The racial inequalities afflicting Americans and our society today are in many ways a result of the result of spatial segregation. White people and nonwhite people tend to live in different neighborhoods, go to different schools and have dramatically different economic opportunities based on their race. That physical manifestation of structural racism has been true historically in this country, and is still the case today.Today’s internet is built on a similar spatial logic. People travel from website to website in search of content in the same way they travel from neighborhood to neighborhood looking for stuff to do and people to hang out with. Websites accrue and compound value as visitor traffic and site visibility increases.But there is a crucial difference: Internet users have – more or less – complete freedom to travel where they choose. Websites can’t see the color of a user’s skin and police incoming traffic in the same way human beings can and do in geographical spaces. Therefore, it’s easy to imagine that the internet’s very structure – the social environments it produces and the new economies it births – might not be racially segregated the way the physical world is.
Is there structural racism on the internet?