Social Media Abuse Against Black Women Hits Different. How this Charity is Trying to Help

by Xara Aziz
Unhappy confused millennial African American woman working on computer.

In 1962, civil rights pioneer Malcolm X told a Los Angeles crowd words that have since been cemented in American history: “The most disrespected person in America is the Black woman.”

Sixty years later, critics argue Malcolm X’s comments still ring true. According to recent Amnesty International data, “Black women are 84% more likely to be abused on social media than white women.” Further research reveals that “one in ten tweets mentioning black women politicians and journalists…was abusive or problematic,” and found that “of the thousands of horrendous abuse (including rape and death threats) directed to female MPs on Twitter, over half were aimed at Britain’s first Black woman MP, Labour politician, Diane Abbott.”

To change this narrative, Seyi Akiwowo, founder of the online support community Glitch, is providing Black women with a digital self-care guide, reminding them that they are not alone. Her new book, How To Stay Safe Online, weaves the 31-year-old’s personal stories with interviews from other Black women about how to stay safe and build community in what can be a lonely world on social media.

“I wanted to inspire a generation of people to reclaim their online spaces, reclaiming their internet and pushing institutions, tech companies, and governments to do more for their digital rights,” Akiwowo told Refinery29.

“I basically see this book as a helpful guide for anyone looking to support themselves online or support somebody else, whether your parent, sibling, teacher, employer, agent, or publicist, and you want to know how you can be there for your friend or your colleague, and help them build their online presence from a more secure and safe way.”

Through training, research and workshops, Akiwowo’s charity provides

awareness, advocacy and actionable change for Black women who suffer from online abuse. As a former U.K. politician, she knew firsthand how online abuse can paralyze those who suffer from it. In 2017, a speech she delivered at the European Parliament went viral and received hundreds of negative comments, so she decided to build a community where women could in support of one another.

“I definitely don’t believe the responsibility should fall on the hands of the most minoritized to try and keep themselves safe,” Akiwowo said. “Because that’s all we keep doing. We keep finding ways to stay safe in the club, on public transport and now online.”

To learn more about Glitch, visit here.  

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