André Brock on Race and the Internet

André Brock on Race and the Internet

At a conference presented by The University of Iowa's Forkenbrock Series on Public Policy, "Conflict and Civility in Political Discourse: Where Is the Line?" André Brock presented findings from his recent research about race and the internet. He brought to the attention of the mostly white audience that "racial identity online is assumed to be white unless context or discourse suggests otherwise," pointing out that whiteness is articulated as a silent norm. With regards to a specific blog, StuffWhitePeopleLike.com, Brock used Critical Technocultural Discourse to analyze the site. Using this angle, he analyzed one post on the blog and its over fifteen thousand comments: not an easy task.

The blog post he chose to focus on was simple, a picture of the cast of Friends with President Barak Obama's head photoshopped into the group with the words "Because white people are afraid that if they don’t like him that they will be called racist," which he projected onto the screens to either side of the panel table. (Side note: he was the only one of the three presenters to take advantage of these screens.) He pulled out several of the more incendiary comments on this post, being sure to point out that since the participants in the discussions know that the discussion is happening in a public space they are more likely to be as inflammatory and incendiary as possible. However, he noted, "Racial attitudes shape online interactions regardless of context, but it becomes more apparent when race is the topoi" or topic. He reiterated that we like to think of the internet as a race-less. body-less space, but in fact the default internet identity is white, male, and middle-class. While on the internet "there is more disguised racist discourse, less overt racism, but race and racism is a fact in all discourses," online and off.