A funny thing happens when white people attempt to co-opt black slang while simultaneously misinterpreting what the slang they are trying to co-opt actually means. They usually end up looking silly, and even when actual black ass people come through and try to point out where they went wrong, they willfully—and often times ignorantly—defend their erroneous position as if just by virtue of them misinterpreting it, they have actually redefined it—thus making white right in the end.
This type of situation is only bested by being part of an overall scheme for said white person to profit off of black slang and black ingenuity. They want to lift from our culture, profit off of it, while simultaneously disrespecting and disregarding those who created the thing they are co-opting in the first place.
Allow me to give you a practical example.
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey recently spent on hour on the record speaking with NYU’s Jay Rosen. He talked about all things Twitter, and discussed the idea of a new feature Twitter is toying with in which a green dot would be displayed next to a user’s name if they were actively on the app. Dorsey referred to it as “presence.” When Rosen asked him to explain what that meant, this is the response Dorsey gave him:
Presence is like, it’s, you know, it’s basically, “I’m online, I’m here.” There’s been a really amazing, kind of organic thing that’s come out of Black Twitter, which is #onhere, to describe just experiences that are happening right now or contextualize the experiences happening on Twitter itself. We’ve been playing internally, and we shared some screenshots of what if — of course if you give permission — what if you see a green dot next to my name? Seeing that, like …
Sir, I do not think that hashtag means what you think it means.
Jack Dorsey follows me on Twitter. I use #OnHere all the time because I am a black, and I understand how it is used. I will give you an example, and all the black people (and others) who get it can tell me in the comments what their interpretation of it is.
“Y’all like to get #OnHere and talk to people any way you like. That shit is not cool.”
“People will get #OnHere and make up whole entire stories for likes and RTs.”
#OnHere is a signifier meaning “here on Twitter.” It is used and said in the same tone of voice that your old ass pastor uses when he tells you that y’all are about to discuss the gospel of Jesus “on today.”
It’s on old black people thing that got introduced on Twitter a while back and stuck.
I am sure Jack has seen me use #OnHere in the proper context on Twitter. I am not the only black person he follows, so I know that he has seen others use it as well. He’s obviously seen it enough to at least understand it is an important signifier. He just doesn’t understand what it means.
And even when people on Twitter—black people—reached out to tell him he was using it wrong, he still continued to ramble on about what he thought it meant, all while still being loud and wrong.
Hilariously enough, this comes at a time when Jack has been heavily criticized for not acting fast enough to remove racist abusers from his platform.
He loves black culture, but does he care about black people?
How do you shout out black Twitter while simultaneously enabling their abuse?
How do you call yourself an ally when everything you do says otherwise?
How do you find the nerve to want to siphon black culture, while not understanding its significance and not listening when black people try to explain that significance to you?
Jack Dorsey doesn’t know what #OnHere means, and he got #OnHere Friday afternoon to let y’all know it.