Reflections on the historic U.S. civil rights era often conjure up images of the grandeur-scale marches during the 60’s era, restaurant sit-ins and civic uprising that played its role in advancing black America and cultivating support. Today, experts say the temperament of black activism is comparable, but takes place in digital spaces where young African-Americans share stories and invoke conversation about their struggles with friends and strangers.
Social media has become the tool of choice for African-Americans who are rallying support and a newfound understanding to their causes by spreading messages through their networks and watching them go viral. Twitter, YouTube, and most recently Tumblr, have become a popular springboard for young “activists”, even though some reject the label.
Several black students at Harvard University became the most recent topic in the national spotlight with their “I, Too, Am Harvard” campaign. On Tumblr, the students can be seen in photos individually holding boards with various quotes and statements to draw awareness. The# ITooAmHarvard hashtag circulated throughout Tumblr and Twitter. The students’ various, tongue-in-cheek signs include statements such as “You don’t sound black … You sound smart.”, “’I’m not ‘pulling the race card.’ You’re just being racist.”, and “Oh, I heard her say she was going to Harvard. I just assumed she misspoke. – white parent to my mother”. Their campaign garnered national media attention and coverage by The Boston Globe, USA Today, and Huffington Post amongst other major media outlets.
Last year, black male students from University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) were a part of a “spoken word” video posted in November in which the group protested the lack of diversity among enrolled students at the university. The video, which was posted to YouTube, eventually went viral and currently includes a link to a petition page.
The sprawling influence of social media propelled by young African-Americans was seemingly about young African-Americans issues as well, beyond college campuses. The death of Trayvon Martin and subsequent trial of George Zimmerman drew the ire of blacks, but also became fodder on social networks, highlighting concerns about young black men who are victimized and racially profiled in their communities.
In large numbers, African-Americans have flocked to Twitter, which has become almost a staple of many of their online habits. According to a 2013 Pew Research Center study, blacks accounted for more use of Twitter than any other ethnic group. In a separate study released in January, African-American internet users between the ages of 18 and 29 accounted for 40 percent of Twitter users compared to 28 percent of whites in the same age group. Blacks’ use of Twitter has created such an impact that its cross-section of the site has been labeled “Black Twitter”.
Vorris Nunley, an associate professor of English at University of California at Riverside, whose studies include rhetoric and African-American culture, could effortlessly identify social media campaigns originated by blacks have prolific and produced widespread support.
Source: Black Voice News | Corey Arvin