When Social Media and Cause Engagement for Minorities Come Together

The use of communications during the struggle for social justice in the United States is far from being a novelty. News spread quickly by word of mouth when black college students started a host of nonviolent sit-ins in several states almost 50 years ago, as The Washington Post’s Krissah Thompson noted. Today, civil rights activists, particularly African Americans and Hispanics, have found in social media a powerful channel to voice their support for a cause and generate cause engagement, according to a latest study by Georgetown University and Ogilvy PR Worldwide.

The study found that nearly one in three African-American adults (30 percent) and four in 10 Hispanics (39 percent) say “they’re more likely to support a cause or social issue online than offline,” whereas one in five (24 percent) of Caucasians expressed the same interest. Likewise, a slight majority of African Americans (58 percent) and Hispanics (51 percent) are more likely to believe that they can help spread the word “about a social issue or cause through online social networks” adding that they feel they’re part of a community by supporting causes online --compared to 34 percent of Caucasians.

The study goes on to say that, although television and print media are still regarded as reliable sources to learn about causes, both African Americans and Hispanics are significantly “more likely than Caucasians to look for social media as an additional source of information (31 and 27 percent versus 21 percent, respectively.)”

The Georgetown/Ogilvy study seems to corroborate a number of successful online campaigns within minority-oriented organizations. Color of Change, for example, is an online civil rights group that has proactively used a large email list of subscribers to champion causes like the fundraising to help reduce charges for a half-dozen young black men in Jena, LA in 2007. Also, the NAACP enhanced its webpage in 2009, started a new blog site, and has revamped its online advocacy list that hovers around 400,000 members.

Also, Thompson noted that a study by the Pew Internet & Family Life Projectfound an increasing preference among minority Internet users for Twitter, and in the past decade, “the proportion of Internet users who are black or Hispanic has nearly doubled—from 11 percent to 21 percent.”

Minorities’ zeal to join causes online signals the importance of social media for furthering civil rights, hence changing the nature of activism nowadays. And it’s proof that, even amid the latest display of partisanship in Washington, communities in the United States can find unity by way of technology.

 

 

The Audacity of Hate: Birthers, Deathers, Deniers, and Barack Obama

 

 

by Walter Brasch

 

 The latest garbage spewing hate as it circles the Internet in a viral state of panic continues a three year smear against Barack Obama.

The attacks had begun with the extreme right wing spitting out Obama's full name—Barack HUSSEIN Obama, as if somehow he wasn't an American but connected to the Iraqi dictator who, despite the Bush Administration's best efforts, had no connections to 9/11.

            When the right-wingers and Tea Party Pack get tired of their "cutesy" attempts to link Obama to militant Muslims, they launch half-truths and lies to claim he wasn't born in the United States. Like Jaws, Jason, or Freddy Krueger, "birther" propaganda keeps returning, even when independent state officials and analysts proved the claims false.

            The issue simmered on Fox TV and talk radio until Donald Trump, the man with the planet-sized ego and the bacteria-sized brain, inserted his persona into the issue, while pontificating about becoming the next president. The media, exhausted from having to cover the antics of Lindsay Lohan and Charlie Sheen, turned their news columns over to the man who would be God—if only it paid better.

The Wing Nut Cotillion, with Trump getting the headlines, then demanded Obama produce a long-form birth certificate—which he did while leading a combined White House-CIA-Pentagon effort to find and destroy Osama bin Laden. The truth still hasn't quieted the conspiracy nuts.

Not willing to accept truth and logic, the extreme right wing, grasping for anything they could find, have attacked the raid that killed bin Laden. Among their screeches are that bin Laden isn't dead . . . that he was killed a week earlier or even years earlier . . . that Obama had hidden the death until there was a more political time to reveal it . . . that it was George W. Bush (who publicly said six months after 9/11 that he didn't care about bin Laden) who deserves all the credit . . . and that while Navy SEALS should get credit, Obama is too weak to have overseen any part of the mission.

And now from the caves of ignorance and hatred comes a much-forwarded letter, which the anonymous author says "shouldn't surprise anyone." Written as fact, the letter informs us Barack Obama: "never held a 'real' job, never owned a business and as far as we know, never really attended Harvard or Columbia since those transcripts have never been released and no one remembers him from their time at either school."

The email of hate further "enlightens" us that "Being a community activist only gives someone insite [sic] on how to assist the less fortunate and dregs of society on how to acquire government housing and government benefits without ever contributing one penny in taxes."

That's right. The Whackadoodles Wearing Tinfoil Caps crowd has escaped again.  

Among those community activists who worked with the "dregs of society," apparently on ways to scam the government, are St. Francis of Assisi (1181–1226), founder of the Franciscan order and patron saint of animals and the environment; Jacob Riis (1849–1914), a journalist and photographer who exposed the squalor of slums and tenement buildings; Dorothy Day (1897–1980), a journalist who founded the Catholic Worker Movement that advocated nonviolent action to help the poor and homeless, and who the archdiocese of New York, at the direction of Pope John Paul II, began a process leading to beatification; and Jane Addams (1860–1935), who fought for better conditions for children and mothers, was active in the progressive campaigns of Teddy Roosevelt and who, like Roosevelt, earned a Nobel Peace Prize. Those who rail against community activists for not having "real" jobs would also oppose Saul Alinsky (1909–1972), who tirelessly established the nation's most effective organizational structure to help the poor and disenfranchised to gain a voice against political, economic, and social oppression; Dr. Benjamin Spock (1903–1998), America's foremost pediatrician, for leading antiwar campaigns; Cesar Chavez (1927–1993), who helped get farm workers respectable pay and decent working conditions; Martin Luther King Jr. (1929–1968) who, with hundreds of thousands of others, forced a nation to finally confront its racism; and innumerable leaders of the feminist and gay rights communities who got America to confront their other prejudices. All were community activists.

Not dregs because they have "real" jobs are the bankers and Wall Street investors who brought about the housing crisis that led to the worst depression in the past seven decades. Also exempt from contempt are the business owners who downsized, right-sized, and shipped their production overseas, throwing millions of Americans out of work.

Barack Obama, castigated for not having a "real job," worked more than a year as research associate and editor at the Business International Corp., three years as director of Developing Community Projects, a church-based group for eight Catholic parishes, and summer jobs at law firms. Other "not real" jobs include being an author, civil rights lawyer, and a professor of Constitutional law at one of the nation's more prestigious colleges. Frankly, it's rather nice to have a president who actually understands the Constitution—as opposed to the rabble who misquote, misstate, and misappropriate it all the time.  

Those propagating the email of hate believe Obama couldn't earn degrees from Ivy League colleges; the subtext is as clear as their refusal to believe in an integrated nation. So, I contacted the registrars at Columbia and Harvard. In less than 10 minutes, the registrar at Columbia confirmed that Barack Obama received a B.A. in political science, and the registrar at Harvard Law School confirmed Obama received a J.D. These are public records. Anyone can ask the same questions, and get the same answer. Logic alone should have shot down these accusations. Obama was editor of the Harvard Law Review, something as easy to verify as his graduation, and he passed the Illinois bar exam—which requires graduation from college and law school, and a personal character test—also a matter of public record.

Even if Obama provided official transcripts, which are confidential, the wing nuts of society will claim that, like the birth certificate and the death of bin Laden, the transcripts were faked.

The truth is that the politics of hate, combined with media complicity and Internet access, has led not to a discussion of issues but to character assassination, with racism and bigotry as its pillars.

 

[Walter Brasch's latest book is Before the First Snow, literary historical fiction that explores the counterculture between 1964 and 1991. The book, to be published June 20, is available at amazon.com]

 

 

 

 

 

 

Online Voter Registration: A New and Inexpensive Way to Register Voters?

Cross-posted to Project Vote’s blog, Voting Matters

Voter registration is becoming easier and more accessible for voting eligible citizens in several states through the growing trend of online voter registration. This new election reform has the potential to be a cost-effective method of enfranchising more Americans, especially as applied to the electronic transmission of applications through voter registration agencies under the National Voter Registration Act.

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Possible Internet Regulations Threaten Opportunity

As reported yesterday on NPR, current efforts by telecom providers threaten access to information and applications on the Internet. Possible changes by the Federal Communications Commission highlight these efforts, which pertain to what power Internet service providers have in restricting access that conflicts with their own interest. What is at stake are the values of opportunity, something that should be examined as the FCC released the proposed regulatory changes for public discussion.

Restricting the use of Internet based alternatives to telephones, such as Skype and other voice over Internet applications, is just one example of what changes could take place. As telephone and cable providers aggressively market often monopolized products, bundling Internet and telephone packages into one service plan, services that are free over the Internet jeopardize telecom companies own share in person to person communications.

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Online Voter Registration Reaches Some Citizens, but Won't Close the Electoral Gap

Cross-posted at Project Vote's Voting Matters Blog.

Access to voter registration continues to be an issue in the U.S. where only 71 percent of the voting eligible population is registered to vote. With young, low income, and minority citizens lagging behind in voter registration and participation, this fraction of registered voters only represents a skewed picture of the American people.

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