Twitter, the main social network where a person can speak their mind in 140 characters or less. Inside this social network, there is an aspect that functions as more than a commonplace safe haven for Black users to challenge normative structures. This is Black Twitter. Now, everyone loves the content produced from black twitter – the memes, the humor, the apologetic truth, etc – but nobody wants to be involved in Black Twitter.
In a sense, Black Twitter functions as a global village among users. Through numerous hashtags, users across the nation feel more interconnected by participating in these “trending topics”.With the hashtags like #BlackLivesMatter or #BlackGirlMagic, Twitter serves as space where black teens simultaneously can voice their opinions on social issues and affirm each other.Twitter also builds a community when culture affecting moments are present such as the BET Awards, and the Presidential Election.
What’s powerful about Black Twitter is how users discuss the politics of racial privilege beyond a black and white world.A classical debate on Black Twitter is use of the of hashtags #TeamLightskin and #TeamDarkskin are forms of colorism. For those unfamiliar, colorism is the discrimination against individuals with a darker skin tone, typically among people of the same racial group. Going back as far as slavery, the Light Skin vs Dark Skin debate has been a long conflict within the Black community. With Twitter, this debate has become a common hashtag that has never left.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7zd-qvqRQqI (please watch 0:00 – 3:00)
TRIGGER WARNING: MILD PROFANITY
This video is an example of how hashtags lead to the negative portrayal of African Americans on Black Twitter. The hashtags were created on the basis of humor, so people who felt they were “lightskin” or “darkskin” could relate on person experiences related to their skin complexion. As this debate became a trending topic, non black users began to typed their tweets away. Thus beginning the debate on which is better: lighter skin or darker skin. This war has created deep rooted hatred & jealousy within black culture which can be easily measured up against the hate African Americans as a whole have experienced from racism. Within the archives of the hashtag, you can find media with the intent on stereotyping a certain shade of an African American can also be found. You may also find darker skin individuals shaming light skin individuals for not looking “100% black”. This process of one form of blackness versus another is a display of bell hooks’ idea of eating the othering. The hashtags create a normative view of what it means to be black, and at the same time fetishizes the differences of blackness.
From Andre Brock’s article “From the Blackhand Side: Twitter as a Cultural Conversation”, he refers back to WEB Dubois’ idea of double consciousness. Similar to Twitter, double consciousness allows people to see the multiple discourses of whiteness and blackness. By seeing these disparities, users are able to understand how each ethnicity is seen. However it is not productive to have a community beefing with each other on the basis of skin complexion.
According to Brock, Black Twitter is understood as a ‘‘public group of specific Twitter users’’. Since it is public, every users on Twitter – black and non black – can participate in these trends. There is no Twitter police to stop a non black person from entering the realm of Black Twitter.Black Twitter has the vocabulary, the deepest pop cultural frame of reference, and the spirit of improvisation to ruin a person’s social media career. Once there is racism, Black Twitter unites ! Users will begin to send backlash about racism, or warn other users about this racism. We have seen Black Twitter defend themselves after the dominant white majority created the hashtag #growingupwhite in response to the success of #growingupblack.
With all of that, I leave you all with questions to think about. Please send me feedback, comments, questions, and concerns. Thanks for reading !
- Why do negative portrayals of minorities help bring them together?
- Where else do you see issues of colorism on social media? How are the different shades of a certain ethnicity are challenged on social media ?
- How does the debate between #teamlightskin vs #teamdarkskin affects newer generations who are creating Twitters?
- Do you feel that Black Twitter is a part of Black Culture ?