How do we define and identify hate speech on a wide scale? It’s quite an undertaking. Facebook trains 4500 manual reviewers with a set of rules designed to apply across the globe. But as they’ll be the first to admit– it often fails. Many incidences of hate speech against specific oppressed groups, like Muslim refugees, fly under the radar, while mildly negative comments about majority groups, like white men, are censored. Reviewers’ tendency to miss hate speech about the very groups that are its usual targets may be traceable to the “color-blind” rule they follow. The idea was to censor hate speech about all identity groups alike, but the outcome is often that majority, but not minority, targets are protected.
Students recently walked out of a University of Wyoming production of The Fantasticks— a hit Broadway musical from 1960 now recognized for its offensive depictions of Native Americans. Almost 50 years later, administrators and theater professors planning a college production grapple with considerations of profound concern to this generation of students. How should they handle racism, sexism, and homophobia in foundational works? How do they incorporate actors of color into plays with traditionally white roles, or avoid pigeonholing them in plays that address problematic histories? For now, the university has added pamphlets to the playbills warning of offensive content.
At the close of last week’s Pride celebrations, the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center, Google.org, and the National Park Foundation announced an initiative to preserve oral histories from veterans of the 1969 Stonewall riots. The Stonewall Inn, site of days long riots between bar patrons and police and a continuing hub of LGBTQ celebration and mourning, was declared a national historic monument last year. Along with other oral history initiatives, like a project documenting stories of lynching by descendants of those murdered, the Stonewall project aims to collect and share stories that might otherwise go untold.