White racist woman; Black anti misogyny woman: Mashable’s cover of two very different Twitter storms
The internet forgets and it forgets quickly. It was exactly 9 months ago that Adria Richards was fired for standing up against sexist behavior that is widely ingrained in the tech world. The coverage of her firing was seeped in the “polite racism” that does not need to name names but can code racialized ideas under the guise of “acceptable discourse” or “propriety”. Back then, the most publicized “defense” of Adria Richards was written by a white woman who not only did not like Richards and clearly said so but invoked all the stereotypes of “uppityness” and “proper behavior” that span centuries of racialized sexism directed at Black women. In commenting about this “defense” (I use quotation marks around defense because with “defenses” like this one, who needs enemies?), I wrote:
Notice how almost all the comments, even those in favor of Adria Richards, many of them (as the one I am quoting here), from White women defending Richards are all about disciplining the uppity Black woman.
They don’t like her tone. Her vocal antics are improper. She didn’t deserve to be fired but… It always boils down to it: the misbehaved Black woman should have known better. Even ostensibly feminist blogs are giving space to such opinions.
This is what happens when WoC do not play by the rules of patriarchal White Supremacy: the racist version of “slut had it coming”. If only she had not been so outspoken, if only she didn’t expose stuff she doesn’t like… if only she had been docile.
Mashable, one of the most read blogs covering issues of technology and the the tech world in the wider sense, had this to say about the topic:
The insane tale of Adria Richards’ dismissal from SendGrid is just the latest example of the social media-based public shaming trend. Don’t get me wrong. I am in no way endorsing Richards’ firing and especially not the horrifying comments and threats she received through social media. Nor am I in any way saying that she got what she deserved.
However, there is a case to be made that this whole incident could have been avoided with one real-life conversation.
Notice the “she didn’t deserve it, but…” caveat which is nothing but a rhetoric mechanism to say “she deserved it”. I mean, what comes after the “however” completely invalidates the previous statement claiming she didn’t deserve to be fired.
Exactly nine months after the above events took place, Justine Sacco, the top PR person for InterActiveCorp, the corporation that owns the Daily Beast, Vimeo, About.com, Match.com and Ask.com, among many others sent out an amazingly racist tweet before boarding a plane to South Africa. The ensuing reaction has been extensively documented all over media and Sacco was fired from her job. Again, Mashable has an article about the events (emphasis mine):
Sacco is nearly impossible to defend. It seems she has left a trail of casual racism across social media on her various travels, making the hacking scenario unlikely, and explaining why her company rushed to denounce her — they knew it was most likely the genuine article. She certainly did herself no favors with this writer by sliming the British in a tweet during her pit stop in London earlier Friday.
Still, it was hard to ignore a disturbing feeling in the mob’s response, and something creepy in the trial by social media that was going on in her absence. You could argue she did it to herself — all those pictures in the album “Too Much Swagger for White Girls (Miami ‘10)” are in the public part of her Facebook Timeline, after all.
Then you could also read the hateful comments recently placed all over her Instagram feed, including on pictures of her child. That’s when you might realize this whole thing has gone too far.
See? Sacco is NEARLY impossible to defend. Not indefensible, not outrageous, not to be shunned, just nearly impossible to defend.
A white racist woman perpetuates awful ideas through social media and she is just nearly impossible to defend. A Black woman stands against sexism and misogyny in the tech world, arguably making technology better for all women and well… she had it coming when she was fired.
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