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The Hashtag #TwitchDoBetter Shows Just How Much Black Streamers Have to Do in Order to Protect Themselves From Racism on Twitch

It really shouldn't take all this to live stream some damn video games

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CW: Racial slurs

There are a lot of frustrating layers we have to deal with in regards to racism, one of them being the fact that we have to constantly prove that it even exists. It’s not enough that we are the victims of racism, we actually have to present undeniable proof like some college term paper where you get points docked from your grade if you don’t cite your sources correctly.

But even if you have so much evidence that it’s recorded live in front of an entire Twitch audience, it still feels like we’re trying to move heaven and earth just so we can, checks notes, play video games in peace.

What truly upsets me about what’s going on with #TwitchDoBetter is that this isn’t a case of microaggressions or something that can be chalked up as “they just didn’t know better.” This isn’t one of those crying Karen tantrums where white folks can tell you to see things from their perspective because “maybe she felt unsafe” or “maybe she was having a bad day” or “maybe she hates birds” or whatever.

Hate raids are about as textbook racist as you can get. Like. Going to your locker at school and seeing the N-word spray-painted on it kind of textbook.

Except, really, it’s worse, because it’s been happening to multiple streamers at the same time like some kind of scheduled attack.

According to Afrotech, hate raids are “where bots automatically spam a streamer’s chat with offensive language and slurs.”

The hashtag #TwitchDoBetter was created by Twitch streamer RekItRaven to bring attention to the issue.

This was in response to a series of hate raids they, and other marginalized creators, have been dealing with.

Raven went on to tell The Washington Post, “I’m tired of feeling like I’m not allowed to exist based off of circumstances that are out of my control, and I know other people are too.”

The Washington Post spoke to a number of Twitch streamers affected by the harassment. “Every marginalized identity creator I know has at least one story, baseline, even if they don’t stream regularly,” said a Twitch streamer who goes by PleasantlyTwstd. “The thing that’s most terrifying is that the hate is aimed at all of us equally. Size, frequency, status — none of it matters. They look out for the marginalized identity and go to work.”

Here is Twitch’s response once the hashtag #TwitchDoBetter gained traction:

Here’s the problem.

For one, the raids kept happening (and are still happening) even after Twitch’s statement.

In many cases, to the same streamer, multiple times, in the span of a couple of days.

Now if you’re thinking about responding to all of that with “these things take time to fix” I would like to point to this tweet here:

This is not a new occurrence on Twitch—or any platform, really. If anything, streamers feel like these raids have gotten worse over the years. The Washington Post commented on the spike of racism streamers have been dealing with lately.

Streamers believe that hate raids have gotten worse in recent times. One possible reason is Twitch’s implementation of a plethora of new tags — some focused on specific identities like “Black,” “transgender,” and “disabled”— in May of this year. When streamers apply these tags to their own streams, it means that prospective new viewers (and fellow marginalized streamers) can more easily pick them out from of a crowd of millions. But tags also provide racist, homophobic and ableist trolls with a veritable buffet of targets on which to feast. Streamers who requested these tags for years still feel the pros outweigh the cons, but they wish Twitch would have done more to head off harassers. “We need tags,” said Raven. “But as soon as we got those tags, hate raids started to increase, and there’s nothing additional in our toolbox that we can use to combat that because Twitch hasn’t given us anything.”

As The Washington Post says, adding tags for specific identities is good, but with that came a massive increase of hate raids since all you had to do was click on a tag to find a marginalized streamer to target.

This is something that many marginalized people have been commenting on since, well, ever. A lot of spaces will promote inclusivity, but they fail to realize that part of inclusion is the willingness to protect those who are most vulnerable to things such as hate raids. If you’re taking the time to preach about wanting more diversity on your platform, there needs to be an understanding that you have to do more than open the door, you have to make us feel safe enough to come in.

Hate raids have been such an issue lately that streamers have begun doing the work themselves in order to combat the racism they face. As if trying to build your audience as a content creator isn’t enough, now you have to figure out how to even reach your audience through an onslaught of racial slurs.

While it is nice to see the community come together to protect each other, marginalized folks shouldn’t have to set up all of these precautions before they go on Twitch. Twitch should be doing this themselves, and that goes for all platforms—especially ones that say they have our best interest in mind so, you know, all platforms (and not just in the designated “change your Twitter handle to a hashtag” months).

I know it’s asking a lot to expect racists to chill out for an hour so a Black streamer can vibe with whatever game they’re playing. That’s why we need spaces to make good on their promises to protect us.

It’s ridiculous that it takes this much work just to be able to attempt to have a stream that’s free of racism. It’s appalling that we’re at the point where Black streamers aren’t even SURPRISED that they’ve been raided, they simply say, “Add me to the list, I just got hit too.”

And really, that’s the most distressing part of this. Black streamers who decide to go live expect this sort of attack to happen. Black streamers— and Black folks in general—are so accustomed to racism that it’s just another Tuesday when you see a chat screen flood with hate. So many of these streamers shared their stories with words like “it was bound to happen” and that alone should be enough to show the severity of the situation.

Not only is racism expected, Black streamers expect to have to figure out ways to navigate through it themselves. Being hit by racial slurs has become part of the Twitch experience, and arguably, that’s just one space out of many where Black folks are expecting this level of hostility.

There’s nothing left to say except #TwitchDoBetter.

(Image: MARTIN BUREAU/AFP via Getty Images)

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Author
Briana Lawrence
Briana (she/her - bisexual) is trying her best to cosplay as a responsible adult. Her writing tends to focus on the importance of representation, whether it’s through her multiple book series or the pieces she writes. After de-transforming from her magical girl state, she indulges in an ever-growing pile of manga, marathons too much anime, and dedicates an embarrassing amount of time to her Animal Crossing pumpkin patch (it's Halloween forever, deal with it Nook)