North Texas Daily

Column: An explanation of “Black Twitter”

Column: An explanation of “Black Twitter”

Column: An explanation of “Black Twitter”
February 17
23:28 2014

Morgan Gentry // Staff Writer 

A 2013 study by the Pew Research Center found that a high-rate of young, college-educated African Americans are using social networks, with 40 percent of them avid Twitter users.

That 40 percent has created a movement through the social network and, in result, has provoked empowering conversations, created comical references to pop-culture and changed the flow of information being spread across social media.

What is “Black Twitter”?

With an array of topics, outrageous memes and hashtags galore, the presence of America’s black, young adult community has made a voice for themselves on social networks. Though every Twitter follower may not recognize this trend, it doesn’t mean they haven’t been a part of the conversations.

Ever seen the hash tags: #ThanksMiley, #BlackBuzzfeed, #JusticeforTrayvon, #PaulasBestDishes, #Scandal, anything relating to Beyoncé, #RacismEndedWhen, #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen, and the obvious #BlackTwitter or #BlackTwitterWelcomeManual?

All of those were generated through the community of “Black Twitter” in 2013.

“It’s an interesting circumstance because the fact of the matter is Twitter is all built on hashtags, and conversation that you can create segments on by using hashtags,” social media guru and Mayborn Journalism professor Neil Foote said. “The fact that there’s this kind of attention to ‘Black Twitter’ being different from ‘White Twitter’ is a silly conversation because any given day there’s thousands, if not millions, of hash tags on the subjects that may be of broad interest or very [limited] interest.”

However the media outlets that have picked up on this movement, like the Washington Post, Buzzfeed, Huffington Post and numerous African-American driven outlets believe this is something more of a phenomenon.

“Black Twitter is part cultural force, cudgel, entertainment and refuge. It is its own society within Twitter, replete with inside jokes, slang and rules, centered on the interests of young blacks online,” according to a Washington Post article about the movement.

Is it just for black people?

With the label “Black Twitter,” it would seem this movement is exclusive to just the black community, but that is not the case.  The conversations are not only for black people but rather the engagement of conversation is rooted in the black community.

The input black tweeters produce can have a negative and, at times, offensive generalized connotation, but it is often polarized with the witty and political side that “Black Twitter” fosters.

It seems to give off an exclusive vibe because some of the references, jokes or language may not resonate with other races, but it’s a matter of knowledge rather than a secret passcode.

“It’s not about races, but I think it’s just another recognition that the cultures in this country are still divided in many different ways, even though we are more collective, both race and gender, specifically for younger generations,” Foote said.

UNT’s Black Twitter community

Twitter is a tool for anyone to engage in issues around them, whether it’s local, national or international. What goes on in UNT’s backyard is just as important to one race as it is to another. “Black Twitter” has positives and negatives but should not be generalized as the voice for every black community.

Here at UNT, the black community uses Twitter as a way to empower, educate and entertain one another.

“Whenever I know something is going on I can go on “Black Twitter” and find out exactly what it is by the hashtags or typing in whatever the occasion is,” journalism sophomore Sasha Gordon said.

Keeping everyone, no matter the race, connected has been Twitter’s purpose, but for most black students it’s more than that.

“At a predominately white institution, black students are not the primary focus when it comes to the university seeking success for its students,” music education and vocal performance junior Troy Elliott said. “In an attempt to satisfy all students, the needs of the majority are primary in conversations with administration. The black community has to find comfort, resources and support within itself, and as a result, the network becomes very tight knit and yes, has a degree of exclusiveness with it.”

Elliott has a strong voice in UNT’s black community. As the president of the Black Student Union, a presiding organization over all African American, African and black student organizations, he hears the needs of the close-knit community that continues to grow on campus.

“This should not suggest, however, that the community is not inclusive,” Elliott said. “With that, I would also say comes pride because the network only continues to exist because we as students continue to survive in adverse conditions brought on by the university’s lack of commitment to our community’s success.”

The plight of an African American student isn’t something that should be singled out and given extra attention, because every student struggles. But with a smaller demographic, they have to find other ways to expand their voices on such a large campus.

In the evolving world of social media, black, college-educated students have found Twitter.

However, not every black college student is a part of this social community or care to be involved.

Mayborn Academic Adviser and Public Relations grad student Monique Scales says she hates Twitter, but every one of her black friends is an avid tweeter. She wishes people would put that kind of energy into bettering themselves in reality but she does understand the increasing popularity.

“If it’s directed in the right way, especially for the younger kids, I think it would be great,” Scales said. “It’s getting people to talk about things. I love Spike Lee just because he’s all about getting conversation going and that’s kind of what Twitter is allowing, positive or negative. We’re talking about stuff.”

However, those who are involved in “Black Twitter” at UNT become a part of the daily operations special topic sessions that happen at night, according to Elliottt.

“There are sessions where campus leadership, whether that be the BSU Twitter account, myself, [National Pan-Hellenic Council] Greek men and women, and other campus leaders in our community introduce a topic or more importantly, a cause for our community,” Elliott said.  “Those who were unaware educate themselves and begin to help spread the word.”

The UNT Trayvon Hoodie March that occurred when Trayvon Martin was killed by George Zimmerman was birthed on Twitter, he added.

Two sides of Black Twitter

The issues vary in UNT’s black community. Some are in the entertainment realm, like the recent dance video called #UNTNAENAE, in which a large group of UNT students, both black and non-black, demonstrated a dance created by an Atlanta-based rapper, while supplying hype and interaction within the crowd.

Others are on the more serious side of things, like the recent arrest of black UNT student Cherita Cunningham, who was arrested for assault on a peace officer, assault on a family member. and resisting arrest and other charges.

The incident took place this past November during UNT’s homecoming football game at Apogee stadium. However, when a recent petition was put online Jan. 28, by the student’s mother, it seemed that the police report had partial claims that didn’t include the brutality that was used toward the Cunninghams.

The testimony of Cunningham’s younger brother and her co-worker Adam Kalar, who was also sent to jail for reportedly reaching for a phone, was only more fuel to the fire.

Elliott quickly jumped on the issue and began to spread the word, reaching out to SGA plus other sources around Denton. He plans to bring the issue to the attention of UNT’s administration.

Gordon also brought up the petition for Cunningham, while speaking about the power of “Black Twitter”.

“Right now there’s a thing going on, #JusticeForCherita, which was something that went on and was very serious with the Denton Police,” Gordon said. “Black Twitter is uplifting it, trying to make an uproar so something can happen. There’s a petition going around and ‘Black Twitter’ is pushing that.”

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