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Staking Territory in the “World White Web”


Early scholarship on the Web suggested that, in an online world, physical markers of marginalization would be invisible and race would become obsolete. Instead, recent research indicates that the Web is a white space that grants easier access and greater power to white users than users of color. In fact, studies indicate that both overt and color-blind racism are circulated online. Still, optimistic scholars maintain hope that the Web can provide a space for meaningful discourse around race and, hence, promote the deconstruction of racism. In this study, we analyze 2,000 comments posted to YouTube forums to examine patterns of overt racism, color-blind racism, and dissent against racism. Logistic regression reveals that comments posted by users identifying as persons of color have greater odds of eliciting overt racist responses than comments posted by users not specifying a racial identity. In addition, users exhibit greater odds of dissenting against overt than color-blind racism—with qualitative themes suggesting some users mistake color-blind racism for dissent. Thus, we argue that both overt and color-blind racism play roles in maintaining white spaces online, with the former maintaining racial boundaries and the latter convoluting conversations about race and impeding the dismantling of racism.

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