(The Root) — I went to a very white school for undergrad. Out of a campus of 1,000, there were roughly 20 black people, myself included. One of my most vivid memories is sitting and talking with a couple of friends, all black, in one of the campus lobbies. That’s it. Just talking. Across the room, we come to notice two white students staring at us, mouths hanging open (literally), trying to keep up with the conversation. They eventually asked if they could join us. We said sure.
I now realize that the appeal for them wasn’t the conversation that we were having, because it wasn’t anything terribly interesting; rather, it was the way we were having it. We were loud, animated; we talked with our hands, randomly broke out in song and dance and jogged in little circles when we laughed. When they saw us in class, we were poised and deliberate in our speech, very contained. Here, they caught us out of code and relaxed; they had access to an intimate black social experience that they hadn’t experienced before.
In an article posted at xoJane, Maya K. Francis muses on the idea of black Twitter being a trend, and posits that the phenomenon I describe above is the appeal of “black Twitter” for nonblacks. My friends and I definitely felt like science experiments under glass as our two added guests stared on at us in awe, and similarly, Francis notes a “National Geographic-style gaze” at work in writings about black Twitter on mostly white sites.
Francis argues that black Twitter is a thing because black culture is a thing: “Black Twitter, should you choose to accept its existence as fact, is like a digital unfolding of cultural blackness.” It’s a real-time, digital version of what black folks do in our safe spaces (in beauty shops, at “mama nem’s house,” on the front stoop, etc.). It’s captivating to white people because white people aren’t typically present in those spaces.
While, in Francis’ words, it may be treated as a “new-age Cotton [Club]” by some, black Twitter isn’t any more of a fad than Twitter is itself. As long as it’s there, we’ll be there, tweeting like nobody’s watching.
Read more at xoJane.