Black Twitter is the modern day green book, CU Boulder researcher says

The Negro Motorist Green Book, first published by black postman Victor Green in New York in 1936, provided black readers with advice on businesses that welcomed African Americans to separate, expanding United States. over the following years with editions around the world that offered information on how to resist discrimination and violent threats.

While the resource, often referred to simply as the Green Book, ceased publication in 1966 after the passage of the Civil Rights Act, a researcher at the University of Colorado at Boulder said the sentiment carried by this essential tool continues in a modernized version: Black Twitter.

Black Twitter is not a separate version of the popular social media network, but a community of predominantly black users and allies – and sometimes internet trolls – who use Twitter to talk to each other about black culture.

PhD student Shamika Klassen, along with colleagues at UC and peers from Carnegie Mellon and Harvard universities, analyzed more than 75,000 tweets from April and May 2020 and interviewed 18 black Twitter users.

Their research is a deep dive into how Black Twitter – which Klassen describes as an “open secret waiting in plain sight of those who know how to find it” – serves as an important online dating space for exploring identity, black history, culture, joy and pain.

“What interested me the most were the many different ways that Black Twitter brought people to life,” Klassen said in an interview. “There are benefits, there is empowerment, there were also people warning against racism, and it was so interesting to see all the different ways people were fed in their minds by Black Twitter. It’s more than just fun hot takes or having fun with the Battles of Verzuz happening, but a rich, deep and meaningful community of people.

Orville Rawlins, a Denver resident with Caribbean roots, said he never travels without first consulting the community he formed on Black Twitter.

“I will say I’m going to be in such and such an area, what should I do and where should I go,” Rawlins said.

He agreed that Black Twitter was a modern day green book in his life.

Rawlins said he learned his lesson two years ago when he left on a business trip to Houston without consulting anyone for safety advice and ended up getting robbed.

“I tweeted what happened to me and people were like, ‘Oh, I would have told you about this area,’” Rawlins said. “It’s an informal way of protecting each other. “

In addition to safety, Rawlins uses his trusted sources within the social media platform to find food tasty enough to satisfy his cravings.

“People will joke on Twitter saying these are the restaurants in the area, but this one has spices and they know how to use them,” Rawlins said. “It may not seem like a big deal to others, but the spices are what make the food, the spices are what matters to us. Every time I see a review of a small restaurant, a hole in the wall, a food truck with my followers, I put more value on it.

Klassen’s research noted the ways in which Black Twitter kept users informed about local activism and protests, particularly during the Black Lives Matter movements.

“One interviewee was at school watching Black Twitter as the protests unfolded during the week, so when they weren’t in school they knew where to go, what to bring, how to stay safe – because ‘they had been watching this. point, ”Klassen said. “People were able to get this information live on the ongoing protests and then participate themselves offline. “

Patricia Cameron, the founder of Colorado Springs-based Blackpackers, which focuses on economic equity in outdoor recreation, used Twitter to raise awareness of social justice issues like police brutality locally and nationally, bridging the gaps that she said she couldn’t have otherwise in her predominantly white town of Colorado.

Cameron said the act of black communities building culture inside white spaces has been around forever and she described the social media space as “our collective consciousness.”

“It’s like a big cafeteria for us,” Cameron said.

Cameron said that if she wants to buy something online and shop at black-owned businesses – whether it’s hair products, skin care products, or whatever – she’ll take to Twitter to ask for one. recommendation.

She also said she used the platform to promote her outdoor recreation organization and found the support and empowerment of black people across the country, bolstering her successes and encouraging her.

“I don’t feel like I’m alone,” Cameron said.

Klassen said she hopes her research will inspire more people to search for Black Twitter and advocate for platforms like Twitter to better support communities of color.

“I hope this encourages people to explore and research Black Twitter ethically and in a way that honors people in this space,” Klassen said.


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