#DangerousBlackKids: Black Twitter challenges the criminalization of black youth

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(AP Photo)

(AP Photo)

In the wake of the Michael Dunn trial, the hashtag #DangerousBlackKids has gone viral thanks to thousands of tweets challenging blanket stereotypes and the criminalization of black children.

Following Saturday’s verdict, on Sunday writer Jamie Nesbitt Golden kicked off the hashtag #DangerousBlackKids, with the caption: “Here’s [a] potential future threat to society walking into the living room” alongside a photo of her adorable young son.

It seemed to come as a direct response to the jury in the Dunn case failing to agree on a verdict for the first-degree murder charge he received for fatally shooting 17-year-old Jordan Davis. The jurors couldn’t decide whether the unarmed teenager provoked his own murder.

Within minutes of Golden’s tweet, Black Twitter was trending with photos of lovable children alongside sarcastic, and oftentimes witty, comments poking fun at the absurd perception that young black kids are a threat to society.

The pictures, tagged with #DangerousBlackKids, show everything from carefree kids enjoying the company of their family and friends to cute babies looking at the camera while lying on their beds.

#BlackTwitter leaves no stone unturned in the dialogue to counter the dehumanization and criminalization of black children, especially boys.

In one poignant tweet, two toddlers are sitting in a children’s wheelbarrow with the message, “Young black criminals in their getaway car. Careful!” In another a proud big sister posts images of her younger brother with: “Here’s a pic of my thug brother. What gang is he in, you ask? The U.S. Air Force.”

“#DangerousBlackKids represents the outrage that many blacks feel about the continued, pernicious racial profiling of young black boys and men,” said Andra Gillespie, a political science professor at Emory University.

“By using satire to confront the underlying stereotypes about young black men that inform people feeling so threatened by them that they feel justified in shooting them, they seek to humanize black boys and shed light on perceived subconscious racism,” she adds.

“#DangerousBlackKids is a tribute to African-American humanity and beauty,” said Dr. Julianne Malveaux, a nationally renowned economist and race relations commentator.

“Implicitly it raises the question of whether some of these boys and young men are threats or thugs; the photos are also an antidote to Michael Dunn’s racist paranoia that allowed him to callously shoot his weapon into an occupied car because he imagined a threat.”

“There are those who will make split-second assumptions about them, their intentions, their character, and yes, their worth, and create a boogeyman (or woman) out of what we know to be loving, caring, and compassionate souls,” said Avis Jones-DeWeever, a widely respected expert on race, gender and politics.

“And so, while it’s heartening to see an effort to humanize our kids gain traction, my hope is that it doesn’t stop there,” said Jones-DeWeever. “Now is the time not only for organizing strategic action around repealing “Stand Your Ground” Laws, now is also the time for strategic action around how to collectively and aggressively protect our children.”

Still, Dr. JeffriAnne Wilder, a professor of sociology at the University of North Florida, said while she agrees with the sentiment, the Twitter meme #DangerousBlackKids could end up sending out the wrong message.

“That leaves room for racially insensitive people to post stereotypical images (or false ones) of young black kids that only reinforce why the fear and profiling of young African-American males is such a problem in the first place,” said Wilder.

“In addition to this form of social media activism, I encourage the black community, and our broader society to continue to look for ways to find #JusticeforJordan.”

Follow Kunbi Tinuoye on Twitter at @Kunbiti