#BlackTwitter

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#BlackTwitter represents an online community within mainstream Twitter where account holders broadcast clever tweets concerning the Black American experience. Statistics indicate that Black tweeters make up 25% percent of Twitter, which is larger than any other racial group. This explains the impact that Black Twitter has within the Twitter mainstream. As Black Twitter trends go viral, usually due to their humorous relevance to current or social events, the wave momentum of the hashtag, or “Blacktag,” often carries the weight of influencing the actions of the hashtag’s target. For example, viral Blacktags have triggered Paula Deen’s apology for using the n-word, a murder trial juror’s book deal being dropped, and the cancellation of Zimmerman’s celebrity fight match.

In the past year there has been an increase in the formal attention that Black Twitter is receiving. News media outlets are publishing articles, pundits and experts are emerging to discuss the phenomenon on radio, internet and television, and research papers are being included in academic journals. While I don’t claim to be an expert, I have taken a great interest in the evolving canon and influence of Black Twitter.

All, however, has not been celebrated regarding Black Twitter. Many people shy away from involvement on Twitter calling it a gross waste of time and energy. Depending on who you follow, your Twitter timeline can represent a stream of consciousness that you have little interest in. Black Twitter, as well as the mainstream, can flat-out be mean when it comes down to people making derogatory, judgmental and abrasive comments about a target. Take for instance a recent viral tweet trend involving actress Gabourey Sidibe’s Golden Globe attire. Thousands of people tweeted offensive and nasty comments when referencing her off-white shimmering gown. The next morning Gabourey felt compelled to publically reply via Twitter: “To people making mean comments about my GG pics, I mos def cried about it on that private jet on my way to my dream job last night. #JK”

The tone of conversation via Black Twitter has been classified by scholars to fall under signifyin’. Signifyin’ is described as “a genre of linguistic performance that allows for the communication of multiple levels of meaning simultaneously, most frequently involving wordplay and misdirection.” It is a tradition within Black American oral tradition and understood to be linguistic expression as well as a “powerful performance of Black cultural identity.” So, when you “clown” your friend, and he or she replies “Oh, you got jokes???” we see dynamics of signifyin’ taking place. However, as the definition implies, as funny or even harsh as the jokes are, there’s always something deeper being discussed and both parties usually understand all levels of the conversation at hand within the realm of signifyin’. In this regard, Black Twitter WILL lampoon a target, some calling it shaming tactics. But however you view it, Black Twitter has real-time influence in the virtual and offline world.

  1. #solidarityisforwhitewomen
  2. #racismendedwhen
  3. #DumbRoastJokes
  4. #DonLemonSays
  5. #PaulasBestDishes
  6. #LilMamasWeave
  7. #OnlyInTheGhetto
  8. #slapyourself
  9. #ThanksMiley
  10. #RacismEndedWhen
  11. #WhiteHistoryClasses
  12. #AskRkelly
  13. #OscarGrant
  14. #TooMuchDoubt
  15. #DangerousBlackKids

As of early 2015, the question really isn’t WHAT is Black Twitter?; the conversations have given validity to its credibility as a social force. While some deem Black Twitter as “ratchet” (which I’ve heard more than once), others say it is what you make it. For the socially conscious, Black Twitter is an accommodating and welcoming platform. It is their activist bullhorn, and the more followers they have who are willing to retweet their missives, the more powerful Black Twitter as a priceless community becomes. The New Pittsburgh Courier is already considering Black Twitter’s impact on the 2016 Presidential Election. According to Mychal Denzel Smith, Black Twitter has perfected rapid response to public figures whose actions counter the ideas of justice and equality. “They have made pariahs out of certain figures, and demanded action. So if there’s some value to that in electoral politics, it’s that Black Twitter can call politicians to the mat for their particularly odious views and educate the public, so far as the Internet goes.” Reagan Gomez, blogger and actress, said it best by musing, “Can’t really explain #BlackTwitter other than 2 say, it’s one big barbershop/beauty salon with a mix of church & the black table at HS lunch.”

By Mai Perkins

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1 Comment

  1. As someone who is new to Twitter, I have witnessed the force of Black Twitter. The individuals I follow range from friends, whom I never thought viewed and experienced oppression the way I have. To strangers that have opened my intellectual realm via the internet. It’s a dope movement, and I’m all for it.

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