The creator of the r/BlackPeopleTwitter subreddit was white. But today the user wouldn’t be allowed to fully participate on the forum, which has become one of the most active on Reddit.
Moderators for the forum, which according to its description is aimed at showcasing instances of black people “being hilarious or insightful on social media,” recently instituted a new rule requiring participants to prove they are not white.
Now do gender.
— Red (@redfishdoc) October 8, 2019
Concerns arose that some white users were merely pretending to be black and that the forum’s original purpose of appreciating black culture had been subverted. Moderators, as an April Fools’ joke, decided to start verifying all “people of color” users by asking them to submit photos of their forearms.
But the joke rule soon became permanent.
“Over the past few months we have received many complaints from black users. They feel as if whenever a political topic comes up, white users discredit our experiences or downvote them because reality is too uncomfortable for memes,” the team of moderators said in a post explaining the decision.
The moderators said they wanted to “address the level of racism” being shared in the subreddit on a daily basis.
“If you associate hating white people with calling out the problematic microaggressions towards POC, then you are the problem. We don’t hate white users, but we certainly will not tolerate the demeaning of POC in any way in a space that they should feel they should be safe in. Reddit is full of mostly white subreddits. We have blackpeopletwitter,” they said.
Though anyone on Reddit is still free to join r/BlackPeopleTwitter, only verified non-white users are able to comment on certain threads designated by a special label. This VIP section is known as the “Country Club.”
The only way for a white person to get on the list of approved users is for them to write in to the moderators and explain their white privilege.
Verified black users get an additional marker of status – a checkmark appearing next to their user name.
The decision has sparked heavy backlash from Reddit users – black and white – who feel that the policy exemplifies the same type of discrimination the moderators are protesting.
“Isn’t this just racist?” asked one commenter.
The New York Times highlighted the controversy and spoke with several of the forum’s moderators in a report published on Tuesday.
“We wanted to find a way to allow actual black people to be heard without being drowned out,” one moderator told the Times. “We had no idea it would blow up this site.”