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Witnessing racism in our community

Being the administrator for a Facebook community group is normally quite a thankless task. You are mainly moderating the amount of advertising from local businesses. You rarely have to be the tough police person of the group, removing hateful or rude comments or blocking someone from the group.

Since the Covid-19 pandemic these community Facebook groups have come into their own. They have become a vital resource for the community during these very tough times. Neighbours have been helping neighbours. The community banded together. I have had a far busier time as the administrator for our local community group, posting many posts a day about vital local and national information. Communicating with the local supermarket managers to get live and up to date information on how their stores were operating with all the restrictions. It has been a very positive experience in such a bleak time.

However, last Friday things changed for our community group. A group of inspirational 16 year old students from ACS International School wanted to promote their protest for “Black Lives Matter” in Cobham on Saturday 20th June. I thought this was wonderful and hoped our positive community would get fully behind it but I did have a fear this might cause a backlash. My fears were sadly justified. The post got an influx of comments. I was truly shocked how openly racist people felt comfortable being. 

There seemed to be two types of vile comments. The very openly hateful ones and the ‘moderate’ head in the sand types. It was easy to deal with the openly hateful racists: Delete all comments and ban from the group. But I struggled with the latter ones. Comments like “All lives matter” or “We don’t have a problem in this country. It is all in America” are obviously not meant to be hurtful but speak to an ignorance that the protest advertised is quite specifically trying to call out. What was the best course of action? Should I be censoring them and removing them from the group or should I let a discussion take place with a hope of a positive outcome?

As the sole administrator for the group the task of moderating just this one post was extremely taxing. The quantity of comments was high and never ending. Some comments were very hard to read. They made me physically sick. The level of racism in our small community is rife and disgusting. It got so bad I went to zero tolerance; deleted and blocked anyone being racist and stopped the comments on the post. 

I struggle with being so draconian. Removing the comments and people from the group certainly does not remove racism from our society. It just seems racism is so ingrained that people will not listen or be open to any other point of view. Giving a platform to air racism openly does not help our society. I think I have done the right thing in removing these comments from our local community group but it is truly a sad reflection on our society and community. We must do more. We need to act now!

If you are interested in finding out about the protest the students from ACS International School are doing in Cobham. They will be starting at 1pm on Saturday 20th June 2020 and marching through Cobham High Street and finishing on the Leg O’Mutton Field. They have said they got approval by Surrey Police to carry out the protest. They have put out a call for speakers. More info at https://www.facebook.com/events/271436390585579/

If you do attend the protest please wear a face mask and abide by social distancing.

Author: Patrick Combe, local member