From Racial Microaggressions to Hate Crimes: A Model of Online Racism Based on the Lived Experiences of Adolescents of Color

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Book Chapter

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Microaggression Theory: Influence and Implications


There has been rapid growth in research on racial microaggressions since the publication of Sue et al.’s (2007) seminal piece (Wong, Derthick, David, Saw, & Okazaki, 2014). A recent review of the first five years of research noted 59 articles resulted from the authors’ search for the keyword racial microaggression and 112 for the general term microaggression in PsychInfo (Wong et al., 2014). Despite the popularity the topic has garnered, few studies have focused on online racial microaggressions. One reason for this gap in the literature is early concern over whether the construct is applicable to online experiences (Tynes, Rose, & Markoe, 2013). Though the microaggressions literature outlines microassaults in the initial taxonomy of experiences (along with microinsults and microinvalidation), the subtle forms dominate the offline literature. Moreover, scholars have argued that the term micro inadequately describes users online experiences and might minimize the nature and impact on People of Color (Gin, Mart´ınez-Alem´an, Rowan-Kenyon, &Hottell, 2017; Minikel- Lacocque, 2013). Second, when scholars have studied online experiences, they tend to use different terms such as overt or covert racism, cyber, or online racism (Daniels, 2009), online racial discrimination (Tynes, Giang,Williams, & Thompson, 2008), hate speech (Tynes, 2005), racialized aggression (Gin et al., 2017), and colorblind racism (Yoon, 2016).
This chapter attempts to synthesize these literatures and propose a model of online racism that includes both subtle and explicit forms that represent the range of experiences users may have online. The taxonomy includes three types of online racism: online racial microaggressions, online racial discrimination, and online hate crimes. Heeding the call to have the “microaggressed” define their experiences rather than having others define it for them, we utilize interview data from a sample of Adolescents of Color. Much of the extant offline microaggressions literature tends to focus on college samples; little is known about adolescents and emerging adults (18–25 year olds) in online settings. This is despite the fact that 97% of teens have access to the Internet, 92% report going online daily, and 24% are online constantly (Perrin, 2015). Similarly, 99% of 18–29 year-olds had access to the Internet as of 2016 (Pew Research Center, 2017). In addition, Adolescents of Color have been noted to spend more time consuming various types of media than their White counterparts (Rideout, Lauricella,&Wartella, 2011) and have experienced an exponential increase in more explicit forms of online racism based on online survey data (Tynes, Seaton, & Zuckerman, 2015). We complement this research with open-ended survey data and interviews that center on adolescent voices, allowing adolescents themselves to describe what it means to experience online racism.


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