By Krishnan Jayaraman-
You May Also Like This, Similar Items to Choose, Videos Similar to your interests, News Articles Similar To What You Read, People Who Bought This Also Bought, Similar Places to Visit, Movies Like This, Songs Similar to the one you listened to, Groceries / Food Similar to what you’ve ordered, Designs You May Also Like.
We’ve seen these lines, haven’t we? These messages, ubiquitous to the “social” world, for choice available to us. This sometimes extends to human existence, most disturbingly, hatred.
Let me explain. We don’t come across statements like ‘You may also hate this’, ‘Since you despise this, you may also despise that’. These things remain unsaid and unseen, but what was once hidden in the dirty underbelly of American life is now out in brute force, thanks in large to algorithmic social connections.
The recent spike in hate crimes were given a heightened voice on social media. Cars that plunged into crowds, guns that silenced peaceful concert goers, restaurant goers, movie goers, church goers, grocery shoppers, even elementary school children. The Capitol marchers appeared out of thin air, Asians were punched and murdered under dim camera lights, police knees sucked air out of necks for $20 notes.
‘Karens’ appeared out of the woodwork, only to abuse birdwatchers, trailwalkers, people at birthday parties and swimming pools, or people in buses, cars, parking lots.
The hatred in America was for the world to see.
As I type this on August 28, I realize that it is Martin Luther King’s ‘I have a dream’ speech day. A once-in-a-century human, MLK was the Superman or Captain America of the time. I often wonder how the pastor felt as he dealt with the unhinged racism and segregation in every walk of life during his time.
Many decades later, I can’t help but wonder the heightened hatred and bigotry that has sprung up all over the country. Was MLK’s valiant fight for nothing?
Twice in the week of August 21, 2022 – once in Fremont, CA, the most diverse of the Bay Area communities – and the other in Plano, TX, we saw this bigotry and hatred and racism spring back up.
For the Fremont, CA incident, I’ve a personal story to share, a story that has since gone viral on social media and resulted in the arrest of the abuser. In the third week of August, soon after his cricket practice, my son wanted to eat a Taco Bell dinner. I went to the nearest outlet to pick up the food. There, I was accosted by a man, unknown to me, with such hatred and spite that it seemed like lava spewing out of an Icelandic volcano.
In my 17 years as a peaceful, middle class Fremont resident, this was a first. It forced me to sit down and think how did this hatred – that perhaps is rooted in the violent history of the Punjab state in Indian of the 1980s – manifest in a Taco Bell in 2022?
The reason is not hard to find. Manifesting hatred in the era of social media and a “More Like This” world, is easy. Social media was innocuous to begin with. We were connecting with pre-iPhone relationships, friends, and families. Today, the algorithm that helped loved ones to connect, also connected and bonded folks filled with hatred toward one another or anything for that matter.
The very hatred that Mahatma Gandhi and MLK fought against and that we thought is isolated and remained only in certain pockets has shown up right where we live. It is a huge monster, in size and vileness. It is here in our beloved United States and abroad.
This monster now calls for true leaders to stand up against it. Perhaps something like what John Lennon saw when he wrote ‘Imagine’? Or perhaps how Gandhi stood up against the biggest guns with non-violence?
Such thoughts are perhaps outside the Google Search bar, and I wish there are “More Like That” answers too. But first, we need to build a secure blanket of confidence in humanity all over again.
By Krishnan Jayaraman-