Trial by #BLACKTWITTER

Online community attempts to ensure the world knows what's going on in Black America.

Credit: John Jennings, www.moneytechtimes.com
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Almost nothing gets by Black Twitter.

Black Twitter is a civil rights movement, U.S Supreme Court and the Shaderoom, all in one.

There is no special membership, you just have to be able to stand and dish the heat of black knowledge and culture. If you’re black, have black friends, or have spent time at a historically black college, you more than likely will pass the test. 

Sherri Williams, an assistant professor at American University,  said she is part of Black Twitter.

“I would define Black Twitter as a collection of like-minded people who are also black, who communicate with each other on this social media site to discuss cultural traditions and mores and also to advance social justice,” she said.

Black Twitter’s main purpose is social activism and attempts to ensure that the world knows what’s going on in black communities across the country. The most well-known Black Twitter hashtag, #BlackLivesMatter, began in 2013, when activist Alicia Garza went on Facebook to express frustration about George Zimmerman’s acquittal in the killing of Trayvon Martin.

Her friend responded with the hashtag and it spread across Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms.  The hashtag sparked nationwide protest against police killings of black people and other issues related to racial inequalities in the United States.

Since #BlackLivesMatter, other hashtags such as #IfTheyGunnedMeDown have gained national attention because of Black Twitter. African Americans posted photos of themselves as they believed the media would represent them.

This was in response to the media’s portrayal of Michael Brown, an unarmed African American teenager who was shot by a white police officer.  Instead of using the 18-year-old’s graduation photos, the media used photos that some people say depicted him as as “thug.” The same happened with Trayvon Martin.

Black Twitter exposes and continuously discusses the systematic racism in America. #FreeCyntoiaBrown brought the young teenagers’ case back into the spotlight. Black Twitter members are calling for a review of her sentencing.

When Cyntoia Brown was 16, she shot and killed a man who had allegedly hired her for sex. She was tried as an adult, convicted of first-degree murder and given a mandatory life sentence with the possibility of parole only after 51 years, according to ABC News.

With the #FreeCyntoiaBrown hashtag and others, Black Twitter demanded answers and results, not just retweets. Scholars, celebrities, and everyday people who aren’t normally in the same space to talk are able to engage in conversation and express their opinions on common topics.

The topics discussed on Black Twitter are nothing new, it’s just a new way to communicate them.

It’s instant.

During the Civil Rights Movement, protest information had to be mailed or heard through word of mouth, but with Twitter, activist can spark and show support of protest nationwide.

“I can talk about anything whenever I want to but I feel like what Black Twitter has done is it has amplified some of the conversations that black people are already having and have already been having for decades,” said Williams.

Although the platform is used for activism, twitter users can’t avoid the shade –also known as criticism–by black people on any given topic. About 38 percent of black people use Twitter compared to 21 percent of white people, according to a Pew Research Center Survey.

Anything that airs on national television, from Empire to political debates to award shows, is reviewed by self proclaimed Twitter judges and up for shade and debate.

“Black people watch more T.V than any other group and black people tweet more than any other group so it’s natural for black people to engage on Twitter when they are discussing television shows and black cultural events.”

“Black people watch more T.V than any other group and black people tweet more than any other group so it’s natural for black people to engage on Twitter when they are discussing television shows and black cultural events that are airing on television like the Soul Train Awards,” Williams said.

She added, “But even in that, even in black people just talking about the shows they watch and engaging with one another about these shows on Twitter they’re still doing that in a political and social justice sense,” said Williams.

Take American Music Awards, versus the Soul Train Awards — Black Twitter was there for it all.

In 2013, April Reign, managing editor of BroadwayBlack.com, created the trending Twitter topic, #OscarsSoWhite which addressed the lack of diversity in the Oscars. Days later, black people and celebrities including Spike Lee, joined the movement and began a protest against the Oscars.

As a result, many changes are being made to the nomination committee, including the addition of female and minority members by 2020, according to USA Today.

Black Twitter has the power to magnify issues that don’t make it to the mainstream. Dr. Williams said that researchers and journalists may misconceive the meaning of the references used in a tweet because it is plucked or taken out of context.

“Researchers and reporters need to be careful about taking one particular post and building ideas and thoughts around that,” Williams said.

“I think that Twitter can be a starting point to find people to talk about things and to find angles for stories but just seeing one particular tweet shouldn’t be the end of it. They should go that next step and actually reach out to that person and interview them and get more context,” she said.

Some Twitter hashtags don’t need to be explained in the black community. For example, don’t call the police if someone says #MakeYouSlapYoMomma. They don’t mean that they’ll literally slap your mom, they mean something is so good, you yourself may consider slapping your mom.

When some says “sips tea,” they aren’t actually drinking tea. They are saying they’re listening, but minding their business —sort of.

These are just some of the unspoken rules. Black Twitter is a way to spread cultural trends and highlight the good and bad of black communities, as well as the everyday dilemmas black people face.

It’s a place for fun and sarcasm, as well as seriousness and solitude.

Black Twitter is always watching and it’s no place for the #insecure.

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