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Member confronts racism in online media

AUTHOR and JOURNALIST Anita M. Samuels, of Local 375, at the DC 37 radio show “State of the Union,” broadcast on 91.5 WNYE-FM, discussing her book “Rants & Retorts,” about how bigots overrun online news comments.

Veteran news reporter Anita M. Samuels’ new book, “Rants & Retorts” examines often anonymous — and always vitriolic — racist online comments posted on internet news stories.

“I became a journalist because I wanted to write positive stories about African Americans,” said Samuels, a member of Civil Service Technical Guild Local 375 who works as an administrative coordinator at Borough of Manhattan Community College.

After the historic election of Barack Obama in 2008, many were quick to say America transitioned to a post-racial society. But in “Rants & Retorts,” Samuels exposes an ugly truth: Bigotry and racism fester on social media.

After reading disturbing online comments about a story she wrote for the New York Daily News in 2008, Samuels complained to her editor. The comments eventually were taken down, but not soon enough.

“Being offended drove me to ask why this is OK and who says it’s OK?” Samuels said. “I also wondered what effect it would have on younger readers. It’s poison and it’s repeated. That’s what is so dangerous.”

While researching her book, Samuels combed the online comments at major news sites and found shockingly racist and offensive responses to articles, especially where the subject was identified as African American.

“President Barack Obama, as educated and credentialed as he is,” Samuels observed, “even he cannot escape being judged and devalued in the most narrow, racist terms.”

Samuels found offensive comments posted anonymously by trollers and those who use online monikers are allowed to remain on websites like,, and even

“There are a lot of issues at play in today’s 24-hour news cycle. Most newsrooms are understaffed. These attacks are often left online because they attract more eyes to the site,” Samuels said. “We’ve arrived at a sad state.”

“Unlike Mr. Obama, Donald Trump is never attacked for his race, nor are his faults ever attributed to his race. The scary part about Trump is he sounds like an online commenter,” Samuels said. “His behavior gives online commenters permission to voice outright their racism.”

To their credit, Samuels said, some news organizations have established protocol, or have software or moderators who detect and delete racist comments and bigoted attacks.

With an introduction by Chuck D of Public Enemy, Samuels’ analysis offers timely insight on media and the state of race relations in 21st century America.