Celebrating Black Twitter: An Introduction

Planning this project, I went through so many issues that I wanted to write on but when I thought about where I learned about all of these issues, where I hear the most about them, I was always led back to Twitter, more specifically Black Twitter. So, I decided to write about just that.  Black Twitter is a little section of the internet just for Black people. It is a space just for us created in a world that is so dominated by racism, by wealthy white males. As a black woman who has always struggled with feeling like they don’t belong, engaging in Black Twitter has been a huge source of support and joy.

In my first post, Celebrating Black Twitter: Blacktivism, I describe the way Black Twitter has become an advocate for people of color. From feminism to police brutality, Black Twitter is no afraid to educate or drag anyone, outside of the community or inside.

In my second post, Celebrating Black Twitter: Solidarity, I talk about the way in which Black Twitter is a safehaven for people like me, people that have always been made to feel as though they were subhuman, less than the people around them. Racism is traumatic and no one should have to experience that alone.

In my third, and final, post, Celebrating Black Twitter: A Culture, I discuss the way the people of Black Twitter interact with one another. Black Twitter has become a birthplace for new aspects of Black culture. Through Black artists, writers and music, Black Twitter is a celebration of Black culture and language.

Social media is so often frowned upon by people from older generations and activism defined by physical acts, but for us, Twitter has become so much more than just another site. Black Twitter is an extension of all of us, an extension fueled by the desire for justice, love for one another, and a culture that runs through each of us.

Celebrating Black Twitter: A Culture

The video below is by Evelyn From The Internets, a popular Black Youtuber and influencer. Evelyn’s video is an example of Black Twitter’s hilarity and strength. Black Twitter is made up of people rooted in jokes, who connected by education, social and political awareness and pop culture. In every aspect of daily life, the is a tweet or meme from Black Twitter to deal with it. I mentioned in a previous post that Black Twitter is not afraid to drag someone for their ignorance and/or racism. Evelyn’s video proves my point.

Black Twitter is a heart, circulating a culture that is full of music and comedy. Black Twitter is notorious for creating memes that turn into global trends. New dances and dance challenges consistently take the internet by storm. The language of Black Twitter is constantly evolving, adding new phrases. For example, here is a video by Blavity called “If Black Twitter Went On a Date With You #BlackTwitterDate.” Words like “fleek,” “salty,” “slay” and “lit,” are all words that have come from African American Vernacular English, a dialect of English spoken by Black Americans. These words and phrases are often written off as “not proper” or capitalized and profited off of by the mainstream, but Black Twitter continues adding to their dictionary, changing the language of our society.

The interaction of Black Twitter is truly unique. There is laughter in our hearts, music in our souls and our mouths sing a language that tastes like freedom.

Celebrating Black Twitter: Solidarity

While activism is a large reason for Black Twitter’s overwhelming presence, it is undeniable that the community has become so much more than just a corner of the internet for a lot of Black people. Black Twitter has connected Black people globally, despite different ethnicities and backgrounds. People have created support systems for those without them, for those in hostile environments. Black Twitter has become a space for people in predominately White environments who feel like they don’t belong and/or experience racism on a daily basis.

Living in racism is hard. It is painful and weighs heavy on a life. When you look around and see body after body gunned down in the street, when you hear slur after slur it makes you feel less then. It makes you feel like the “Other.” Creating an online community  where you can find and talk to others that feel just like you is so important.

BlackisBeautifulCoffeeMugUICA_StevenDepolo

As I mentioned in the previous post, Black Twitter often fights colorism by creating hashtags to pair with photos of each other, celebrating their skintones. This tactic doubles as a confidence bootser. Black Twitter promotes self-care, appreciating the Black body, like with skin color, and Black hair. The natural hair movement is overwhelmingly popular on Black Twitter, with women sharing photos of their afros and other popular Black hairstyles. Through hashtags, Black Twitter celebrates every aspect of Black life that white supremacy says we should hate. Black is beautiful and Black Twitter seeks to prove that.

Black Twitter comes with pride. Despite what it may look like from outside, inside it is a comfort for so many people. It is a space where they can feel comfortable expressing themselves and sharing their lives. Black Twitter is not just one giant SJW, it’s a safehaven.

 

Celebrating Black Twitter: Blacktivism.

Black Twitter, the infamous corner of the internet in which Black people around the world come together to educate, drag and celebrate each other and those outside of the community. There is a classist idea that if you are not out on the front lines marching, you cannot be an activist. Black Twitter shuts that idea down completely. Activism is one of their driving forces. An abundance of hashtags and movements got their start on Twitter. For example, #BlackLivesMatter, one of the most well-known hashtags and social justice movements, was started by Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi on the site. On the Black Lives Matter official website, Garza writes,

“I created #BlackLivesMatter with Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi, two of my sisters, as a call to action for Black people after 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was post-humously placed on trial for his own murder and the killer, George Zimmerman, was not held accountable for the crime he committed. It was a response to the anti-black racism that permeates our society and also, unfortunately, our movements.”

Since then, they have fought for Philandro Castile, Alton Sterling, Tamir Rice and more. A new hashtag has been spread to shed more light on female victims of police brutality like Sandra Bland and Korryn Gaines:  #SayHerName. The truth is, it is 2017. The world is now more connected than ever with other countries, states, cities all at our fingertips. Using social media, especially Twitter to spread messages is incredibly smart.

BLM Co-Founders
L-R: Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi.
Photo: “TEDWomen2016_20161027_0MA12721_1920” by TEDConference (Flikr).

In addition to fighting police brutality and racism, Black Twitter sheds light to and fights anti-blackness that white supremacy pours into the minds of Black people. For example, there are many hashtags that fight colorism, the idea that light-skin Black people are better/more desirable than dark-skin Black people based on the fact that they are “closer” to White. Hashtags like #UnfairandLovely and #DarkisBeautiful invite women and men all over the internet to share their photos and embrace their skin.

Feminism is another large discussion. As I’ve written about before, mainstream feminism is often unkind to women of color. Black Twitter provides an outlet for those women, it offers them a space to fight for intersectionality and celebrate each other. As girls and women, especially in D.C, began going missing by the dozens per day, Black Twitter became their advocates using the hashtag #FindOurGirls. In one instance, Kennedi High, a missing girl from Baltimore, was found by members of Black Twitter. By finding her Snapchat, discovering more details about her, they were able to find out what happened to her and where she was.

Black Twitter literally found a girl. They are unafraid to expose the effect white supremacy has on society inside and out of the Black community. They are unafraid to ask questions and make moves in the face of every type of violence.  They are unafraid to speak out and fight for justice.

Below is a video featuring prominent figures with the Black Twitter community, sharing tweets from the community after Michael Brown was killed, emphasizing how this community has banded together and become its own social justice movement.

This Post is about to Open up a Can of…Pepsi?

Canofworms

Something that I have been struggling with over the course of this class is exploring the way people see each other and the experiences of others. So much of how I engage in activism is reading, writing, and sharing thoughts about how we can better interact with one another, how we can treat each other better and fight for one another. After finishing a project on how we often turn physical bodies, the physical experiences of people, into symbols and metaphors and how that can take much of the focus away from the actual person, I went into Media and Social Justice with this idea still fresh in my mind.

In the introduction to the book, I was met with an idea that I had left out of my project. In my first blog post in reaction to the reading, I wrote “In this first section of this book, however, I began to realize that sometimes concepts are necessary, that not all concepts are bad. It is concepts and the spread of them that actually awaken people to the cause.” I had completely ignored the fact that we do need concepts. Concepts are what we fight for, what we believe in. Activism itself is a concept and that is why I want to explore the way we see it, what our ideas are about it, for this third project.

In the ninth chapter of Media and Social Justice, I was introduced to a contrast I had never thought of before:  activism and scholarship. In terms of feminism, Margaret Gallagher points out that the line between activism and scholarship is often very blurry. Gallagher writes, “While feminist scholars may be engaged in political activism, feminist activists may also do feminist research” (133). I think what sticks out to me so much about this fairly simple statement, is that we have a lot of stereotypes about what scholarship and activism should look like, stereotypes that make the pairing of the two seem contradictory or strange.

In my post on this chapter, I wrote, “we have this predetermined idea of activism that is the complete opposite of scholarship. Activism is raw, gritty, impolite. There are no rules to activism. Activism is fighting and shouting for your rights.” When we think of activism, we think mostly of protesting. We think of going out and actually being a part of a movement. In order to be good activists we have to act. On the other hand, scholarship and research come with many rules and restrictions. There is a formula you need to follow. You need to have credibility and there is an assumed intelligence about the writer. You are supposed to remain objective and you can’t even use contractions.

While these two concepts work well on their own, I think Gallagher does a great job of noting that this isn’t a binary. You don’t have to choose between being an activist or being a scholar. There is a blend of the two. Declaring that activism only comes with physical actions is quite classist and ableist. There are so many people and so many way that can lead to change just by writing. There is a faction of activists doing research and writing powerful pieces that speak to the hearts of every movement. I think this portion of the chapter challenges the way we view activism and what activism means, how we partake in it.

Gallagher challenges how we view activism as a whole. When I saw view, I mean the way we think about it, the notions that come to mind when we try define activism. However, Pepsi recently released an ad that sparks a debate about what we, as a society, think about activism or how the media thinks about activism and how that is portrayed.

In the advertisement, Kendall Jenner is in the middle of a photo shoot when she sees a group of protesters walking by. One of them gives her a nod and suddenly she has tossed her blonde wig at a black woman, wiping of her lipstick, and thrusting herself into the action. As the protest approaches police officers, Kendall hands a can of Pepsi to one of them and he smiles to a fellow officer, a smile that says, “well, she does have a point.”

As many online have pointed out, this ad severely trivializes activism. It makes protesting seem like a fun thing that you can just join and have a good time in. It makes protesting seem useless, as if it nothing you chant matters as long as you have a Pepsi. It also makes activism seem pretty white. Again we have this trope that a white woman is safe, she is nonthreatening, and she is here to save the world.

Much like in Media and Social Justice, we have a pairing. In this ad, we see activism and capitalism. One of the reasons this ad was so surprising to me, is that Pepsi is just trying to make money. Many activists fight against the capitalist system that runs the U.S. In fact, there was a hashtag, #resistcapitalism, that took Twitter by storm. Unlike the partnership of activism and scholarship, the mixing of activism and capitalism is insulting. This ad portrays the idea that Pepsi thinks using activism as a tool is going to bring them money, as if protesting is just another trend they can profit from. While this ad is offensive and “tone deaf” as I have seen many people describe it as, I think it opens up a good opportunity to think about how we see activism and how that is expressed through the media.

As I continue through this course, I am learning more and more to be aware of how we understand the world. I am learning that nothing in life is a binary. There are many, many shades of gray in this monochromatic world. While I do still believe that it is detrimental to ignore the physical bodies of oppressed people, I acknowledge now that we do have metaphorical meaning. Our lives have meanings, our concepts have meanings, and it is those meanings that can change the world.

Media and Social Justice: Chapter Fifteen

There was a paragraph or two of this chapter that really stood out to me because they were about white privilege. I always enjoy reading others that call out privilege and bring to light a lot of the different ways race can affect your life in terms of privilege. However, the language used in the paragraphs really took me by surprise. For example, cities were referred to as “chocolate” because there are large amounts of black people within them and suburbs are “vanilla” because of all the white people. In addition, “whites” was used repeatedly. I see this all as dehumanizing. While I enjoy the work being done by these paragraphs and the messages within them, I think we need to be more careful when we talk about these things. Referring to people as flavors is actually kind of disturbing and rude, especially when these flavors are often used to fetishize people. It is also very uncomfortable since the overall idea of the paragraph is calling out inequality in schools. The repeated use of “whites” to refer to white people was uncomfortable for me because, again, it takes the idea of “people.” When we call people “chocolate,” or “the whites,” or “the blacks,” we are turning people into flavors, into colors, instead of just calling them people.

This may all seem like a very whiny, very insignificant thing to worry about, but I just feel as though we are in a time when people are already dehumanized enough. As I said, I really liked this section. I just think we can be more mindful of the ways we address these issues with our speech.

Media and Social Justice: Chapter Nine

One idea that I really found interesting about chapter nine, was that scholarship and activism are entwined. This chapter points out how feminist research and activism are often hard to separate. I had never thought of it like this before. I think we have this predetermined idea of activism that is the complete opposite of scholarship. Activism is raw, gritty, impolite. There are no rules to activism. Activism is fighting and shouting for your rights. On the other hand, scholarship is supposed to be very uptight with many rules. There is structure and big words. There is an overall assumed intelligence. There isn’t supposed to be fighting or impoliteness or even contractions. In general, activism and scholarship have completely different stereotypes. However, as this chapter points out, they don’t have to be polar opposites. They can come together and be completely functional together. It isn’t a binary. A lot of the time, justice is being achieved through a mix of both research and activist work. They are two forms of the same fight and that is something that is incredibly powerful to me.

Media and Social Justice: Chapter Six

In this second portion of the book, chapter six really stood out to me. The idea of fighting for media justice, the way it is written in this book is incredibly powerful. After the conference, introducing people to and giving them a better understanding of media justice, the people said that they understood better the importance of “fighting the media to get your story told” and “coming up with a strategy to get through the media by being courageous and demanding.” And this is where my rant begins. I think what makes me so upset is that you have to fight. While I know that this is so powerful and important and strong and inspiring, but WHY. Why does it have to be so difficult!? I had a post on Facebook not too long ago posing kind of the same question. Why is it so bad to want a world in which people actually have empathy? Why is it that when we are fighting for basic human rights and justice, we are met with insults and shooed away like annoying children? Why doesn’t everyone acknowledge that there are human beings out there that need help, that deserve a better life. Why is it so bad to want everyone to be happy, to have a fair chance at a good life? I just feel like we shouldn’t have to fight. But we do. And I am so, so proud of everyone that is not afraid. I am moved and inspired by everyone that speaks out against every form of injustice.

And if we have to be special snowflakes, I hope we can be the blizzard that ends injustice.

Media and Social Justice: Introduction

What stuck with me above all else in this first chunk of the book, was the idea of the “moral awakening.” Not to say that there isn’t other really valuable and important content in this entire chunk, but this phrase/event stood out the most to me because of the subject matter of my second project. In that project, I wrote about turning physical bodies into metaphors and how that can be detrimental to the movements that are centered around the physical existence of people of color and their lives. For example, we often take a physical event and turn it to fit a narrative that focuses on what the event could mean, what it could symbolize.

In this first section of this book, however, I began to realize that sometimes concepts are necessary, that not all concepts are bad. It is concepts and the spread of them that actually awaken people to the cause. Once that concept begins to circulate within society, it is that concept that connects people. Plus, concepts are what we fight for. We fight for education, we fight for rights, we fight for law reform.

While I still think the act of using injustice as a symbol can be harmful, I am not understanding that it isn’t always that way. I think sometimes it is so easy for me to be one-sided in my thinking these days, it is easy for me to be defensive, and I think that as someone who engages in activism, I should focus more on open-mindedness and educating myself further.