LIHU‘E — People use social media to air all kinds of opinions but when disgruntled postings on public forums become hate messages, then the anti-social or even criminal language gives pause to reflect on the responsibilities that come with the rights of free speech.
Malissia Walker, the manager of Vim N’ Vigor health food store in Lihu‘e, was alerted to postings on the Craigslist Kaua‘i page last week. They were directed at her service but also at her race as an African American woman.
“It is very discouraging to be aware that people are still thinking that way, and here on Kaua‘i,” she said. “This is supposed to be the island of aloha and I am not feeling that anymore, really. It is upsetting to know that people would stoop to this kind of level to throw around words like that.”
What really concerns Walker is that the postings have yet to be removed from Craigslist, nearly a week after she and friends “flagged” the posts — a way for two or more people to block a post from being seen. She also emailed Craigslist to report the abusive language. The postings are in the Personals section under “Rants & Raves,” which has a disclaimer to warn readers about offensive language and postings.
The author of the initial post started by describing Walker’s service, however, the description went on to distinguish Walker’s race. Several follow-up postings amplified the racial comments while others in support of Walker questioned why it was necessary to note her race in a concern about service.
Other replies in support of Walker included a posting of a KKK photo that was aimed at the author of the hate message.
To get around the automated screening mechanism to block offensive language on Craigslist, the authors use creative spelling to get their point across. In this case the author described the store as “Vim’n Nigg A :)” and made other derogatory comments about Walker’s race.
The Massachusetts native is the daughter of a U.S. military serviceman and has lived in Germany and all over the United States. She said her Kaua‘i experience is very good overall, and believes the messages are likely from one or a few individuals and not the reflection of a group or community.
Walker has lived on Kaua‘i since 2004 and has managed the Lihu‘e health food store for the past five years. The author of the offensive postings is likely someone she knows, and Walker said she is considering reporting the matter to Kaua‘i Police Department.
• Tom LaVenture, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 224) or by emailing tlaventure@ thegardenisland.com.