raceAhead: Twitter Called Out for Racist Trolls

July 19, 2016, 2:41 PM UTC

While we were watching Melania Trump seemingly vanquish the haters by nailing her first major public speech at last night’s Republican National Convention opener – more on that in a moment – another very famous woman was not having as much luck with her own.

Actor and comedian Leslie Jones, one of the four stars of the all-female led Ghostbusters reboot, became the latest victim in a pattern of vile, racist online abuse directed at black people, specifically women.

Jones’s Twitter feed had been intermittently filled with racist vitriol, but after the film’s opening weekend, the attacks picked up steam. She attempted to bring the abuse to light by re-tweeting offensive comments and imploring Twitter to help.

Read the whole stream here. Brace yourself first.

It hasn’t been easy for any of the actors, frankly. The project was announced in 2014 as a reboot of the hit 1984 film, starring Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon and Jones. The casting immediately ignited the ire of a small subset of vocal and misogynist fans who believed that female ghostbusters sullied the original concept. They got busy. Just one example: A strategic campaign to protest the film, has made the Ghostbusters trailer the most “disliked” movie trailer in the history of YouTube.

This is yet another moment when we all can and should insist that social platforms to do more to protect the people who use them from unwarranted abuse. (If you haven’t already, please read technologist Anil Dash’s “Online Abuse Playbook,” one of the best analyses out there.) But just like we’re seeing with Airbnb, it’s more than a platform design issue. When people feel that they’ve been given permission to speak, they sometimes say terrible things.

A Twitter spokesperson issued a statement to Buzzfeed. “This type of abusive behavior is not permitted on Twitter, and we’ve taken action on many of the accounts reported to us by both Leslie and others,” it said. “We rely on people to report this type of behavior to us but we are continuing to invest heavily in improving our tools and enforcement systems to prevent this kind of abuse. We realize we still have a lot of work in front of us before Twitter is where it should be on how we handle these issues.”

It’s going to take a special sort of tech solution to iterate the heart.

Jones’s fans are online now, filling her feed with support via the hashtag #LoveForLeslieJ (Credit goes to hashtag creator@MarissaRei1)

Oh, and Melania Trump? Turns out she, or someone in her employ, may have lifted whole sections of her killer speech from another extraordinary black woman, Michelle Obama. And yes, Twitter is having a field day with that as well.

It’s hard not to see the irony. Mrs. Trump may have needed to rely on the details of someone else’s black life to inspire a crowd who seem to believe, as does her husband, that some lives matter more than others, and others, not at all.

On Point

The Republican party’s failing quest for diversityThe Republican post-mortem for the 2012 presidential election had a clear conclusion: Mitt Romney lost because of the party’s lack of inclusiveness and Republicans needed to appeal to young, female and minority voters next time around. This analysis from the Wall Street Journal digs into the current demographics of the Republican party in the Trump era. Is it more inclusive this time around? Short answer: no.
Wall Street Journal

A grim picture of the American dream
Michael D. Carr and Emily E. Wiemers, two economists at the University of Massachusetts, examined “earnings mobility” data to determine how likely someone is to move up the earnings ladder these days as compared to previous generations. It’s as bad as it seems: If you start in a low paying job, you will probably stay at that income level for your entire working life. Those who start life with middle-class wages are faring no better.
Washington Center for Equitable Growth

The coming wage crisis for brown and black workers
Four presidential elections from now, people of color will comprise the majority of the American working class. Not only does this call into question the very notion of the “iconic American worker,” argues Ebony’s Marc Bayard, it will trigger a wage crisis in communities least able to afford it. Latinos and African Americans will remain the two largest minority groups in the U.S.: By 2043, Latinos will be 26.6% of the working-age population while African Americans will be just over 13%.

Can you rewire a racist brain?
Author Steven Stosny believes that racist thinking is more of a bad brain habit than a character flaw. He says that stress triggers an adrenaline-fueled reaction called "toddler brain," one that is intolerant of difference and relies on bias to protect itself. The way to combat toddler brain is to shift your focus to gather facts and input. “Forming habits around adult brain coping mechanisms makes us feel more humane, connected and protective,” he says.
Chief Learning Officer



The Woke Leader

This month is the fiftieth anniversary of Cleveland’s biggest race riot
For nearly five days in July, 1966, the Hough neighborhood of Cleveland was overrun by riots. Historians are unsure about the specific trigger, though the city was in a period of long, economic decline, with white flight, poor public services, widespread unemployment, and overwhelmed police. The aftermath was clear - four black people were killed and dozens of buildings looted and burned.
Cleveland Historical Society

Elle Magazine makes a mistake we can all learn from
When professor Melissa Harris-Perry left cable news commentary for a gig at Elle, a fashion magazine, it wasn’t immediately clear why. Now we know. In this critique of Elle’s August cover featuring artist FKA twigs - and published on Elle's website - Harris-Perry explains why a problematic cover line referencing “Becky with the good hair,” of Beyonce’s Lemonade fame, was such an avoidable mistake. It’s a don’t-miss cultural lesson.

X is for gender neutral: An eXplainer
Journalist Tim Carmody digs into the history and usage of the gender-neutral words that are becoming increasingly popular as people seek more control as to how they are identified. Latinx, is a gender neutral version of Latino, which had previously been the masculinized default term. It's also better for gender non-conforming people. The gender neutral honorific “Mx” (pronounced “mix” or “mux”), an alternative to Mr., Ms., Mrs., etc, was added to Merriam Webster’s dictionary in April.




I love my job. This is the first time I ever can honestly say that I've worked at a job where they actually accepted me for who I am. I mean, I've always been who I am, but the job ain't never really accepted it. This is the first place I've ever worked at that I completely fit in.
—Leslie Jones