#BlackTwitter Addresses Cultural Appropriation
After years and years of trying to tame large backsides “in countless exercise classes,” we can finally relax because according to an article published by Vogue last month, we have officially entered the era of the big booty. According to the article, Jennifer Lopez succeeded in making butts kind of cool in the early aughts (who could forget that Versace dress she wore to the 2000 Grammys?), but ample butt was nothing to be proud of until recently.
Never mind the fact that having and celebrating sizable derrieres has long been a part of black music and culture. As far as Vogue is concerned, none of that mattered before they cosigned butts with their article.
In response to Vogue’s article, which gave a nod to a total of four black artists, black Twitter users began using the hashtag #VogueArticles to suggest other story ideas for the magazine, all of which praised white people for things that have been a part of black culture for what seems like forever. The hashtag quickly began trending, and has been included in more than three-hundred thousand mocking tweets.
#voguearticles Izzy Azalea: The Queen of Rap
— Danny (@dannyscorner) September 14, 2014
"How the cast of 'Jersey Shore' made tans & brown skin fashionable!" – #VogueArticles
— Anniese (@5Ft8NRiSiNg) September 14, 2014
The #VogueArticles hashtag is just one shining example of the way Black Twitter, the name used to refer to black Twitter users en-masse, utilizes the site.
No one is sure when Black Twitter started, or who even coined the term ‘Black Twitter’, but the virtual community has become a way for African Americans in the United States to voice their contempt, joy, and other feelings about the black experience in America. If you’ve never heard of it, it is likely because the issues and references that are worked out through the community’s often playful hashtags are ones that have never impacted you. But if you can relate, and are capable of curating a Tweet funnier than the last guy’s, Black Twitter is open to you too.
“I use Twitter every day, if not every couple of hours,” says Barbara Cummings a black, 22-year-old, recent graduate of SF State.
Cummings isn’t alone in her frequent Twitter use, the same Pew survey showed that of the twenty-two percent of black people that access Twitter, eleven percent log on at least once a day, compared to just three percent of whites.
"Mind tells you 'no', but body tells you 'yes'? Exclusive with R. Kelly on his lifelong battle with Schizophrenia. #ABCReports
— Big Len (@BigLen_) August 28, 2013
"I'll Knock You Into Next Week" have black mothers invented time travel? Details at 11. #ABCReports
— Leon Langford (@MasonLLL) August 28, 2013
Though the hashtags are often humorous (after ABC news published an article titled ‘Twerking: A Scientific Explanation’, Black Twitter created the hashtag #ABCReports, and began suggesting titles for other investigative pieces like: Is It Scientifically Possible to Smack the Taste out of One’s Mouth? A Roundtable Discussion #ABCReports) trending hashtags are also used to highlight the plight of blacks in America and spark social change.
“I can’t really speak for all black people, but I can say what I see a lot of. If something pops up in the media that may have an underlying racial motive my black twitter followers will bring it to my attention or look at it in a perspective that’ll really leave me thinking like, ‘This whole racism thing never really died,’” says Cummings.
After the death of Mike Brown, an unarmed teenager who was shot and killed by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, protests began and the small town’s residents began to clash with the local police.
Meanwhile, the news coverage of the events transpiring in Ferguson focused mostly on the well being of the police force and painting Mike Brown as a thug through pictures found on his various social media accounts, instead of using pictures that showed the teen had a soft side.
In response to the way the Mike Brown and the countless black victims of police brutality are portrayed in the mainstream media, Black Twitter started using the hashtag #IfTheyGunnedMeDown and users began posting pictures of themselves in which they were drinking, smoking or joking around alongside pictures of themselves graduating from college, posing in family portraits and doing other non-threatening activities and asking the simple question #IfTheyGunnedMeDown, what picture would they use?
— Anonymous (@OpPinkPower) August 25, 2014
Similarly, shortly after George Zimmerman was acquitted of Trayvon Martin’s murder last summer, one of the jurors responsible for coming to that verdict, known in the media as Juror B37, announced that she would be publishing a book about her time on the jury in what was a highly publicized case that was an extremely sensitive topic for a lot of black people.
Upon hearing this news, Twitter user @MoreAndAgain disseminated the contact info of the literary agent who was responsible for offering Juror B37 the book deal in the first place and encouraged other black Twitter users to contact the agent and voice their opinions on a potential Juror B37 book.
This is the Google Doc with contact information for Sharlene Martin, the literary agent for juror B37. Contact her http://t.co/tvl7p5nRTm
— Genie Lauren (@MoreAndAgain) July 16, 2013
Soon after, the agent contacted @MoreAndAgain to let her know that Juror B37’s book deal was off the table.