Facebook Friendships Challenged By Ferguson-Related Racism
August 21, 2014

Yep, hearing this from quite a few people lately. It's hard to stay in a relationship with people when you see they're not who you thought they were:

Angela Mitchell-Phillips’ predominantly white church had a “come to Jesus” moment on race last weekend.

Her minister leaned over the pulpit and said something like: As God is my witness, I better not ever hear of anybody in this parish calling another human being an animal.

The congregation turned pin-drop silent. Mitchell-Phillips looked around the pews.

“I bet somebody did it,” she thought. “I bet he saw it on Facebook. And I bet he was pissed.”

The moment points to how raw and tense the issue of race has become in St. Louis, and around the country, since Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson fatally shot 18-year-old, unarmed Michael Brown and the volatile days of protests since.

It can be hard enough when family members are yelling at one another in front of the television or met with stony silence at the dinner table. But it can be even worse when you come across a post or comment on social media that leaves you stunned.

It’s harder to have a meaningful conversation in a limited, public space like social media.

The aftermath of Ferguson has generated a rash of friend fallouts. Mitchell-Phillips posted a rant on Monday.

“If you need to start a comment with ‘I’m not racist, but ...’ that’s probably a comment you don’t need to say (or write) out loud,” she wrote.

Mitchell-Phillips, 43, is an eighth generation Missourian from the southern part of the state, a region she describes as “very, very conservative.” She now lives in Ballwin, 30 miles from Ferguson.

She’s been watching the news and reaction on social media since the shooting. It’s been a heart-breaking week. A friend will post a provocative status, and she will read the comments. “It’s like they gave permission for others to say every last nasty, racist thought — stopping just short of the n-word — they have ever wanted to vent,” she said. There have been more than a handful of friends and acquaintances, people she knows through her children’s activities and schools, who have done this.

People she considered good people and trusts to be in her life, around her children. “Then, I see this person walks around with a heck of a lot of hate in them.”

She’s hidden some people from her feed, tried to comment on a few threads, post her own Facebook statuses as rebuttals, but she’s walking a fine line.

“I don’t want some of these people who interact with my children to turn their hatred on my children because they know I don’t agree with them. I’m trying to defend my own beliefs while trying to protect my own at the same time.”

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