Youtube is one of those websites that has never really appealed to me, for the same reason I never found America's Funniest Home Videos to be entertaining. There are only so many kittens playing keyboards and people getting smashed in the crotch that a person can stomach, and I get more than my fill watching Comedy Central's Tosh.0, and watching links people post to Facebook. When such things are brought to me, I don't feel the need to seek them out further. But recently, one video that was brought to my attention resulted in my exploring the depths of Youtube a bit deeper, and I was horrified to discover one disgusting truth about Youtube that seems to be completely ignored by the world at large: Youtube has given a home to frighteningly outward racism. Not of the sort where a person acts on the fears of their subconscious, skewing their opinions subtly, but the flagrant, overwhelming racism you'd expect to encounter in a "Whites Only" diner in the South in the 1960's.
Last Thursday, Newsvine Columnist Maddad contributed this seed about a bikini-clad woman in Florida who caused a miniature riot in a Burger King. The woman in the video, Kimesa Smith, 31, is black, but you would expect that in the 21st century, no one would contribute her race to her dangerous, childish behavior. Apparently, the Youtube community had other ideas. After following Maddad's link to the Smoking Gun, I navigated onward to Youtube, so I could see the video in full-screen mode. When I got there, I was shocked by the comments I was reading. People saying things like "why did we let n*****s free," and "this is a scene from Planet of the Apes," and an onslaught of comments regarding AIDS in Africa... it's astounding ignorance, the sort you'd only expect to see in a museum. Be warned, the comments you'll read in reaction to this video are most likely going to offend you, so follow this link at your own peril - link.
I tried to convince myself that it was only this video. Maybe something about it drew in the racists. It couldn't possibly be this bad all over Youtube, right? Sadly, this problem is far more epidemic than that. On this video, showing angry mourners attacking a Fox News crew in California, the comments tend toward much of the same ignorant, racist behavior. And while some will claim that the anti-Obama rhetoric we've heard since 2008 has nothing to do with race, some of the comments left on this video of President Obama's Lincoln Memorial concert will show that blatant, outward racism is alive and well in our political discourse.
These are just a few examples of outward racism on Youtube. In discussing this subject with a "Youtube addict" friend of mine via Facebook, she explained that racist comments are "pretty much the norm," and that "the [Youtube community] expects these [racists] to show up whenever the video shows a person of color doing something stupid." Based on some of the anti-racism comments I've seen in response to the hate-filled ones, it seems as though many have simply gotten used to the racism on Youtube. On searching "Youtube racism," it turns out that there's an entire Youtube community of angry posters trying to curb the onslaught of racist remarks left in response to videos, but as of today, it seems as though that community is outnumbered by the ignorant and the hateful.
The reason Youtube is so overrun with racism is, quite simply, their lack of comment moderation. If you were to make an ignorant, racist comment here on Newsvine, the community would completely dismantle your statement, flag your offensive comment, and a Newsvine administrator would swoop in and carry you off like a piece of carrion. We've seen it happen before, and sadly, we'll probably see it again. But Newsvine takes a strong, proactive stance against racism in this online community, and the community itself is just as vigilant. When someone posts something offensive to my column, it gets collapsed by the community or deleted by an administrator before I ever get a chance to see it. On Youtube, however, you aren't able to flag comments for being offensive, off-topic, or inflammatory. The only option you have is to mark a comment as spam.
It seems that Youtube LLC, and Google Inc. as Youtube's owner, don't really mind the offensive commentary accompanying so many of their videos. They've made no efforts to curb the racism, no efforts to allow community moderation, no efforts to hire administrators of their own to combat the phenomenon, and no efforts to discourage such comments from being made in the first place. Either they're completely oblivious to what's happening on their own website, or they know about it and simply don't care, because it would cost them money to fight it, and/ or because the ebb and flow of arguing about race generates more hits for their websites. In either case, both companies have proven their own irresponsibility in this regard, and it's difficult to say which of these forms of tolerating ignorance are worse.
It's no secret that racism is alive and well in the United States. Some people try to deny it, or are simply oblivious to it, or aren't equipped with the skills of reasonable deduction to identify it. But racism is still a serious problem in this country, and the fight to wipe out this disgusting social flaw has been an uphill battle for generations. Racists rarely wear their ignorant inclinations on their sleeves, because in a broad sense, it has become socially unacceptable to engage in such vile ribaldry. But when companies like Youtube and Google ignore this issue completely, their websites become a festering cesspool of intolerance. Until they take a stand against this idiocy, I'll be sure to see videos of bad skateboarders and smoking babies someplace else.