With the growing usage of Twitter as a platform for social justice discussion and organization, a persistent question has been whether and how to combat casual racism in 140 characters or less. The success of hashtags like #NotYourAsianSidekick suggest that Twitter is a powerful tool for bringing together like-minded Millennial activists, yet Twitter is also a hotbed of racism, misogyny and bigotry that can, at times, derail those same constructive conversations.
Over the weekend, two examples of casual anti-Asian racism had “Asian Twitter” in an uproar: a racist Facebook persona awash with yellowface stereotypes created by a local NYC artist, and a Twitter storm of racism and misogyny targeting University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Chancellor Phyllis Wise.
Both examples of casual racism used Twitter and Facebook as a platform for their racism, and both were the targets of overwhelming Twitter-based backlash. These back-to-back incidents beg the question: does Twitter promote, or merely amplify, casual racism, and how effective a tool is it in combating that same racism?