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?
We’re going in on Day 5 of #NotYourAsianSidekick, the hash-tag that blew up the Twitterverse with a conversation on Asian American race identity and feminism. And, boy, has it sparked online and offline conversation. Hash-tag founder Suey Park (@suey_park) has joined forces with 18millionrising (@18millionrising) to schedule appearances on several mainstream media outlets talking Asian American feminism — which is remarkable visibility for the Asian American feminist community. Meanwhile, several established Asian American writers have offered their comments in the pages of Time Magazine and theWall Street Journal. And as of this writing, #NotYourAsianSidekick is still going strong with new tweets being published every few minutes; further, NotYourAsianSidekick.com was launched this week (now with free stickers!).
But, of course, the question on everyone‘s mind is: what’s next?