A lot of social media comments this weekend on the killing of 50 Muslims in two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand.
Facebook removed 1.5 million videos of footage of the carnage and Mia Garlick of the social media giant says they continue to “work around the clock to remove violating content from our site, using a combination of technology and people.”
About 1.2 million of those videos, filed by the murderer who used a helmet cam as he drove to the site and opened fire at the mosques, were blocked immediately during attempts to upload the material.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern demands “further questions to be answered” on how Facebook and other social media sites handled the used of their operations to play a prominent role in the debacle.
Answers must come not only on the use of social media but in our societies in general about the hate and violence that brought about this latest attack of terrorism.
Many were quick to point to the hateful rhetoric of American president Donald Trump as a cause of the attacks. While Trump is an opportunistic player in the spread of hate of Muslims and issues like immigration, he benefits from the racism, intolerance and bigotry that has existed in America since its founding and a world where culture looks down at anyone who looks different, espouses a different belief and practices a different lifestyle.
Brentan Tarrant, the Australian white nationalist shooter charges with the attack, spouted his hatred of Muslims on Facebook and other social media and is the suspected author of an online “manifesto” that declared all non-whites “enemy to the world” and urged removing all of them from the face of the earth.
The levels of hate have increased worldwide in recent years and we see it locally in discussions over breakfast at restaurants.
I saw vicious, hate-driven racism first hand as an elementary student in Prince Edward County, Virginia, in the 1950s when the racist school board and board of supervisors closed the public schools to avoid obeying the law to integrate. They opened an all-white “private” school, called Prince Edward Academy, and left any non-white child in the county without a public education for more than a decade.
The hatred spewed from the lips of my maternal grandfather, who used disgusting racial epithets in discussions about minorities and literally screamed in anger at the TV set whenever an African-American appeared on screen.
Trump, as president, refused to condemn white nationalists and the racism that drives the movement. In responses to the massacres in New Zealand, he said white nationalism is “not a rising threat” and “it’s a small group of people.”
Others disagree and continue to blame Trump for the rise of white supremacy in America.
“Time and time again, this president has embraced and emboldened white supremacists — and instead of condemning racist terrorists, he covers for them,” tweets Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.). “This isn’t normal or acceptable. We have to be better than this.”
Are we “better than this?”
The 74-page “manifesto” posted online by the accused New Zealand shooter, hailed Trump as America’s symbol “of white identity and common purpose.”
On social media every day, I see hatred towards Muslims, gays and others who do not embrace protestant Christianity as the “only true religion.”
But Christianity is only one of many religions practiced around the world, in America and even in Floyd County.
We are a nation founded by immigrants who fled Europe to escape, among other things, religious persecution. During my prolonged hospital stay after a violent motorcycle accident that should have killed me in 2012, many Christians prayed for my recovery, sent cards and came to see me.
I have tried to thank each of them, just as I have also thanked the gay police officer who prayed with Amy as I lay in a coma, the Muslims, Jews, Buddhists and, yes, agnostics and atheists who came by, sent cards and offered support on social media.
America is a mixture of cultures, beliefs and ideologies. My wife is half-Lebanese. So is former Floyd County Commonwealth’s Attorney Stephanie Shortt, who is now a judge. Wife Amy proudly proudly declare she is not white but is “beige.”
I’m a mixture of Scot, black Irish and Seminole. Under the stereotypes of some, I’m a “half-breed” who is not “truly white.”
Good. I’m proud that I’m not white, but I am an American and citizen of a world of different cultures, different beliefs and different ideologies.
I’m color blind and damn proud of it.