Wednesday, January 19, 2011

What Does Black Twitter Tell Us

There is much angst over the fact that Black folk make up 25% of twitter.  A look at the trending topics often reveals that we are flexing our social media muscle.  At The Root, Patricia Williams wrote an article entitled Black Twitter: Trending Topics Paint the Wrong Picture, in which she seems determined to present the idea that folks are failing to be a credit to their race. 
Of course, not all black users embrace these trends, but the way many of us choose to leverage our loud voice on Twitter speaks volumes about us to outsiders looking in. The source of entertainment for some may be fodder for white tweeters.

Writer Choire Sicha, who is white, even admitted on the Awl to being obsessed with what he termed "Black People Twitter" because of our "hilarious" trending topics. I wonder if Sicha, along with millions of other white people on Twitter, finds himself amazed that this is how we choose to use our power on the social networking site.
Black people are certainly over represented on twitter, but why is it that this is suddenly representative of what Black folks think and feel?  To me, this supposed phenomenon is more of a reflection of racism and White supremacy than anything else.  White people get to be individuals, even when they are committing the most heinous crimes, whereas; one comment from a Black person in a mixed environment suddenly makes them representative of their race.

Williams pointed to Lil Duval (@lilduval) as being responsible for such trending topics as #hoodhoes and #itaintrape, as being a part of the issue.  Clearly, these topics are misogynist and are most certainly aimed at attacking Black women, but how exactly are they representative of the Black community, when these very same concepts exist in the larger society?  Twitter users do not have a monopoly on racist and sexist attacks against Black women. 

It occurs to me that the Tea Party is largely White and yet I don't see people stressing out and claiming that White people are all fundamentally backward, selfish and ignorant.  Nope, we can't have that.  Whiteness has spent hundreds of years voting White men into the office of the president, but when Blacks largely supported Obama, they were accused of race based voting and being incapable of making unemotional intellectual decisions. 

I will not deny that there are certain cultural markers to being Black, but the very idea that these markers say something significant about the individual is racist.  I further find it interesting that our usage of social media must necessarily be political to be important, whereas; White people can blather on about whatever bullshit they want without it being an issue.  I watched as on Martin Luther King Day many on twitter took the time to praise the slain civil rights warrior, but it is the times that twitter descends into an armpit of isms based ignorance that we are to be concerned with.  I know that many people of colour are raised to not act a fool around Whites, but the very need for performance is based in White supremacy. If we invest every single moment of our being talking about and agitating against White supremacy, we would be allowing them to control our lives.  Fighting the good fight is important, but so is living life and enjoying oneself.

If anything, the supposed Black Twitter phenomenon should teach us that people are just that people.  For Twitter to be representative of Black people, every single Black person living in the world would have to have an account that they update daily and since this is not the case, it is simply representative of those who choose to use that kind of social media.  I refuse to feel ashamed because some tweets may be sexist, or reflect internalized racism, when the true culprit of these actions is the larger society as a whole.  If there is a sickness, it belongs to us all.