Black Twitter is the modern Green Book, finds CU Boulder researcher

Negro Motorist Green Book, first published by black postman Victor Green in New York in 1936, provided black readers with guidance on which companies were accepting African Americans in a separate United States, and in the following years expanded with editions worldwide. , which provided information on how to combat discrimination and violent threats.

While the resource, often referred to simply as the Green Paper, stopped publishing in 1966 after the enactment of the Civil Rights Act, a researcher from the University of Colorado Boulder says that the feeling of this crucial tool lives on 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.

Doctoral student Shamika Klassen, along with CU colleagues and peers at 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 the Class describes as an “open secret waiting in common view for those who know how to find it” – acts as an important online meeting place to explore black identity, history, culture, joy and pain.

“What was most interesting to me was 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 who warned about racism, and it was so interesting to see all the different ways people were fed in their spirit by Black Twitter. It’s more than just funny hot footage. or to be entertained by the Verzuz battles, but a rich, deep, meaningful community of people. “

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

“I want to say I want to be in the so-and-so area, what should I do and where should I go,” Rawlins said.

He agreed that Black Twitter stood as a modern green book in his life.

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

“I tweeted about what was happening to me and people said, ‘Oh, I would have told you about that area,'” Rawlins said. “It’s an informal way to protect each other.”

In addition to security, Rawlins urges his trusted sources on the social media platform to find food that tastes good enough to satisfy his craving.

“People want to make jokes on Twitter that it’s the restaurants in the area, but this one has spices and they know how to use them,” Rawlins said. “It may seem less to other people, but spices are the things that make the food, spices are what count for us. Every time I see a review of a small restaurant, hole in the wall, a food truck with my followers, put I’m worth more in it. ”

The class’s research noted how Black Twitter kept users informed about local activism and protests, especially during Black Lives Matter movements.

“An interviewee was at school watching Black Twitter while the protests took place during the week, so when they were out of school, they knew where to go, what to bring, how to stay safe – because they had kept an eye on it. points, “said the class.” People were able to get this live information about the protests that took place and then be able to engage in it themselves offline. “

Patricia Cameron, Colorado Springs-based founder of Blackpackers, which focuses on economic justice in the outdoors, used Twitter to raise awareness of social justice issues such as police brutality locally and nationally, and bridge gaps she said she otherwise would not have been able to in her predominantly white Colorado city.

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