Conversations About Race on Social Media

Since 2011, hashtag activism has been picking up speed with participants and supporters on social media raising awareness collectively and expressing solidarity towards political causes via hashtags on a range of social media platforms. When reading #Identity – Hashtagging Race, Gender, Sexuality, and Nation, I was surprised to hear the history of hashtag activism started with Black Twitter, which became a source of expressing solidarity, sharing information, and organizing protests for African Americans and their allies. With the use of hashtags, Black Twitter was able to raise awareness of the constant danger of racism and sexism occurring throughout the United States. 

Twitter has been a key platform for people all over the world to interact together with hashtags. It has helped bring awareness and greater attention to issues such as race and racial inequality. The collective voice and interaction of people from all kinds of backgrounds have encouraged conversations.  

However, more recently we have seen a rise in White Twitter a notable challenge and backlash to Black Twitter. We have seen social media become a violent platform of hate towards people of color, women, LGBTQ people, and immigrants. It is sad to see such hate being spread online and to see people with such high power and influence over people ignoring the violence that has transpired. 

Another article that I read this week The New Native Intellectualisminterested me a lot. This reading highlighted to me the way that Native people are portrayed in the public eye. I had never seen or heard about the film The Lone Ranger, but the article summarised its plot to be a revisioning of the old West and revisioning the main character Tonto “as a painted, dirty, mumbling character who wears a stuffed black bird on his head” (page 90).  I quickly came to acknowledge the sensitivity of the film and the stereotype being portrayed by native people. In 2014, on Oscars night the hashtag #NotYourTonto went global on Twitter, with people expressing their outrage and disappointment of Hollywood’s constant stereotype and lack of inform portrayals of Native people.

Not only did Twitter engage more than one million people by the end of the night with #NotYourTonto, but the 2014 Oscars saw another trend #NotYourTigerLily.  The hashtags being used is a prime example of social media highlighting the issues of race and better educating people about the damage of stereotyping. Due to people showing their support on Twitter and using hashtags to start a collective conversation, the media is now paying more attention to how better to respond to issues that affect Native people in today’s society. However, I feel that there is still more to be done to stop discrimination and the dismissiveness of Native culture.

The topic about race and social media has taught me that hashtag activism isn’t going to end bias, discrimination, and violence. Even though it has done wonders in raising awareness on racism, sexism, and stereotypes there is still a lot to be done to make a difference. We all need to do more than just tweeting our support and take specific actions to make a difference and encourage permanent change.  

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

5 thoughts on “Conversations About Race on Social Media

  1. Hey Alice! I think it’s amazing that through the use of social media, hashtags, and activism, the black community on Twitter was able to reach a point of solidarity and strength. They were able to unite and make their voices heard. I touched upon that in my week 3 blog post. I also agree that Twitter, among a plethora of other social media platforms can be a very toxic place where different communities are fighting against each other. Many white people try to justify their actions on social media with their political opinions and reasoning, but in reality that will get people nowhere. Social media platforms should be used as a meeting-ground for having educational and informative conversations. I personally believe the ignorant people of the world need to be educated about the reality of our society in 2020. I also believe that social media has done a great job in stopping the use of stereotypes. I also believe it has been used well for calling people out for cultural appropriation. It has allowed people to see what white people have been doing to minorities in real life for the past century. My question for you is, how do you think social media, specifically Twitter, could be used for productive activism, besides just stating obvious support?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Jack! I think for activism to be productive it takes more than just tweeting a hashtag for a certain movement and showing support for it. There needs to be some kind of response and action after tweeting about an issue. For activism to be successful I feel that communication between members is vital to keep people talking about the issue and raising awareness.

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  2. Hi Alice,

    I hadn’t heard about the Lone Ranger backlash, but it’s made my day that so many people banded together to fight harmful representations of indigenous people, even if I was oblivious to it while the hashtags were trending (Wasn’t a huge twitter user back then). I think you hit the nail on the head when you wrote that hashtags and twitter trends can force creators to be more mindful of how they represent certain marginalized groups. They now know that it’s not good enough to pull characters out of their heads without consulting their real life counterparts. Creators need to conduct research and consult with the people impacted by their work. Do you think that the impact of hashtags has changed in the last couple of years?

    Best,
    Glory

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    1. Hi Glory! Yes, I definitely think the impact of hashtags has changed over the last couple of years. I feel that more even more people use social media now and are using it as a platform to raise awareness on issues and movements. This has definitely seen hashtags on social media mean more and created conversations between people from a range of different cultures, race and backgrounds.

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  3. Hi Alice. I had never heard of the hashtag #NotYourTonto and #NotYourTigerLily. It is very interesting to see how hashtag activism has spread across Twitter to include many different social justice issues and activist movements. It can be so beneficial for issues like those involving race, social injustice, stereotyping, and gender equality to have a hashtag attached to their cause and conversation. Without a unifying tag, the tweets might not make such an impact on a platform like Twitter because they would have no easy way to connect the conversation. One thing I’ve also noticed is that once a movement has a hashtag and starts spreading, that is when people start paying attention.

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