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Beau Martin
Beau Martin

The Complications Of Race And Self-Segregation Online

Early writings on the topic of race online argued that the internet could reduce or eliminate racial discrimination that people of color typically experience in offline settings (Glaser & Kahn, 2005; Kang, 2000). Recent theorizing suggests that social media often requires users to reveal their identities and that doing so can make individuals more susceptible to experiencing racial discrimination (Kahn, Spencer, & Glaser, 2013). In addition, victims may have a potentially permanent record of their online interactions (Palfrey & Gasser, 2008) that they carry around on their devices. While we have quite an extensive literature on general forms of online victimization, research on experiences with race is surprisingly limited.

The Complications of Race and Self-Segregation Online

Gender, race and age differences were examined in direct and vicarious discrimination over the three time points. The results indicated no gender differences in either direct or vicarious discrimination in any of the three years. This was also the case for race (note there are mean differences, but these analyses included counts only). There were, however, age differences such that middle to late adolescents perceived more direct online racial discrimination than youth in early adolescence in the first year. There were also age differences in vicarious racial discrimination; youth who were middle to late (M=1.73) perceived more vicarious discrimination than youth in early adolescence (M=1.06). There were no age differences in individual racial discrimination at time two. However, middle to late adolescents perceived more vicarious discrimination than their early adolescent (M=1.29) counterparts. There were no age differences in direct or vicarious discrimination at time three.

Interestingly, experiences across time appear to account for current events and technological trends. For example, a female student reported seeing the President Obama effigy hanging during his second campaign and election year. Experiences also occur on the most popular online platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. The word cloud below is from year three and reflects the most commonly used words in participant narratives, including the terms racist, black, online, page, people, picture, race, angry, game and Zimmerman (a reference to George Zimmerman, who killed 17 year-old unarmed teen Trayvon Martin in 2012 and was acquitted in 2013) (see Figure 1).

As expected, the majority of the sample reported being victims of online racial discrimination and these reports increased across the three time periods. This is consistent with a general increase in online hate activity associated with the campaign and election of the first African-American president in the U.S. Despite claims of a post-racial America, the Simon Wiesenthal Center (2009, 2012) reported the numbers of extremist and hate sites rose from 6,000 in 2006, to 10,000 by 2009 and to 15,000 by 2011. Not only does this fringe element of society contribute to the racial discrimination that adolescents are potentially exposed to, but average internet users may also be more likely to engage in discriminatory behaviors online (Kahn et al., 2013). Given the perception of privacy online, perpetrators can feel as though they are in a large crowd of others with a low likelihood of identification, which arguably leads to less self-monitoring when expressing beliefs (Kahn et al., 2013). Moreover, research has shown that adolescents may be more likely to engage in discriminatory behaviors when they perceive they are not being monitored (Tynes, Reynolds, & Greenfield, 2004). Scholars posit that although the internet represents exemplary societal progress, online contexts often resemble pre-Civil Rights Era race relations in which prejudice is overtly expressed (Glaser & Kahn, 2005) and discrimination practices are common.

Given the increasing amount of time that adolescents and young adults spend online, experiences of racial discrimination via the internet have implications for their mental health and other developmental outcomes (Tynes et al., 2008). Studies show that online racial discrimination is associated with depressive symptoms, anxiety, lower academic motivation and increased problem behavior (Tynes et al., 2008; Tynes et al., 2014; Tynes, Hiss, Ryan, & Rose, 2015; Umana-Taylor et al., 2015). Most importantly, online racial discrimination contributes uniquely to adjustment outcomes over and above offline experiences. Given the current racial climate in the U.S., it has never been more important for researchers and practitioners to understand how race related experiences impact youth of color over time.

While the benefits of minority student clubs are quite evident, there are several problems that arise from minority alliances. The most recognized limitation to such organizations is self-segregation. Self-segregating tendencies do not exclusively belong to minority students. College students overall possess or develop self-segregating tendencies as they enter an unfamiliar college environment for the first time: "Today, the student bodies of our leading colleges and universities are more diverse than ever. However, college students are increasingly self-segregating by race or ethnicity (Saenz, Ngai, & Hurtado, 2007)" (Martin 7; vol.55 p.720). Several studies and student opinions suggest that minority student clubs amplify students' inadvertent inclination to self-segregate. Students become comfortable with their minority peers. These students may no longer desire or feel the need to branch out of their comfort zone.

Three faculty members from Pennsylvania State University, Ingram, Chaudhary, and Jones, conducted a study that reveals some students feel race-oriented clubs are unnecessary, while others maintain the belief that such clubs have positive benefits. Their study, published in the College Student Journal, examines the social interactions of biracial students in U.S. colleges as of 2014, focusing on the level of interactions, which occur between biracial and mono-racial students, and highlighting recommendations by biracial students for improving inclusivity on campuses (Ingram 2; vol.48 p. 299). Participants of the online survey, the method of collecting data for this study, were asked to respond in an opened ended question about what they think universities should do to create a more inviting environment for biracial students (Ingram 2; vol.48 p. 303). Multiple students responded with opinions opposing the formation of both biracial and multiracial clubs: "I feel instead of having biracial and multiracial clubs the colleges should have diversity clubs and just allow everyone to get together. All these "separate'' categorizing of clubs isn't that just separation of groups?" "Having a ton of clubs that are for specific races is counter-productive. It creates segregation and lack of communication across cultures. (Ingram 2; vol.48 p. 304-305) 350c69d7ab


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