In a wide-ranging forum designed to resonate with our own online community, the late summer SMCRVA tackled the tough issues of bullying and online harassment.
Five different speakers addressed the sensitive topic from personal and professional perspectives. TMI Diversity, Inc. (@RVADiversity), specialists in civic engagement and inclusion, sponsored the gathering and moderated the discussion, with audience members providing instantaneous feedback through “clicker” response technology to further fuel the discussion.
“Unfortunately, it’s not a post-racial society,” according to Tiffany Jana, CEO of TMI Diversity. She cited shocking racial slurs posted on twitter recently directed at African American NHL player Joel Ward. Hateful online comments derogatory to women often cross the line into “unacceptable” in the gaming community, as described by Dr. Kristin Bezio, a professor at the University of Richmond. Bezio displayed evidence of the sexist, inappropriate, and truly horrific bullying responses to Anita Sarkeesian’s kickstarter campaign focusing on women in video games. Jana’s and Bezio’s advice mirrored Sarkeesian’s response:
Rise above bullying behavior. Stand up for yourself and stand up for others.
The news organization’s view was presented by Kevin Clay, Editor of GayRVA.com. Although features on the website frequently draw extremely opinionated and hateful comments, their editorial policy is to let all comments remain published. This policy serves to self-regulate the site, as well as expose readers to the range of strong opinion (both uninformed AND supportive) their demographic deals with on a daily basis. Getting the group to focus on “What kind of community do we want to be?” was Richmond’s ‘KindnessGirl’ Patience Salgado. Salgado’s KINDNESS CHANGES EVERYTHING message never wavers, but it was somewhat of a shocker to hear the beloved Kindness Girl confess that she sometimes feels anything but kind! And turns out that’s okay – she’s still loveable and we are too.
It might take effort to be kind. Make the effort.
Perhaps the most personal story of the night came from Chad Brown, who came to this issue from the other side. Brown relayed his own history as an internet troll and explained why for several years he actually thrived on clever put-downs and high-tech hijinks orchestrated at the expense of others. Although he never meant any true harm, he explained he did not really consider consequences of his actions, outside of thinking it was all highly amusing. Until his online actions seriously impacted his life. And ruined relationships. Now, Chad has a new perspective:
You can still have fun on the internet, have a sharp sense of humor, and not be mean. What you say will impact people – so think about that when you post online.