By: Zach Fulwood
#GrowingUpBlack. #BlackGirlMagic. #OscarsSoWhite. #BlackLivesMatter. Any of these sound familiar? If they do, then it’s pretty safe to say that you’ve been introduced to the fun side of Twitter that is Black Twitter. If these sound like a bunch of reverse racism Twitter hashtags then I’m totally not sorry to inform you that you’re severely misinformed. But don’t worry. I got you.
Black Twitter is a lot of things. One minute it can be used as a way of bringing awareness to social injustices and the next minute it’s being used to reflect upon the best Black sitcoms of the 90’s. Black Twitter is largely a cultural phenomenon that acts as an extension of the Black urban experience and that experience has proven to be every bit as complex and nuanced on social media as it is outside of it.
Since its introduction to the mainstream world, Black Twitter has been a major force in starting conversations about race and social injustices that wouldn’t otherwise be had. The unjust nature of the murders of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown would never have been discussed by the mainstream media had it not been for the hashtags and consistent updates spread all over Black Twitter. Arguably the single most controversial hashtag to have ever come out of Black Twitter is #BlackLivesMatter and that hashtag alone helped spearhead the conversation about police brutality and the unfair treatment of Black people by police officers.
Black Twitter has no limits to who or what it will go after when something isn’t right. In 2015, after the Oscars was shown to be severely lacking in diversity among its award winners, #OscarsSoWhite was born. This scathing indictment of the Oscars created by managing editor at Broadway Black, April Reign, proved to be a tipping point for a lot of minority celebrities and viewers that ultimately led to a complete revamping of the Oscars voting board.
Sitting right alongside the socially aware sector of Black Twitter is the culturally entertaining side that is filled with inside jokes, colloquial slang, and sub societies that will fight until the bitter end to defend their cause such as #TheBeyHive. In the case of #TheBeyHive, just stay far away from any slander towards Beyoncé, her kids, and the rest of her family. Otherwise, be prepared for a battle that you will ultimately lose by being forced to deactivate your Twitter account because your mentions will end up something crazy.
The culturally entertaining side of Black Twitter hasn’t only found itself being shared amongst those who frequently use it but some of its content has been used to make a profit by major corporations. When recognizable food chains such as Taco Bell and IHOP start throwing in a “on fleek” all of a sudden, things start getting a little weird. Now obviously Black culture being taken and re-purposed for financial gain without proper credit being attributed isn’t anything new. Rock & Roll anyone?
However, it is rather alarming how these companies will take from Black culture in an effort to appeal to a more “urban” and “diverse” audience while failing to reflect that same diversity within their advertising departments. Back in 2015, owner and CEO of Campbell Communications Ron Campbell spoke to NBC News about the lack of diversity in ad agencies saying “People who create the advertising are primarily not black.” Essentially, it’s okay to peruse, gawk, and ultimately take from Black Twitter but investing in the creative minds behind the content of Black Twitter is too tall of a task. Maybe it’s just me but nothing about my buttermilk pancakes being “on fleek” makes me crave IHOP.
In its essence, Black Twitter is Black culture. It is everything about Black people from the most stereotypical images to the more original and authentic representations of them. Black Twitter is the Black experience in its rawest form and just like Black people, it’s here to stay.