Black Twitter: A Response to Bias in Mainstream Media
Another user with the handle, @LaToubabNoire tweeted,#APHeadlines millions of Africans complain after free cruise to the Americas; slave traders find them ‘ungrateful’.
Another user with the handle @CmartinezClass tweeted,Homeless blasphemer from low-income Nazarene family, low on stamina, fails to survive crucifixion. #APHeadlines.
This hashtag is a demonstration of textual poaching as resistance; through facetious comedy and jokes Twitter users were able to create a space that allowed them to voice their anger about the lack of consideration and concern black bodies receive by mainstream news press and coverage, even after someone’s demise. Soon after the hashtag “#APHeadlines” went viral, the Associated Press changed the caption of the McBride story and tweeted, “Jury convicts Michigan man in killing of unarmed woman on his porch”, rewording the language from the previous tweet three hours after the original twitter message was posted. Consequently, the hashtag #APHeadlines also demonstrates the power of Twitter, particularly black Twitter, in exposing implicit bias and changing the narrative. It is important to note that one does not need to be black to participate in black Twitter. In this digital space, black men and women include those who self-describe/identify. Therefore, those who engage in black twitter also engage in what Gayatri Spivak calls strategic essentialism . Strategic essentialism can be useful for building coalitions and organizing; the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter serves as a key example of essentializing for purposes of creating awareness and coalition building. Consequently, throughout this article, the term “black” is used strategically without ignoring the multiplicity of “black” people in the United States and abroad. Ultimately, it is through the exploration of social media and textual poaching as resistance that this paper seeks to explore the possibilities black Twitter provides in challenging racial bias portrayed in mainstream mass media and systemic violence and oppression that places black and brown bodies at the margins.Children flee tourist locations in Latin America in hunt for government handouts and comfy beds in deportation centers. #APHeadlines.
2.1. Perceptions of Blackness and Criminality
2.2. Constructing an Alternative Theory
4.2. Power of Testimonials—Enforcing Counter-Narratives
Another user with the handle @CharinaNadura tweeted,MASSIVE SIT-IN TAKES OVER TIMES SQUARE #HandsUpDontShoot #ICantBreathe.
A user with the twitter handle @Sifill_LDF tweeted,In front of #NYPD station in times square yelling #HandsUpDontShoot & #ICantBreathe.
Black men do not have to perfect for their lives to have value [sic]. #EricGarner is not on trial. He is a homicide victim. #Icantbreathe.
Another tweet by a user with the handle @cardsgirl1972 stated,Got pulled over for a brake light out. Underage and drinking and blew over the limit. Cop let me walk to my friend’s apt. #CrimingWhileWhite.
Another user with the handle @oceana_roll stated,When I was 20, I stole a pack of cigs, cop prayed with me and made me promise I wouldn’t do it again. #CrimingWhileWhite.
In high school I got in a 3 car wreck that might have been my fault. The cop told me it was ‘illegal alien’s fault’. #CrimingWhileWhite.
Another example of the #AliveWhileBlack hashtag included a tweet by user Francesca Ramsey with the handle @chescaleigh,Got raped+robbed. Police took forever to interview me, mentioned that women sometimes lie to hide “gambling, overspending” #AliveWhileBlack.
Another tweeter with the handle @AkilahObviously stated,I was mugged after dropping a friend off late at night after work. The cops harassed me & asked why I was “really there” #alivewhileblack.
The purpose of this hashtag was not to glorify “under-punished f-ups”, but instead to highlight the ways people of color have a difficult time just staying alive in regular day-to-day activities, such as driving to work. Here, Patricia Turner’s analysis of rumors is relevant. Turner argues that rumor in African-American communities operate as a tool of resistance, a vital mechanism, in which one uses to protect oneself from continued harm and degradation . This analysis of rumors helps to explain how and why the testimonials and counter-narratives spread so quickly and became popular on black Twitter (regardless of whether the testimonies were true or not). These testimonies and counter-narratives, all examples of textual poaching as resistance, shared different experiences and stories while shedding a light on the disparities of race and inequality across the United States, and giving a voice to the often voiceless; but more importantly, they began a national and global conversation about institutionalized racial inequalities in America.17 y/o—Drove to Kroger to get my mom Nyquil. Pulled over unexplained. Asked why I was in my neighborhood. 4 backup cop cars. #AliveWhileBlack.
4.3. Healing through Organizing and Building Community
In the spirit of Malcolm X, Angela Davis, Stokely Carmichael and many others, we thought the connections between the African American leadership of the movement in the US and those on the ground in Palestine needed to be reestablished and fortified.~Ahmad Abuznaid, the legal and policy director of the Dream Defenders.
Conflicts of Interest
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Lee, L.A. Black Twitter: A Response to Bias in Mainstream Media. Soc. Sci. 2017, 6, 26. https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci6010026
Lee LA. Black Twitter: A Response to Bias in Mainstream Media. Social Sciences. 2017; 6(1):26. https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci6010026Chicago/Turabian Style
Lee, Latoya A. 2017. "Black Twitter: A Response to Bias in Mainstream Media" Social Sciences 6, no. 1: 26. https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci6010026