Commentary: "Geography of Hate" Map Is Interesting…to a Point

The "Geography of Hate" map is yet another tool shows us that, yep, people are racist on Twitter.

For as much as the Internet can be a tool to promote racism, what with all the racist websites and YouTube comments and Facebook pages and everything else, it can also be a useful tool for exploring and thoughtfully understanding racism as well. One of the latest projects with that latter goal in mind is Dr. Monica Stephens’ “Geography of Hate.”

Stephens, a professor at California’s Humboldt State University, created the Geography of Hate map using “every geocoded tweet in the United States from June 2012 - April 2013 containing one of the 'hate words.’” That is to say, Stephens and her research assistants went through Twitter searching for numerous slurs and, when possible, recorded where in the country those tweets originated. Her resultant map, with its softly glowing red and blue dots, is almost beautiful until you realize that the red dots are places where people have been saying the n-word a lot.

In many ways, the hate map is interesting to click through. I was a bit shocked, for instance, at how few of the n-word tweets originated in California and other places out west as opposed to the East Coast (sadly, I wasn’t too surprised at how often the n-word was tweeted in the south). Similarly, I was mildly taken aback at how a particularly vile term for Latinos was clustered mostly in tweets from Texas. I suppose it shouldn’t have been too surprising — the term was created to denigrate Mexicans entering into Texas by crossing the Rio Grande. But what stood out to me is that though Mexican immigrants have now become part of the fabric of so many communities in America, the hateful term to describe them hasn’t gotten far beyond its birthplace.

Both of those things were worthy of note, I suppose, but soon after looking at it, the Geography of Hate left me wanting in a way.

As a person of color in America, and certainly as someone who writes about race from time to time, knowing that there are racists out there who say racist things seems so obvious that it’s almost as if you were born with that knowledge. I guess it’s kind of cool to see exactly where in the country people are saying racist and homophobic stuff, but outside of those few minutes of novelty, I’m not sure I see why I’d ever give the hate map another look. I’m certain it’s a valuable tool for academics looking to study prejudice in populations, but I and many of the minorities I know already understand that there are a lot of racists in America who tweet the n-word indiscriminately. What I’d like to focus on now is how we get them to stop doing that.

The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.

BET National News - Keep up to date with breaking news stories from around the nation, including headlines from the hip hop and entertainment world. Click here to subscribe to our newsletter. 

Get ready for the BET Experience, featuring Beyoncé, Snoop DoggR. Kelly, Erykah BaduKendrick Lamar and many more. Go here for more details and info on how to buy ticketsRegister now to attend free film screenings, celebrity basketball games and more.

(Photo: Courtesy of Humboldt State University)

Latest News

Subscribe for BET Updates

Provide your email address to receive our newsletter.

By clicking Subscribe, you confirm that you have read and agree to our Terms of Use and acknowledge our Privacy Policy. You also agree to receive marketing communications, updates, special offers (including partner offers) and other information from BET and the Paramount family of companies. You understand that you can unsubscribe at any time.