An antiracist perspective on cyber hate
Cyber hate and crimes on the internet affect all of us but in different ways. People who are racialized as non-white or read as having a certain religion or ethnicity, such as Afro Swedes, Muslim Swedes, Jewish Swedes, Roma, and Sami people are more exposed than the rest of the population.
This marginalization comes from how people read us based on, for example, skin color, language, cultural or religious symbols, and are both structural and individual.
The result of this marginalization affects our freedom of movement and our opportunities to work, safety, school, healthcare, housing, and a healthy life in Sweden. The most common crimes on the internet have the motifs of afrophobia and islamophobia.
More aspects than race play into people's experiences of marginalization. Learn about intersectionality at the Cyber Hate Assistant.
Racism and the history of the term race
Race or racial power system (the power system that divides us into a hierarchy based on understood racial properties) is nothing new. Already during the reconquest of the Iberian Peninsula (parts of Spain) in the late 1400s, the first European racial power system was established through the Spanish royal family.
Jews and Muslims residing in the conquered territories had to choose to flee, die, or convert. Those who did not move and chose to convert were called the New Christians, so they were not full citizens like the Spaniards.
Religious persecution is not exactly the same as racism, but the Spanish royal family introduced blood purity to distinguish between residents with so-called pure Christian blood from the New Christians. Regardless of religion, converted Jews and Muslims continued to be separated from the majority population and their status was inherited by their children.
The term race
One of the terms used to explain the division of the Spanish inhabitants as a species-specific "type" was the word race—which means head or ancestor. In the 16th century, the concept became more common and eventually became the term that explains a social order that categorizes people. This was long before the emergence of biology or genetics, which we often associate with the concept of race today.
Biology or the link between genetics and the term race came from the fact that they were able to scientifically prove biological "fact" in how different races function and look. The so-called "scientific" biology of the term race is a late element in racism's history in relation to how long racism has been experienced and the concept of race has been used.
Racism and concept of race today
The fact that the biological meaning of racism has been phased out has not led to the disappearance of racism. It is only the ethical and scientific basis of the biological race concept that has begun to disappear. The racism we live with today is legitimized and survives mainly through other principles. The concept of race is a product of racism, and not the other way around.
How we use the concept of race today
Today, the term race is used to:
- Explain the experience of being exposed to racism.
- With a meaning that there is an inherited essence of individuals which moves through culture, skin color, religion, or ethnicity, and belongs to different geographical locations on earth.
Migrants—people who are forced to flee, or single individuals who choose to settle in places other than where society expects—become visible norm violators when we express our culture, religion, or have a different skin color or ethnicity than the norm. This visibility means that we are always seen as belonging somewhere else according to today's racist mechanisms.
The racist caricatures that emerged during the colonization and the biology of the race concept live on today in our culture and society. Those of us who are racialized must constantly work around and be accountable for the socio-cultural caricatures that society attributes to us.
It is also the basis of the systematic dehumanization that non-white people are subjected to, where society does not sympathize as much or want to admit the structural violence that is happening to non-whites.
A common misconception about racism
It is a misconception to believe that racism only occurs when white people openly express a disapproval or hatred against other groups based on their skin color. Racism is much more complex and takes place at a structural, institutional, economic, political, and social level.
Sweden's postcolonial history
Sweden has had five colonies located in North America, Africa, and Asia. Our closest example is the colonization of Sapmí. The state colonized Sapmí and the Sami people to gain access to natural resources and land.
The Sami people were forcibly sterilized, forcibly transferred, and murdered well into the 20th century. These types of abuse have also taken place against people with disabilities, trans people, and Roma in Sweden.
Even today, disputes and violations are ongoing between the Swedish state and the Sami people in relation to land, culture, and socio-economic marginalization. Some choose to see it as an ongoing colonization conflict.
It is important to remember that racism is a living phenomenon and is closely linked to Europe's and Sweden's modern development. Therefore, anti-racist work is ongoing work to make visible the structures that generate unequal living conditions or social exclusion.
We can all have the best intentions but not possess the knowledge or tools to act inclusively. That is why we need to exercise some self-criticism and think about our own role within the structure.
More about how racism and marginalization can be expressed or analyzed:
How can racism be expressed on the internet
Can white people be exposed to racism?
Based on an understanding of the racial power system, white people cannot be subjected to racism because the racial power system places white people at the top of the hierarchy. However, all people, regardless of racialization as white or non-white, may be exposed to threats, hatred, harassment, and persecution. A person's relative position and opportunities to power, health, money, security, and success are linked to more factors than race — however, white people benefit structurally.
Exceptions to the rule: white people cannot be subjected to racism
People who are racialized as white can still be subjected to racism and persecution linked to antiziganism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia or other cultural, religious or ethnic markers. Put simply, it is a version of racism that is more linked to religion and ethnicity.
What is anti-racist work online?
It is essential to understand that racism plays into how cyber hate expresses itself. Working preventively means working from an anti-racist perspective on how cyber hate works.
This is done by highlighting potential risks in one's cyber room, having zero tolerance, constantly informing your members about your code of conduct, and using active moderation. It is also important to listen inclusively when members point out things they are exposed to.
If you witness racism online:
- Everyone can and should report hate speech. Those who belong to the affected group should not have to fight their battles alone for everyone's democratic society.
- Dare to go into and respond to racist threads. Studies show that when threads are left unchallenged and no one takes responsibility, physical hate crimes increase.
- Tag the group #jagärhär.
- Do not tag your friends who are racialized as non-white when you witness racism, but take responsibility yourself! Constantly having to be in a battle and read hatred and threats is psychologically exhausting.
- Research and learn more about racism, not just based on skin color — read about ethnicity and religion as well.
Islamofobi.se, Samernas historia UR 2009, Expo,The Living History Forum, Tobias Hûbinette and Malinda Andersson Between Colourblindness and Ethnicisation: Transnational Adoptees and Race in a Swedish Context 2012, Karsten Mûller and Carlo Schwarz Fanning the Flames of Hate: Social Media and Hate Crime 2018