The overuse of “racism” is becoming a shield for hate speech

The Internet has given the public a broader scope for freedom of expression but has also encouraged the growth of hate speech. The most obvious disadvantage is that the uncontrolled expression of emotions and wanton online violence of hate speech can produce defamatory graphic videos, damaging other people’s rights to reputation, privacy and other personal rights, and causing mental stress and trauma to the victims. At the time of writing, Hailey Bieber is subjected to constant hate speech and even death threats from fans of Selena Gomez and Justin Bieber. Halle Bailey is subjected to constant online violence for her black portrayal of the Little Mermaid. The topic of racism is one of the most poignant, as they pin unfounded charges of racism and hate speech on innocent people in the name of political correctness. Over time, this politically correct content, wrapped in the appearance of fighting racism but with hate speech on the inside, will limit people’s freedom of expression and put the Internet in a dead-end cycle where whoever mentions anti-racism will take the moral high ground.

What is hate speech

Hate speech has been defined as speech that ‘expresses, encourages, stirs up, or incites hatred against a group of individuals distinguished by a particular feature or set of features such as race, ethnicity, gender, religion, nationality, and sexual orientation’ (Parekh, 2012, p. 40). Hate speech can be transmitted in any form, including pictures, videos, words, objects, gestures and symbols. Hate speech denies values such as tolerance, inclusion, diversity, and the essence of human rights norms and principles. It can expose the target group to discrimination, abuse and violence, and social and economic exclusion.

With the development of the Internet, hate speech is increasingly focused on the Internet context and refers exclusively to all kinds of online statements that vent and channel hostility. Increasingly, people are taking advantage of the Internet’s inadequate regulation and ease of distribution to engage in indiscriminate verbal violence on the Internet.

What is racism

(picture from University of Pittsburgh)

Racism is an ideology and social behaviour: the belief that different races or colours can explain differences in characteristics and abilities between people and that one race is superior to another; it is also an expression of prejudice or discrimination based on judgements of race or colour. According to the United Nations International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (1965), the term “racial discrimination” shall mean any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life and recognising, enjoying, or exercising an equal footing of human rights and fundamental freedoms. It is important to note that “preferences” are also considered an act of discrimination.

Racial discrimination becomes a privilege

As the world becomes more aware of racial discrimination, it has become a topic that is increasingly avoided. Racial discrimination is one of the most sensitive words in the United States. All Americans are avoiding it, especially those in the service industry, which could be fired if found racist. Today America, and indeed the world, is in a very delicate state where the word racial discrimination, which produces an inexplicable constraint on everyone, is wholly exploited and developed into a unique weapon and shield. In American society nowadays, to be identified as racist would be a severe consequence, and the American public, therefore, is desperate to avoid being misunderstood or having other problems. This is especially true on the Internet, where some very nonsensical reasons can be seized upon and amplified as a racist issue. Apple’s emoji, for example, is aware of this problem and offers five skin colour emoji for use by everyone. However, the barbarians suggested that the palms of the hands and feet of people of different skin tones have very little melanin and that the palms of all people are the same colour and made racist accusations of stereotyping people of colour.

Black lives matter 

(picture from BBC)

Black Lives Matter is an international rights movement that protests violence and “systemic discrimination” against black people, originating in the African American community. While BLM protests often follow police shootings of black people, the movement also opposes broader issues such as racial profiling, violent law enforcement and racial inequality in the US criminal justice system. Jelani Ince, Fabio Rojas & Clayton A. Davis (2017) mentioned that

“BLM” trickled into national discourse after several police killings of unarmed African Americans. The event that propelled it into mainstream popularity was Brown’s 9 August 2014 killing in Ferguson, MO, a suburb of St. Louis. After Brown was killed, many Americans on social media outlets began using the hashtag to cry for racial justice. 

There is no denying that racial discrimination is a long and contradictory issue and that we should treat people of all colours equally. However, in the Black Lives Matter movement, many people are using the fight against racism as an excuse to make their hate speech, which is not conducive to the elimination of racism or the development of free speech on the Internet. Many brands and individuals have been attacked on the Internet during the Black Lives Matter campaign. In the film industry, for example, gone with the Wind, which won eight Academy Awards, was attacked on the Internet for being racist and was eventually taken down. Moreover, in addition to Gone with the Wind, another classic American comedy, Old Friends, was criticised for its lack of racial diversity in episodes. Marta Kaufman, co-creator of the TV series, apologised in an online women’s dialogue forum.

Black toothpaste, which sells extremely well in Asia, was considered racist and was denounced by BLM organisations. The Auntie Jemima brand, created by Quaker Oats, has existed for over 130 years. However, its image has been criticised as racist, with anti-discrimination advocates believing that the brand image of Auntie Jemima is based on a slave-owning black maid, a stereotype of black people! Over the years, the Quaker Oats Company has changed the image of Auntie Jemima to weaken her image as a slave servant, for example, by making her slimmer and lighter. However, it has not changed the image of black women, so the brand has not escaped the radical protesters’ criticism after the outbreak of the anti-black discrimination campaign. The “Auntie Jemima” brand has not escaped the accusations of radical protesters.

Something even more magical is happening under the banner of the BLM movement. A group of black students at the prestigious University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) emailed a professor named Gordon Klein, saying that the recent protests showed that black people had been treated unequally, so you had to let us pass this week’s exam. After Gordon Klein asked, “If there are students who are mixed, like half African and half Asian, how should I privilege them? Should I give them half or should I give them all?” quoting Martin Luther King, Jr., who taught that students “should not be judged based on the colour of their skin”, the students’ request was denied. The students complained to the school that Klein was racist, and someone even PO’d Professor Klein’s response online, calling on everyone to sign a petition for the school to fire Professor Klein. As a result, the university was pressured by the BLM movement and sacked the professor.

This is more than what the BLM movement itself seeks to achieve. This is not public opinion; this is a public opinion held hostage. Because of these people on the Internet who post HATE speech under the guise of confronting the racism that racism is not better addressed, God deifies the contradictions of racism. As Jacob (2017) said:

The problem in American society today is that racism is being redefined to tailor to specific agendas. These agendas aim to broaden the definition of racism to include actions and ideas that used not to be traditionally seen as racist. By doing so, racism can be claimed more frequently to justify perceived injustices and difficulties.

In today’s internet world, it is not uncommon for good people to use racism as a shield to attack and abuse others. Racism as a shield, abused at will, is failing to uphold the image of black people and exacerbating the tensions between black people and other races and increasing the divisions in society. “racist” is threatened by a current tendency to overuse the term. Some feel that the word is thrown around so much that anything. Some feel that the word is thrown around so much that anything involving “race” that someone does not like is liable to castigation as “racist”. 

At a time when everyone is turning away from black people, afraid of being branded a racist for any action or some thoughtless word, when it is fashionable to be a victim because if you are a victim, you are not personally responsible for any of your problems, the conflict of racism will become even more challenging to resolve. How is it not a form of HATE speech to haphazardly label others as racist?

How to solve


Most racism stems from stereotyping a particular race. Stereotyping of any race should be avoided at an early age, regardless of race. When people stop stereotyping a particular race, they will be more rational when faced with sensitive issues. They will therefore be able to see things more rationally, avoiding being infected by others and being susceptible to emotions that can lead to hurtful behaviour in the absence of calm judgement.

The information cocoons

“The “information cocoon” originated from people’s choice of information preferences. People only choose content or groups like their beliefs, opinions, ideas, values, etc.; in the long run, they will shackle their lives in a cocoon-like silkworm cocoon. In the age of online media, the use of algorithmic recommendation technology has reinforced the “information cocoon”, and the result is that when people are confronted with a news event, they hear voices like their own, making it difficult for them to have an open mind or a broader perspective on an event. We need to break down the information cocoon and create a world where all those who participate in the Internet can draw on information freely. The freedom to draw on information is the prerequisite for freedom of expression.


Both online regulators and internet platforms should raise their standards of regulation. Freedom of expression on the Internet does not mean freedom from online violence and freedom of hate speech. Appropriate control mechanisms and punishment mechanisms will help to curb online hate speech. as flew (2017) suggested, “the large-scale circulation of hate speech and other forms of online abuse shows that this kind of free speech absolutism needs to be considerably modified in the current legal, regulatory, and business” Fernández (2017) made the following doubt:

First, platforms need more explicit rules about hate speech. Second, there is a chain of liability in the moderation of content from platforms to other Second; there is a chain of liability in the moderation of content from platforms to other actors (human end-users and non-human algorithms). Third, there is a certain arbitrariness in enforcing rules since platforms police content in an ‘ad hoc’ fashion (Gillespie, 2017). Fourth, questions still need to be answered about whom and what gets to moderate content: who are platforms’ moderators and the users who flag? What ‘algorithmic techniques’ (Rieder, 2017) are involved in these processes? 

So, platforms and government regulators should be more explicit about rules and responsibilities.

Real names

As Europe, C. of. (2013) mentioned: ‘Together with anonymity comes the feeling of impunity: the agents of hate speech may be aware that they are Together with anonymity comes the feeling of impunity: the agents of hate speech may be aware that their actions are illegal, unfair or immoral, but they are convinced that nothing will happen to them.”

The real-name system on the Internet starts with the Internet subjects, which can constrain Internet users to abide by public morality on the Internet consciously, establish online integrity and regulate their online behaviour at source; after all, real-name Internet users will consider their own identity and influence before speaking out. Strengthening the extension of social responsibility on the Internet can play a good role in preventing cyber violence and crimes.

Avoiding racist speech that expands the concept of racism

The theme of “racism” is becoming a central, if not the only, concept used to label morally questionable behaviour, attitudes and social practices related to race. We should be more explicit about the definition of racism, and not every instance of racial conflict, insensitivity, discomfort, miscommunication, exclusion, injustice, or ignorance should be called ‘racist’. It is more important to avoid using anti-racism as a banner for hate speech at a time when “racism” is so pervasive because it does not help to eliminate racist contradictions. We should not be faced with “racism or nothing”.


Parekh, B. (2012). Is there a case for banning hate speech? In M. Herz and P. Molnar (eds), The Content and Context of Hate Speech: Rethinking Regulation and Responses (pp. 37–56). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Gillespie, T. (2017). Governance of and by platforms. In J. Burgess & T. Poell (Eds.), The Sage hand- book of social media. Sage. Pre-Publication Copy. Retrieved from content/uploads/2016/06/Gillespie-Governance-ofby-Platforms-PREPRINT.pdf

Europe, C. of. (2013). Bookmarks – A Manual For Combating Hate Speech Online Through Human Rights Education. Council of Europe.

Blum, L. (2009). Racism: What It Is and What It Isn’t. Studies in Philosophy and Education, 71–84.

Friedersdorf, C. (2021, May 17). Distinguishing Between Antifa, the KKK, and Black Lives Matter. The Atlantic.

Ince, J., Rojas, F., & Davis, C. A. (2017). The social media response to Black Lives Matter: how Twitter users interact with Black Lives Matter through hashtag use. In Ethnic and Racial Studies (Vol. 40, Issue 11, pp. 1814–1830). Routledge.

International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination – Human rights at your fingertips – Human rights at your fingertips | Australian Human Rights Commission. (n.d.).

Maranto, J. (2017, September 25). Opinion: Overuse, misuse of term ‘racism’ can lead to more issues.

Matamoros-Fernandez, A. (2017). Platformed racism: the mediation and circulation of an Australian race-based controversy on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. Information, Communication & Society, 20(6), 930–946.

Rieder, B. (2017). Scrutinizing an algorithmic technique: the Bayes classifier as interested reading of reality. In Information, Communication & Society (Vol. 20, Issue 1, pp. 100–117). Routledge.

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