Tracked tweets reflect racist attitudes online, says of U of A researcher

Not sure the numbers are as bad as portrayed as they cover a three-month period, and the numbers are very low in terms of total number of tweets.

Compare this to comments in newspaper columns on immigration and multiculturalism, where my anecdotal observations indicate a fair number of offensive comments, depending on the article:

“In Canada, we’re so reluctant to talk about race and racism specifically so often times in public discourse it’s rarely ever brought up but when you shift to the online realm people are … freely being racist,” said Chaudhry, who will present his findings at the Social Media and Society International Conference in Toronto next month.

To conduct his research, Chaudhry flagged common racist terms coming out of Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver, Winnipeg, Toronto and Montreal.

In Calgary, as well as Edmonton and Winnipeg, the majority of comments were directed at the aboriginal community.

About 50 per cent of all the racist tweets were real-time observations, said Chaudhry.

“I’d always notice people complaining to Calgary transit about aboriginals in public spaces,” he said.

Overall, he said the number of Calgary-based racist tweets was low. Toronto accounted for 434; Vancouver had 99; Winnipeg had 78; Edmonton had 60; and Montreal had 43. In Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal, the n-word was the most common racist term.

Darren Lund, a professor at the U of C’s the Werklund School of Education who researches social justice issues, said he was disheartened but not surprised by the findings.

“It seems that most of us have been raised in a way that even if we’re really nice, well-intentioned people, we’re still taught in some ways to think of aboriginal people as less than, or as flawed,” he said.

Tracked tweets reflect racist attitudes online, says of U of A researcher.

Ethically speaking: Discuss communication issues around accents with respect | Toronto Star

Some good practical advice when you can’t understand some accents and how to raise your concerns:

Carefully. Very, very carefully.

I like the way you’ve framed the problem. Rather than launching into a racist diatribe about “foreigners who won’t even speak Canadian,” you’ve set the issue up in a way that is reasonable and respectful. You’ve tried, but remain frustrated by an inability to communicate with the folks behind the counter.

I suggest that you speak to the owners quietly, when there are no other customers in the store. Describe your concern exactly as you’ve told it to me. Make sure they understand how great you think their store is, and how much you want them to succeed. And leave it to them to act however they think is appropriate.

The version of your problem that is more difficult is the one where you phone a customer service centre — say for Bell, Rogers or whomever — and get an agent whose accent is so thick you can’t understand it. For many people, especially those whose hearing is less than 100 per cent, this is very frustrating. They’ve waited 30 minutes on hold “your call is important to us”; now they’re trying to explain their problem to someone they simply cannot understand.

Ethically speaking: Discuss communication issues around accents with respect | Toronto Star.