Wednesday, March 6, 2013


This evening when I logged on to Twitter, I found two very disturbing national trending topics. Much to my dismay, “#WhitePeopleActivities” and “#BlackPeopleActivities” were both sitting atop the United States’ most talked about issues. On further investigation, I found almost all the relevant tweets- by users of both races- to be incredibly offensive in nature. Common “#WhitePeopleActivities” included the KKK, racially profiling Hispanics, complaining about their middle class lives, making materialistic parenting decisions, and going to Penn State. Common “#BlackPeopleActivities,” on the other hand, included going to the State Penitentiary (this was said in conjunction with Penn State tweet), eating fried chicken, receiving unemployment benefits, dominating in all sports, and running from local law enforcement.  The lists went on and on, but I found these both the most frequented and the most telling.

Interestingly, the more offensive tweets regarding class status and racism were just as often made by individuals of both races, about their own respective heritages. The trending topics seemed to create an immediate divide, where all involved fell to a definitive side of the virtual color line. I was incredibly disheartened that so many users not only participated in the trend, but also played into the stereotypes being so blatantly attacked. White users joked about excessive Starbucks consumption and staying far, far away from the “ghetto,” while Black users, in turn joked about teen pregnancy and improper grammar. All was not lost in this trend, however. Several users found it as upsetting as I’m sure many of you will. These tweets included the questions “is this how we combat racism?” “what did Dr. King fight and die for if we’re gonna act like this?” and the powerful “why can’t we all accept that we’re the same in God’s eyes?”

What does this say about the way we declare ourselves when our racial identities are called into question? The Twitter users who helped popularize this trend, on the whole, found their racial identities within the given stereotypes. Even 40 years out from the traditional Civil Rights Movement, we are still limiting each other to certain rigid social norms. These skewed expectations have essentially lowered the bar for the furthering of positive race relations in the country.

 Our generation is quick to reinforce the societal standards our parents experienced as a legal reality, even though we have the most access to each other ever experienced in human history. Through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and the blog world, we have a chance at communicating with our peers- of all races- in a way our predecessors would have never dreamed. Rather than using these social media outlets to demean and demoralize each other, we should consider how we can employ these sites as tools to engage in real, meaningful conversations and together move toward a society lacking hate speech, racial violence, and upsetting stereotypes. At the very least, we should not reinforce prejudices in a space where consequences loom few to none.

What do you think this trend says about the way we identify and present ourselves to the world?



  1. I find social media to be a very interesting device for both progressive action and demeaning and racist activity. Much like internet bullying, it seems as if communicating through social media takes away some of the responsibility of making bold statements. One can state something harsh and cruel anonymously without the public and immediate reprimand one might receive by simply making a statement amongst a group of people. In this way, social media creates a platform for cowardly behavior because there are no repercussions. On the other side of the coin, we have seen amazing social progress because of the use of social media. The Arab Spring is the best example of this. Young Egyptians started the "facebook revolution" to overthrown their corrupt government and the same story is true in many other middle eastern states. Like most things, social media has both pros in cons in relation to social progress. Either way, it is interesting to analyze the internet as a catalyst for action.

  2. I am disappointed but not surprised in reading this. I agree with your final statements about using the social media to our advantage and reinforce positive conversation and ideals. Unfortunately, individuals who support negative stereotypes of their race give other countries cause to view our country negatively. There are so many reasons why other nations believe us to be "fat and stupid," and reinforcing racial stereotypes only fuels their stereotype of us, however incorrect it may be for some. Supposedly, we are the "land of the free and the home of the brave;" but how brave are we if social media sites are riddled with ignorant statements buying into racial stereotypes rather than arguments proving those stereotypes incorrect? Where is the freedom in degrading oneself? The hypocrisy associated with this is frustrating as well. We complain about racial profiling and class stereotyping on a daily basis, then turn around and reinforce the stereotypes by joking about certain aspects of race and class, teen pregnancy and Starbucks consumption, to quote a couple. How are we to be respected as a country if we promote the negative views of the world through our foolishness?

  3. At a young age, I was taught to treat others how you would like to be treated. If you are tweeting about stereotypes within your own race, you are giving everyone else permission to use these stereotypes as well. How are we supposed to teach children the difference between right and wrong if wrong stereotypes are being seen as jokes across social media? By having hash-tags on twitter such as #WhitePeopleActivities and #BlackPeopleActivities, racial stereotypes are seen as jokes. Let me be clear, the KKK is not a joke; going to State Penitentiary is not a joke. I do not believe that social media is the sole reason why stereotypes are no longer seen as big deals, however I do believe that social media does not help, and certainly does hurt the issue.

  4. I can remember seeing a similar hash tag over the past few months about Asian stereotypes (I think it was #lifeasanasian), and I've personally been subject to racial stereotyping. At the same time, there are so many comedians who use their race, or others people race, to make jokes. How many of us have heard that Asians are bad drivers? Stereotyping isn't just a social media thing, its ingrained in the very fabric of our modern society. Everywhere we go we are constantly battered with images, sounds, and propaganda that furthers these stereotypes in our minds. This isn't a fault of twitter, it is one of our society as a whole.

  5. After taking this class, it is obviously quite clear to me why situations like this one are wrong. Whether purposeful or not, making light of very real, very serious racial divisions is a hinderance to everything the Civil Rights Movement has fought to eliminate.

    With that being said, I have definitely made jokes like this in the past, and I definitely never regarded them as a result of racial hatred. My high school was very diverse, and some of my best friends were (and are) African American. We were all very close, and felt comfortable teasing one another and making jokes about anything and everything, including our skin color. These could be directed at someone else (my telling a friend that I was going to be as "tan" as him in the summertime) or at ourselves (that same friend always loudly complaining when his mother didn't pack him fried chicken and Kool-Aid for lunch, stating, "Doesn't she know we're black?!"). Though I am definitely not proud of these comments, especially now that I have seen the harm they have done throughout history, I think it is important to note that we only made these jokes because we felt that they were SO ridiculous and SO preposterous that no one could possibly take them seriously.

    As I now know, that was our mistake. Racism absolutely still exists in the world, which means that not everyone would take our lighthearted teasing as... well, teasing. Therefore, whether purposeful or not, continuing to reinforce stereotypes and distinctions between separate races will have a negative impact on American society.