Illustration by Hannah Robinson
On 23 October in Congress, congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez highlighted how Facebook does not fact-check their political ads, and how this can be used to manipulate the masses. This is an example of the complete lack of integrity evident in our news sources, which has been sacrificed in favour of profit.
It is important to acknowledge this corruption on a societal-scale, because our model of conversation is now based on social media interaction, and this is one that values quantity of clicks over quality of content. Naturally then, this facilitates comments, new stories, and posts that are designed to insight aggression and disagreement. This is a vicious cycle that relies on criticism to form its own argument about its critics in a feedback loop that makes no progress but cashes-in on the flurry of clicks and interaction it produces. This has been capitalised upon by the likes of Piers Morgan, Russian bots, The Sun, and of course Mark Zuckerberg.
The media and politics encourage us to dismiss each other, and to write out streams of our opinions with no room for compromise or nuance. The same is true for conversations surrounding racism. It is now expected that an article or news story is written from a stance of unshakable self-proclamation, and it is expected to be met with the same unshakable self-proclamation. If we are obsessed with being right, with listening to the sound of our own voice, and believe that the opposition is too wrong to credit listening to, we are also being manipulated. And this manipulation puts money into someone else’s pocket.
Because of the resistance it insights, we are conditioned to believe that BAME rights take away from the rights of dominant groups. This obviously pre-dates the social media era, but right-wing outlets have picked up on the success of this story line. This sentiment is not true. We are better together. We are better in a world where there is equality, which will benefit us all. It feels ridiculous to say it so plainly, but we have clearly lost sight of this as a common aim.
There is no reason why we cannot talk about race in terms of coming together, sharing, taking productive action, and strengthening our arguments and society. We have been taught to disregard this approach in the face of neoliberal values and a political climate that treats diversification as a series of discrete economic outcomes.
The conversation surrounding race needs to include everyone, and everyone needs to listen to each other. This is near impossible under our current circumstances, so we must find a way to carve a common ground from our current online and offline forums. We need to find a space away from the influence of capitalist discourse. We shouldn’t treat disagreement as a publicity stunt or an opportunity to virtue signal. This type of space will encourage us to question our conditioning, regard unconscious bias with a critical eye, and actively listen to BAME and marginalised groups.
We must change the way we talk about race, and how we talk to each other. We need to learn how to trust that our opposition will listen to us, and for our opposition to trust that we will listen to them in turn. We can decide to value constructive conversation, active listening, and accepting accountability not as a defeat but as a learning experience. This decision is an act of rebellion in a society that profits from polarisation.