‘Black Twitter’ Creates Web Buzz

‘Black Twitter’ Creates Web Buzz


By Bobbi Booker of the Philadelphia Tribune

“Black Twitter” has captured the imagination of the online world. Although exact figures for Twitter use among African Americans have yet to surface, Blacks are a powerful force on the social medium.

As defined by BuzzFeed, “Black Twitter is, loosely speaking, a group of thousands of Black Twitterers (though, to be accurate, not everyone within Black Twitter is Black, and not every Black person on Twitter is in Black Twitter) who A.) are interested in issues of race in the news and pop culture and B.) tweet A LOT.”

Twitter is a micro-blogging platform where you can express yourself in 140 characters or less. It is a forum that has significant legitimate civic and political uses. For instance, Newark Mayor Cory Booker is a prolific “tweeter” with more than one million followers.

In 2010, a Pew Research Study highlighted trends demonstrating Twitter usage was disproportionately Black and female. Next, journalists for Slate, The Huffington Post, Time, etc., began to explore and analyze the world of “Black Twitter” and kept getting most of it wrong. The fascination continues; but explorations into “what Black people are doing on Twitter” tend to get it wrong, most of the time.

The latest news item to set off Black Twitter is Fast Company’s list titled “25 Of The Smartest Women On Twitter” where not one woman of color was listed. Black Twitter is responded in the form of a hashtag: #SmartBlackWomenOnTwitter, and Fast Company quickly posted a formal response.

“There was some appropriate criticism about who was missing (‘Spoiler alert: not one Black woman,’ one Twitter user sharply, correctly noted). And we followed closely as the whole thing morphed into hashtags, including #SmartBlackWomenOfTwitter and #SmartLatinaWomenOfTwitter. You’ll find a treasure trove of big thinkers and innovators to follow there. We consider ourselves lucky to have an engaged audience who calls it like they see it (or don’t see it in this case) … We’re big believers in the idea that the future of business looks a lot less like Steve Ballmer and a lot more like Kelvin Doe, Yvonne Greenstreet and Reshma Saujani. That idea is reflected in our annual lists, including Most Innovative Companies and Most Creative People. We squandered the opportunity to do the same with our initial Twitter list.”

The publication continued to list more diverse names including Chidayah Faria, Soledad O’Brien, Danyel Smith and left their comments section open to further suggestions. The response to Fast Company’s unintentional racism was swift and sharp.

“We’re not an afterthought,” wrote blogger Feminista Jones. “We want to be considered initially, and not have posts like this thrown up as a consolation prize. Black women are at the forefront of so many amazing endeavors and we are leaders in our fields. We want that to be something considered from the very beginning. The omission of Black women from a list of ‘Smart’ people is, sadly, not shocking at all. Most people don’t even consider us to be real women, much less smart. I don’t think the intention was to be discriminatory; I simply think this oversight was a case of lazy privilege and resting on the laurels of one’s comfort zone. If you don’t know any Smart Black Women, how can you write about them? Thanks, but … no thanks. We got this :)”

Jones ended her statement with the sly use of a colon and parenthesis emoticon symbol used to resemble a smile or grin. Like the innovation of hip-hop, Black Twitter shows that despite the seeming universality of technology, people and culture matter.

Contact Staff Writer Bobbi Booker at (215) 893-5749 or bbooker@phillytrib.com.