Race Relations and Internet Fandom

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by: Nancy Baym

The New York Times has an interesting article today about being a black fan of indie rock (they do have the cultural memory to point out that the whole darn genre of rock was invented by black people), that includes this interesting paragraph:

The Internet has made it easier for black fans to find one another, some are adopting rock clothing styles, and a handful of bands with black members have growing followings in colleges and on the alternative or indie radio station circuit. It is not the first time there has been a black presence in modern rock. But some fans and musicians say they feel that a multiethnic rock scene is gathering momentum.

One of the early utopian dreams was that the internet would erase race. That certainly hasn’t happened. To the contrary, most racial representation and discussion on the internet is disturbingly stereotypical and racist, and a compelling argument can be made that on the whole, the net is either a space where people assume everyone is white unless they’re in explicitly non-white spaces, or where racism is magnified. Or both.

It would be great if one consequence of fans using the net to connect with one another were that we ended up with more conversation and recognition of commonality across racial lines. A white student of mine told a story about going to meet a friend she had made through a fan board and when she got there discovering that her friend was black. Race was a non-issue in their friendship before they met, and remained one afterwards. That’s how it all ought to be.

 Original Post: http://www.onlinefandom.com/archives/race-relations-and-internet-fandom/