The advent of social media comes with its ups and downs, just like with anything in life in general. I think that the idea that anywhere on the Internet is a safe space, let alone twitter, is an opinion born out of immense privilege. People are online for all kinds of reasons, and just a few years ago, as of August 2009, I refused to join Twitter.com. My microblogging (what are called Tweets) have remained fairly consistent. It’s always been about fandoms, politics, and theology. Essentially, what I write about here on PJ, except in 140 character blurbs.
Twitter has definitely changed things for me. It has made it easier for me to network with persons with my general interests, I have learned new ideas, such as with the emergence of Black Nerdity and Blerd Chats. I still feel that the religious meanings of things like Social Justice and Black Twiitter have yet to be explored. Sure, Twitter has its darkside, like the numbers of parody accounts and reactionary racist hashtags like #SpeakAmerican.
Yet, the overwhelming majority of Trends on Twitter are good, positive messages, support for fallen persons, or just plain ole snarky criticisms of liberals and conservatives. As I noted in a recent Tumblr post:
“As a black man who regularly uses Twitter for discussing theology, racial justice, and geeky fandom talk, I have found Twitter to be more or less pretty safe. This is what it is to have male privilege online. Men are allowed to have opinions, even men of colors sometimes. There have been a few times, however, that I have been the victim of white supremacist trolls. When I wrote a blogpost on the New Apartheid and the Renisha McBride murder, immediately three or four white supremacists trolls jumped into my timeline. Total strangers who had never once glanced at my TL or Bio for that matter.
What I experienced is nothing compared to the harassment that renowned Women of Color on Twitter get on a daily basis. When a racist hashtag trends on Twitter ( #TT ), it does matter because it means there are groups of people who are intending to make Twitter an unsafe space for People of Color. As I have written before, white liberals for some reason refuse to take cyber-white supremacy seriously.”
Last week, Michelle Goldberg wrote a piece, Feminism’s Toxic Twitter Wars [linked is the Do Not Link Version] about the Toxic Twitter Wars perpetuated by savage Maoist Women of Color. It was declared to be “fair and balanced,” sort of the way Fox News claims for itself. In reality, it was very much lopsided in its criticism of women of color, but not only that, Goldberg relied on negative stereotypes of Black and Latin@ women to make her case. My first question is, in what type of world are common tropes levied against WOC acceptable? The suffering of WOC is deemed as something that is not worthy of empathy. Is this not the very essence of White Supremacy?
“Going back to the Michelle Goldberg piece, her “Toxic Twitter Wars” post works in the exact same fashion, only with negative stereotypes of Women Of Color added in as well. The anti-racist response to #FemFuture was compared to, oh look another Communist China/tyrannical POC political figure reference as a “Maoist hazing.” As Goldberg reminisces about back in the day, “Just a few years ago, the feminist blogosphere seemed an insouciant, freewheeling place, revivifying women’s liberation for a new generation. “It felt like there was fun and possibility…a momentum or excitement that was building,” says Anna Holmes, who founded Jezebel, Gawker Media’s influential women’s website, in 2007. In 2011, critic Emily Nussbaum celebrated the feminist blogosphere in New York magazine: “Freed from the boundaries of print, writers could blur the lines between formal and casual writing; between a call to arms, a confession, and a stand-up routine—and this new looseness of form in turn emboldened readers to join in, to take risks in the safety of the shared spotlight.” ” Yes, it was a feminist blogopshere prior to the existence of Twitter, and therefore before Black Twitter, and before Social Justice Twitter. Goldberg problem is not with the Women of Color challenging Lean In/Respectability Politics feminism; its the nature of twitter itself she should be taking into consideration. But alas! Women of Color are the scapegoats, and mean ones at that!
Enter Goldberg, once more: “On the phone, Kendall isn’t mean. She seems warm and engaging, but also obsessed” Goldberg even took offense to HuffPo’s rare excellent piece “5 Ways White Feminists Can Address Our Own Racism. because Women of Color are the reason for “an environment of perpetual psychodrama.” In other words, Women of Color, besides the ones that agree with Massa Jezebel and Massa #FemFuture, are incapable of rationality. Of course, it was said in the most progressive, nicest way possible. After all, only whites are capable of being objective, right Dan Savage? The White Supremacist myth that People of Color are by nature intellectually inferior raises its ugly head once more. And once more, because the argument is an apology for the Politics of Respectability, Progressive Whites are okay with that.”
I think the real question about Twitter’s “toxicity” should be, if Twitter is sooooooo hostile a space, why do corporations use it to do product placement? Why does the media use it as another outlet for news? Why are so many celebrities willing to spend $11,000 to have verified accounts for a social media space you can have for free? The answer lies in a proper examination of the social location of those proclaiming the “dangers” of Twitter yet go without mentioning any other space online.
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