Twitter is revolutionary. It has changed the way we communicate, the way we watch TV, and the way we get the news. It has connected artists with fans, expanded our social circles, and has even helped to hook up potential lovers. I think we can all agree that Twitter has been absolutely incredible, and, in its brief existence, it has made the world feel just a little bit smaller and more intimate. But for all of its awesomeness, Twitter can go from “We Are the World” to “it’s on like ConEd” in a matter of seconds.
Whenever people can speak their minds (almost) anonymously, foolishness is bound to occur. Comedian Lil Duval has proved time and time again how ignorant and down right nasty Twitter can get when people feel emboldened to say whatever comes to mind without worrying about the repercussions. In April, he started the repulsive, yet popular, trending topic, #ItAintRape. Scores jumped into the mix, saying such idiotic things as, “#itaintrape when u pregnant with his third kid” or “#itaintrape if f u naked of Yo Twitter profile pic.” Although many Twitter users were rightly outraged, I was sickened (but not surprised) that many of the people participating in the #ItAintRape meme were women. Sexual violence disproportionally affects women of color, so it was disheartening to see many of us poking fun at such a horrible situation—a situation of which many of our sistas have been victims.
Although I love my sistas, sometimes they cause me the biggest heartbreak. After Chris Brown asked his Twitter followers to “go in” on Sandra Rose for being critical of his career, his fans set out to gang up on her, and even joined in as he cracked “jokes” about her dark brown skin. Brown went so far as to say Rose’s skin was so dark she “had to wear white gloves to eat chocolate.” While some found his tweets humorous, I thought it ironic that so many women took up for a man convicted of domestic violence. It was astounding that so many hurled vitriol at Rose all because Chris Brown (a man that they do not know and probably will never meet) asked them to.
Don’t get me wrong, many celebrities use their power for good, tweeting about important causes in which they are interested, and positively engaging with their fans. Lord knows how fly it is when LL Cool J interacts with his countless female followers. (I mean, it IS LL after All!) But others take their freedom of speech just a little too far.
Recently, the ugly side of Twitter reared its head again when 50 Cent fired off a series of allegedly humorous tweets culminating in the violent assertion about dealing with child support payments, “Its cheaper to keep her nahh its cheaper to kill her. Nigga my hood takes 5,000 to put that work in. Now floyd baby mom want 58k a month.” Although I didn’t see anyone agreeing with his sentiments, I’m sure he had someone out there saying, “amen.” Some may see his statements as hyperbolic and just 50 popping shit, but his statement normalizing the idea of murdering the mother of one’s child is extremely dangerous, especially considering the fact that “the majority of black female homicide victims are killed by a current or former boyfriend.”
These tweets, and many others like it, lead me to ask . . . is this just cyber shit-talking or can these tweets actually be dangerous, especially to Black women?
Having fun and acting a collective fool on Twitter is a part of its allure. Just fire it up on the night of any awards show and the jokes will be endless. However, it’s one thing to go in on a celebrity’s outfit or off-key performance at an award show, but it’s quite another to constantly send out messages that hint at violence or attempt to joke about situations such as rape and murder, situations that just should not be trifled with. Freedom of speech is a powerful thing, but it should also be wielded with extreme restraint, especially if your platform reaches millions.
Unfortunately, Lil Duval and 50 Cent’s timelines weigh a ton. The amount of toxic tweets they spew is shocking. Although I do not follow either of them, their violent and utterly unfunny tweets inevitably seep into my timeline. Luckily, I am of sound and rational mind and can see their tweets for what they are: Assholes seeking attention. But what about those who cannot see past the facade? What about those who are constantly reading and ingesting their tweets like it’s real talk?
Let’s not get it twisted, words have power. Fights have been started because someone said the wrong thing. Lives have been lost because somebody’s pride was hurt by words. So let’s not discount the power that these tweets can wield. Normalizing violence by constantly “joking” about the murder and rape of women is extremely problematic for Black women because we are disproportionally at risk of being attacked.
After 50 tweeted about offing his son’s mother, one of my tweeps commented that he would be “OJed” if he made such brazen statements about a White woman. However, since he spoke openly about murdering his son’s (Black) mother over the cost of child support, nobody batted an eye.
The theory that people would care if the object of 50’s violent “jokes” were White rang true when 50 tweeted about shooting up a gay wedding. Almost immediately, GLAAD sprung into action and demanded 50 let his fans know that homophobia is nothing to joke about. However, tweeting about killing his son’s mother slipped by without much notice. No one jumped to the defense of Black women and mothers to point out that attitudes like 50’s and Lil Duval’s dehumanizes us. This signals, again, that Black women’s lives are not as valuable as those of our White counterparts.
When the tweets turn violent, I am left to wonder: who is leading the charge to say that joking about the killing, raping, or harming of Black women is NOT ok?
The argument about what should and should not be said in public is one that we have yet to settle. Some cloak themselves in the First Amendment and proceed to say the most ignorant things that come to mind, while others understand the responsibility that having such a platform entails. At the end of the day, however, Twitter users like 50 and Lil Duval prove that when it comes to standing up for Black women, we all we got.