Recently, civil rights activist, Reverend Jesse Jackson pressured Twitter to publicly release the gender and ethnic breakdown on its employees. Jackson has succeeded in getting major Internet companies — Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, Yahoo and most recently Twitter — to release reports that show what we already know, Black people are barely represented in the tech industry and we’re highly represented in social media.
Black people have created a community online that has always existed offline–Black Twitter. Black People use Twitter at higher rates than other ethnic groups. According to a study by the Pew Research Center, more than a quarter of all Black Internet users are on Twitter and despite making viable contributions to the larger culture, we’re not represented in Twitter’s corporate office. Only one percent of Twitter’s tech workforce and two percent of its overall workforce is African-American.
“Releasing this data is just the beginning of our quest for equality. We are over-indexed on Twitter as users, and we are under-indexed as employees,” Jackson said. The technology industry is overwhelming male, white and Asian. So maybe, just maybe, the civil rights activists who are demanding Twitter’s gender and ethnic breakdowns have the Black Twitter conversation wrong. We don’t need to see these numbers to start a dialogue around capitalizing on Black Twitter. We don’t have to work at Google, Twitter and Yahoo just to prove we can yield a paycheck from our brilliant tweets.
“We come not to disrupt but to fulfill the promise of social media,” Jackson said in an interview. What is the promise of social media? We cannot force companies to hire us just because we’re hilarious, insightful or supportive in 140 characters or less. I get where Jesse Jackson is going with his forceful request, but I think it’s pointless. There’s a reason Twitter doesn’t want us seeing those numbers. And having the information will not make Twitter hire more people of color. You know what will? Creating clever hashtags around it and getting Black Twitter to rally around it in hilarious tweets.
CEO of Walker & Company Brands, Tristan Walker says, “Our ability to affect culture is incredibly profound. If we can take that consumerism and encourage us to be producers, while the demographic shift is already happening, in 10 years without anyone doing anything, something is going to change. More specifically, if you look at 15 years ago, the cover of Wall Street Journal, page 81, when they were talking about technology companies, they were talking about things we couldn’t touch. Systems, semantics, like what are those? Today, it’s like Groupon, Foursquare, Facebook–technologies that we can touch. Now, it’s up to the companies to figure out ways by which we can accelerate it.” That tactic worked after Twitter became public and outrage simmered around their lack of women, so they hired Dame Marjorie Scardino.
Black Twitter is one part activist, one part entertainment and one part pop culture commentary. It is its own society within Twitter, saturated in inside jokes, hashtags and rules, centered on the interests of young Blacks online — almost a quarter of all Black Internet users are on Twitter. The hilarious, supportive and taking to task conversations that start on Black Twitter have grown to influence national dialogue and impact the community.
Black Twitter shut down George Zimmerman trial juror B37 when she tried to ink a book deal about her experience serving on the jury. Black Twitter took Paula Deen to task after finding out about her racist indiscretions. They created a hashtags #PaulasBestDishes #PaulaDeenTVShows and #PaulaDeenApologyBingo to make comedic commentary about her racism, at her expense. When controversial “feminist” Hugo Schwyzer had a very public meltdown on Twitter, the result was a hugely important conversation on prejudice and privilege within the world of feminism, tagged with #solidarityisforwhitewomen. Started by writer Mikki Kendall, the conversation was sparked by what many Black women felt was the dismissing of their issues by White women coming to Schwyzer’s defense.
In short, Black Twitter is a cultural force. That is why Reverend Jesse Jackson and many other civil rights leaders want to crack the racial glass ceiling that keeps people of color from being represented at this top media jobs. Jesse Jackson says that after Twitter complies with the proper paperwork, he will be looking to tech companies to set goals and timetables for hiring more people of color. Tristan Walker says, “This is why I reach out to venture capitalists and say, women and people of color first [when I am hiring] because you’re going to block that implicit bias over their head. I’m a company that does it and you see those results happen internally. If we have a conversation about implicit bias, things will change drastically.”
Rashad Robinson, executive director of ColorOfChange, said Twitter has an obligation to be “transparent and clear with the community that has helped them grow.” That, I can agree with. “We are not going to stand by and be silent while Twitter continues to benefit and grow off the creativity, the ideas and the engagement from our community while we are being shut out from the economic growth and opportunities that come with that,” Robinson said. This is the conversation we should be having. How can we make dollar out of our sense?
Popular Vlogger and online personality, Franchesca Ramsey (@Chescaleigh) says of her online fame, “My Twitter success was purely accidental. When ‘Sh*t White Girls Say To Black Girls‘ went viral in 2012, I gained a few thousand followers in a few days. I mostly use Twitter as away to promote my videos/blog, but most importantly to have conversations about stories and issues that are important to me. While I rarely tweet sponsored content, I’ve made lots of great business contacts and gotten some amazing job opportunities (TV appearances, conferences, speaking gigs) because of my Twitter presence.”
It’s not like the powers that be at Twitter don’t recognize our impact. We don’t have to kick and scream to get their attention. We have it. We just need to be a bit more strategic with how we use it. Franchesca says, “When it comes to using Twitter as a promotional tool, the best advice is to start conversations. I see too many people only promoting themselves and not engaging with their followers. If all you tweet about is what you’re eating, inside jokes and selfies, I’m not following you. A good timeline has balance, I’d say 20 percent should be about you and then 80 percent is everything else. Retweets are the the best/easiest way to gain followers, so try crafting tweets that people will want to share. Lastly, talk about what’s trending and use hashtags. Chiming in on trending hashtags is a great way to get exposure and gain followers.” And this is the formula for making a profit from your tweets.
“The broader principle of taking prejudice against you and making it utterly indefensible by ridiculing it,” said Jelani Cobb, director of the Institute for African American Studies at the University of Connecticut, and creator of #PoliticosBlackIntellectuals. “People saw it as so antiquated that the perfect response was humor. Almost like ‘The Producers.’ The ultimate gesture of contempt is to laugh.” That’s exactly what Franchesca did and it gained the attention of over 11 million viewers!
Kimberly C. Ellis, who has a doctorate in American and Africana Studies and tweets as @drgoddess, is studying Black Twitter for her upcoming book, The Bombastic Brilliance of Black Twitter said, “We know we are powerful as users and extremely valuable as a target market. But the relationship cannot simply be exploitative. As a public company, Twitter would be extraordinarily wise to hire more Black people, in particular, not just for advertising but in terms of re-envisioning the company, period.”
Humor is the bottom line in Black Twitter and many of its members have been able to parlay their presence in the unofficial club into profitable results. It’s not impossible to make Black Twitter lucrative. That’s up to the Black person who’s tweeting. Black Twitter has increased the visibility of Black people online and to me, that’s a win. Now of course there’s room for more wins–like seeing us in the corporate offices of major companies like Yahoo, Google and Twitter, but baby steps, folks.
What do you beauties think? Let’s chat…ON TWITTER! @Rhapsodani
Check Out This Gallery Of Powerful Women To Follow On Twitter:
1. 15 Powerful Women To Follow On Twitter
Social media has completely taken over our lives. I've always had a personal opposition against social media, often times claiming that it makes us even more unsocial. However, there is a lot of good in social media that one has to learn how to use for their advantage. The best way to take advantage of social media is to cultivate who you follow. Make sure that who you follow is applicable to your life as well as entertaining. Check out this list of 15 powerful women to follow on Twitter.
2. Erykah Badu
There's just something about Erykah that is beyond hypnotizing. Her tweets bring you into her world of being an artist and a doula. Yes, Erykah tweets about the babies she helps deliver. @fatbellybella
3. Gayle King
Besides being Oprah's best friend, Gayle King is known for being a CBS This Morning cohost and Editor-at-Large for O Magazine. Her take on the entertainment industry is often funny and exclusive! @GayleKing
This woman needs no explaining. Just follow her. @oprah
5. Michelle Obama
Obviously, following the first lady is the first thing you should do on Twitter. Under her new account @FLOTUS, not every tweet is hers, but when you see it signed in "mo, you can guarantee that the first lady is reaching out to you directly. @FLOTUS
6. Christiane Amanpour
As one of the most iconic TV journalists, Christiane Amanpour is a powerful Twitter user. She offers breaking news on global conflicts, and provides unique insights and perspectives to political happenings and world events. You don't even need to follow CNN if you're following Christiane. @camanpour
7. Soledad O'Brien
8. Chelsea Clinton
It helps that Chelsea Clinton is the famed offspring of Bill & Hillary Clinton. But she is also a tireless advocate for a healthy and safe world. As an NBC News Special Correspondent and active member of the Clinton Foundation, Chelsea has immeasurable insight of the world to share. @ChelseaClinton
9. Caterina Fake
Caterina Fake tweets about the latest digital news, technology and her own personal views, passions and interests. @Caterina
10. Zainab Salbi
Zainab Salbi is the founder of Women for Women International and served as the organization's CEO from 1993 to 2011. If you want news, stats and opinions on humanitarian crises, follow her. Oh and you can learn how you can contribute in making the world a better place. Who doesn't love that?! @ZainabSalbi
11. Robin Roberts
This "Good Morning America" news anchor is nothing short of amazing. With her inspirational story as a foundation, follow her entertaining tweets as she hobknobs with celebs and shares inspiring anecdotes from other cancer survivors. @RobinRoberts
12. Mary Grove
Mary Grove is the Director of Google for Entrepreneurs. With a passion for building her community, Mary is constantly tweeting about what's next in technology and business. @maryGrove
13. Maya Angelou
There's nothing but reverence in our hearts for Dr. Maya Angelou. Please follow this poet, educator, historian, best-selling author, actress, civil-rights activist, producer and director for tweets that are always worth retweeting. @DrMayaAngelou
14. Gabby Douglas
We've watched her kick major Olympic gymnast butt, but following Gabby Douglas is nothing like following an obnoxious teen who has more gold medals than you. It's just like following your little sister. Check out Gabby's adorable tweets! @gabrielledoug
15. Donna Brazile
You've definitely seen her byline before. Donna Brazile is a political strategist, contributor to CNN and ABC News, educator, author and more. Follow her tweets for absolutely everything a woman of color could ever care about. @donnabrazile
16. Shonda Rhimes
Other than creating one of the biggest shows to his Black Twitter since...well...anything Tyler Perry put out, Shonda Rhimes is one to follow on Twitter and in life! Her tweets are often inspirational and "Scandal"-related. @shondarhimes