Creators of the subreddit Black People Twitter hoped for a space where black folk could speak freely about whatever was on their mind. But when they found the space being taken over by folks they suspected were not only not black, but with subversive agendas, they decided to address the issue head-on—by requesting proof of blackness.
Black People Twitter in April began asking users to send them a picture of their forearms to “prove” their blackness, according to the New York Times.
The ask started as an April Fools’ joke in response to the moderators’ frustration with having to swim through so much racist troll trash in order to elevate commentary from those the online forum was intended to serve.
As the Times explains:
A discussion meant to be a respite from the racial tensions out in the world began to mirror them.
“It was like a constant form of gaslighting,” said Wesley Moreno, 30, a black information technology professional who until recently served as a moderator of the forum.
Forum moderators—a multiracial group of people, many of whom are black—decided to make the racial proofing permanent, requiring folks to prove they weren’t white. As the Times reports:
The most heated comment threads, they announced, would give priority to nonwhite participants. Anyone who wished to participate would need to send the moderators a photograph of their forearm, proving they were not white.
The move has unleashed a firestorm ever since from seemingly butt-hurt white folks and others who have deemed the decision “racist.”
Moderators told the Times they’ve received much abuse online since the decision; one shared an image they’d received of two black men hanging from a noose, with the message, “Let me and my brother in we are both black.”
However, as one moderator told the Times,
“People are complaining, but I have yet to figure out a better way to do it,” a black moderator whose user name is Nasjere told a reporter as he chipped away at a backlog of thousands of forearm photographs one recent afternoon, using various methods to root out fakers.
Or, as another one added:
“We wanted to find a way to allow actual black people to be heard without being drowned out,” said a black moderator whose Reddit user name is MGLLN.
Welp, in an era when national security experts have revealed how far non-black, foreign operatives, like Russia, went to manipulate the black electorate by pretending to be black people in various online forums, perhaps some “proof” of who one is isn’t such a crazy or bad idea.