said she was bullied as a child but the person in charge of watching the students at recess was always different so they never knew who had picked on who the day before.

Many social medias claim to be “content agnostic,” which means that anyone can post anything.

Nakamura also talked about trolling, when people post something racist or sexist to envoke feelings in order to get a comment, tweet, status shared even more.

“People talk about trolling like it’s a glitch,” Nakamura said. “That’s pathetic. Racism online is the norm.”

She went on to talk about campus anti-racist hashtag activism, mostly #BBUM [being black at University of Michigan] on Twitter and ItooamPrinceton on Tumblr.

One BBUM tweet from Nov. 19, 2013 read: “Being a third generation Wolverine and still hearing, ‘Are you a first generation college student?’ #BBUM.”

ItooamPrinceton is a Tumblr page when Princeton students take pictures of themselves with signs usually dealing with discrediting racial stereotypes. The page is helping prevent cyberracism by disabling comments on the page

Nakamura spoke highly of Tumblr, which she called a feminist space.

“There is better work on race and gender on Tumblr than in the academy,” Nakamura said.

She said school is too expensive for some but sites like Tumblr do not require money or a degree to post content.

Nakamura then asked that everyone in the room breakup into small groups and create a tweet or sign that described the racial climate at the University. After that, the groups rejoined and spoke together about their thoughts.

One teacher said her students are afraid to talk about race. That makes her afraid to talk about racism because some might think she’s being racially insensitive.

Other hashtags the groups made included: #colorblindracism, #whiteprivelage and #Mexicanisnotalanguage.

Another woman made up the hashtag “#ButObama.” She said people think because President Barack Obama is president all of our problems go away and racism no longer exists, but that’s not true.

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