Warning: This post contains language some may find offensive.
At first glance, it seems like a clever bit of Internet Darwinism: If you don’t possess the savvy to privatize your obviously racist social-media activity, then your employer receives a call — or 10 or 20 — about your inappropriate online brain-drippings.
That’s the mission of the new Tumblr blog “Racists Getting Fired.” It seems like a natural progression in a world that’s already home to the “Yes, You’re Racist” Twitter account. The account publicly shames Twitter users expressing racist sentiments by retweeting them, especially if their tweets are qualified by “I’m not racist, but …”
Racists Getting Fired doesn’t just publicly shame — it adds consequences by rounding up those willing to call a business to say they don’t want to patronize a place with an employee who says things like “#Ferguson one less n—– on #foodstamps.”
The Tumblr quickly took off. Racists Getting Fired gained nearly 40,000 followers in a matter of days, with 15,000 submissions in the first eight hours of the blog’s existence, according to its moderator.
But there was a hitch that revealed a problem with Internet blood-lust: Sometimes the torch-wielding throngs get it wrong.
Such was the case with Brianna Rivera, a woman who certainly appeared to have posted racially charged hate speech to her Facebook account. Later, Racists Getting Fired was alerted Rivera was a victim herself; the account was a hoax created by an ex-boyfriend and submitted to the Tumblr with the aim of not just getting Rivera fired from her job at a movie theater, but smeared as well.
This led to new submission guidelines: among them, that users only submit authentic public profiles with links to corroborate screen shots, and of posts that are obviously, explicitly racist. The moderator vowed to vet future posts before publishing them.
Because Racists Getting Fired grew so popular so quickly, the moderator, an anonymous, queer-identified woman, found herself staring down threats from 4chan, she said. Early Tuesday morning, she published a request seeking new moderators to take over Racists Getting Fired, or even create a new blogs with the same goal if hers was shuttered. After soliciting legal advice in an earlier post, she shared this message:
i began this blog much to publicly, with an excess of personal information bc i could not have forseen the skyrocketting of attention this blog has received. i was not prepared for the legal threats, nor for being hunted by 4chan doxxers and other anti-social justice websites. so it is too late for me.
moving forward with the knowledge of my mistakes, i am looking for new moderators to completely take over this blog. for your safety and for the longevity of this movement, you need to be damn well versed in the language of online security, you need to be able to mask your presence and cover your tracks. i will only consider serious inquiries.
Despite this misstep, Racists Getting Fired has already proved to be highly effective. The moderator created a section called “gotten” documenting those fired once their employers were made aware of their workers’ racist online ramblings. It’s full of sullen apologies from the terminated offenders — and victory e-mails like this one from Brown’s Car Stores in Virginia:
Earlier today, Brown’s Car Stores was made aware of racist and other inappropriate posts made by an employee. Brown’s does not condone nor does it tolerate racism, bigotry or any other expression of prejudice or discrimination against anyone of any race, gender or religion. We have taken immediate action and the individual is no longer a part of the Brown’s family.
In recent days, there’s been much discussion of how to get people to keep paying attention to the problems highlighted by Ferguson once protesters are no longer blocking freeways and marching through city streets. And one way to do it has been to force businesses to take a hit. Protesters in Missouri shut down malls and occupied major stores on the biggest shopping day of the year. Most media outlets, including The Washington Post, did not attribute the 11 percent drop in Black Friday sales to the efforts of #BlackoutBlackFriday and #BoycottBlackFriday, however.
There’s an argument that it should be financially untenable to support racism. To that end, Mother Jones recently compiled a list of Fortune 500 companies it said were “funding the political resegregation of America” by donating to the Republican State Leadership Committee, an organization the magazine charges with bankrolling GOP gerrymandering efforts that created majority-minority voting districts. That list, or the thinking behind it, could easily be traced back to the same sentiment that fueled the creation of the now-defunct BuyBlue.org. James Watson, the “father of DNA” has certainly found that there was a steep price for making racist comments in 2007: He’s now selling his Nobel prize as a way of making up for his lost income.
That argument probably has something to do with why Racists Getting Fired has been successful: It’s not just that employers are horrified by workers’ use of the n-word or clearly racist stereotypes, it’s that they can’t afford to become painted as racist, either. Though this tactic doesn’t do much to target structural, institutionalized racism, Racists Getting Fired provides clear means for attacking individual racism, and it probably provides a gleeful jolt of dopamine when there are actual results.
So there are questions: What are the goals of Racists Getting Fired, beyond well, getting racists fired? Does it want to teach a lesson? Does it want to ensure there are meaningful consequences to publicly spouting racist venom? Is the idea to eradicate this sort of thinking or simply put it out of view of polite society? One would imagine that a man who loses his job after calling the president a “p—y a– n—–” and threatening to kill undocumented immigrants isn’t going to execute an about face when it comes to his racial politics. In fact, there’s a good chance he digs in his heels and simply learns how to better conceal his prejudices. Is that victory?
Whatever the fate of Racists Getting Fired, its moderator has let her thoughts be known. “I will retire, but this will not die,” she wrote. “YOU CAN’T KILL US ALL … WHITE SUPREMACY MUST PAY.”