So yesterday I got kicked off of the MBR forum for asking someone to stop saying racist things.
Let me explain, because I’m already getting questions.
MBR is a forum where people go to discuss high school sports in Maine. When I wanted to start sharing this stuff with people other than my wife, I started posting about it there because I figured that’s where the people already were. But you can’t host data visualizations and iFrames on a forum using 1997 technology, so when people wanted to start seeing more than just summaries, I started posting the visualizations on Tumblr, since it was the easiest option. But that looked awful, so I moved everything over here for this season. And I bought the URL, because why not?
The goal was always to refer people back to MBR for conversations and discussions and whatnot, because I have neither the time nor the inclination to host it here, and out of a sense of loyalty.
A couple of days ago, I got emails from a couple of people I’ve met through MBR, asking me if I’d seen some of the things the owner, Tom Nolette, had been writing in the UMaine forum. I’d never been to the UMaine forum before. They described the content as “blatantly sexist and racist,” so I went over there and turns out they were right.
In my real life, I’ve spent a lot of time learning about the effects of racism. More than most white people from Maine, I’d guess. I have friends who have gone to jail protesting for civil rights. I have friends who the Klu Klux Klan tried to murder. They have friends who the Klan did murder. I’ve stood in the crater of a Klan bomb with the intended victim. I’ve walked the bridge in Selma with the people who were beaten within an inch of their lives. I’ve talked to the man who held Dr. King’s head as he died in Memphis. This is not some abstract concept to me. It’s something I take very seriously.
So when the owner of a forum I participate in starts saying things like white privilege is a myth and “Race issues are being driven by the new industry of ‘social victims,'” it’s not something I’m willing to ignore. If you had heard the stories I’ve heard, you wouldn’t either.
But I’m a reasonable person and I understand that most people haven’t had the opportunity I’ve had to learn these things first-hand. Maine, as our Governor likes to remind us, is very, very white. Racial issues aren’t things that we tend to think about, because we haven’t had to. In some ways, we’re stuck in the 60’s. But they are there. Oh man, are they there. I suggested to the owner of MBR that he might want to tone down his rhetoric, lest he offend some of his sponsors. That was also in those emails I got that started this whole thing, “do you think he’ll lose sponsors over this?”
This would be the part where I’d quote his response, but I can’t, because he deleted the entire thread. The short version is this: I offered that perhaps he was unaware that his comments were offensive, to which he replied that he knew exactly what he was doing. I asked him again to stop and told him that I was personally offended and was no longer considering purchasing future advertising on his website. He mentioned that I’m promoting my product for free on his website, to which I retorted that my “product” is free and drives tens of thousands of page views to his website. He then banned me.
Again, you could read that for yourself, but he deleted the thread.
I posted on Twitter about getting banned.
He then emailed me to ask that I delete the Tweet and inform me that I’ve been denied all access to MBR. He also claimed that I was harassing him and to not understand how I came to my conclusions about his posts. These are conclusions multiple people came to independent of me and were explained in-depth in the since-deleted thread and in this thread, which is not yet deleted.
He also seems to have deleted threads I started on his forum. It’ll cost me traffic, but this is just something I do for fun. I have a real job. I run a business. I don’t care about the hits. If people enjoy reading this stuff, great. If not, oh well.
But really, this is more important than some stupid basketball websites. The sort of attitudes and rhetoric he was posting on his forum is a big deal. It isn’t something you sweep under the rug. And racism isn’t some binary thing. No one is either racist or not racist. Racial animosity is a cancer that lives in each of us. None of us are immune. Not me, not you, not Spike Lee. It doesn’t matter how informed you are or how many black friends you have. It’s a thing that will be there forever, until the end of humanity. When we stop being vigilant, things like Selma happen. Hate crimes happen. Swastikas show up on storefronts.
This is not an easy thing to comprehend growing up white in a white state. I know from experience. It took some major culture shock for me to realize it. I’m still learning how to handle it 20 years later. It’s hard. Really, really hard. But essential.
I guess my larger point is that we can all do better. It starts with learning. You don’t have to go to Alabama. You can research this on your phone. You can get “woke.” It’s not scary. I promise.